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Which Domain Name is the One for Me

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Choosing a good domain name is one of the most important steps in the development of an online presence. Your domain name provides Internet users with their first impression of your website, and is also used by search engines as a way to identify and categorise your site effectively. A domain name is often used as the starting point for online and offline promotional activity, and is a vital aspect in the creation of a uniquely identifiable and marketable brand. Whether you are starting a large online business or a small personal project, the right domain name can make all the difference to the future success of any website. There are a number of important factors to consider when picking out a name for your website, each of which could have important implications on the final name that you choose.

Top-level Domains

One of the most important decisions to make when choosing a domain name is which top-level domain (TLD) you will use. While there are lots of different top-level domains that can be registered quite cheaply these days, most people prefer to stick to those that have proven to be commercially viable. COM top-level domains are still by far the most popular for any commercial activity, due to a high level of public recognition and a strong history of commercial use on the Internet. However, because they are so popular, it can often be very difficult to find good COM names that have not already been snapped up.

NET names are often recognised as the second best choice for commercial activity, and are also used by many personal and non-commercial websites as well. ORG is the third choice in terms of public recognition and commercial acceptability, with most other top-level names falling far behind these three. The one exception to this is when a website has a particularly regional or national focus, in which case a country specific name can be a very good choice indeed. If Internet users are looking for a business or website operating in their specific geographical region, many will assume that a country-code-top-level domain (ccTLD) has been used. Many larger organisations attempt to register their domain under as many different top-level names as possible, as a way to safeguard against competition and protect brand identity.

Short and Memorable

Domain names are allowed to vary in length from 1 character to 67 characters, with short, relevant, and memorable names being much more desirable by the majority of website owners. The shorter and more catchy a domain name title is, the easier it will be for people to remember, and the easier it will be for you to promote. Short and industry relevant names are able to spread much more easily through the community via word of mouth, and are much more simple to communicate through audio, print, and other forms of non-digital media.

Difficult choices can arise when you have to decide whether to pick a short and memorable name with a strange looking top-level domain, or a COM, NET, or ORG domain with a longer and less catchy title. These decisions can only be made individually in each unique situation, as they depend on how a business wants to market themselves and exactly how it wishes to do so. If a business is receiving most of its traffic through the search engines and other online sources, then a short and memorable name is less important than if they are using traditional media or relying on word of mouth communication.

Hyphen or One Word

One of the most confusing decisions to make when choosing a domain name is deciding whether you want to separate out the individual words in a title. The vast majority of new websites are not able to register catchy one word titles with good top-level domains, and have to decide whether to use a hyphen or keep all of the individual words together in a string. Hyphens are a great way to separate out individual words, and have a number of advantages over using multiple word strings. Hyphenated titles generally look more neat and tidy to Internet users, and are a great way to cut down on search engine misspellings (especially when multiple words end and start with the same character).

It is not all good news on the hyphen front however, and their use can often confuse people who are typing in or verbally communicating a domain name to another person. If a person simply forgets to mention the existence of a hyphen, then all possible advantages of word of mouth promotion become useless, and can even in some cases lead people to a third party website. Exactly how each search engine deals with the hyphens in a domain name is still a matter of debate, although Google have stated that they use an algorithm that is able to separate individual words from strings in the vast majority of cases.

Decisions and Alternatives

Before you actually register a domain name for your website, it is always worthwhile considering the alternatives. Along with the use of various top-level domains, different domain name lengths, and different ways of separating out individual words in a title - there are always a number of other decisions to make. Before you register a name, it is a good idea to write down any possible alternatives that you are thinking about, along with a checklist of pros and cons for each possibility. It is also a good idea to think about how users are going to reach your website, and pick a name that takes advantage of these approach routes.

Many people use their company or personal name as their domain name, and don't consider any other alternatives. However, even if you do want to register your specific name to create an online identity, it can still be a good idea to register other alternative domains as well. Descriptive domains, location based domains, and industry domains can all be used as great alternatives to a company or personal name, and can even be used as portal sites to generate more traffic for your main website.

Choosing a domain name is never an easy process, and the proliferation of domain registrations has made it even harder to find that perfect title. However, with a little creativity and focus, it is still possible to find great original domain names that can be used as the basis for the creation of fantastic new websites.



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