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Domain Names

What is in a name?

Last week I told you that Beyond.com changed their name from
Software.net because it was often confused with Software.com, a
completely different company. But that is not the only reason they
changed their name. Apparently, Software.net may be a good
descriptive name for their business but in fact there is nothing
distinctive about it. Not only were potential customers confused by
the ending, there was apparently little in the name for potential
customers to relate to. Was that Software.org, Computers.com,
Internet.stuff or what? It was technology related but just what was

Traditional retail stores have a physical location. They are located
in downtown shopping centers, retail malls, airports and many other
distinctive locations. A retail store can consequently focus its
marketing efforts on attracting traffic directly to their premises
and on attracting walk-by and casual traffic. The former is by far the
more expensive and difficult traffic to attract but is more likely to
convert into a customer than the casual visitor. Casual walk-in
customers however, often account for the majority of business for
retail outlets.

Internet sites do not have a physical location and can not expect
much casual traffic. Visitors to most web sites are destination
driven. They are harder to attract but far more likely to convert
into a customer than a casual visitor. A web site manager's foremost
objective is consequently to attract visitors to their site.

Company's like Beyond.com can afford to invest significant
resources into finding the right name for their online business. For
most new Internet ventures, this is not feasible. A name must be
found and registered based on your own judgement. One of the
hardest aspects to this is in finding a name that can be registered
at all. Names like "Software.net", " shopping.uk.co/ ", "cars.com",
"appliances.com" etc. are already taken. It may be just as well as
Software.net decided. Some of the most successful online ventures
have far more innovative and distinctive names like Yahoo, Alta
Vista and Amazon.com.

Another suggestion I have heard but don't put much stock in is to
keep the name as short as possible. Three letters are best because
they require that the visitor type the fewest letters. Apart from IBM
I can not immediately think of any 3 letter web sites. There is no
point in saving typing if you don't remember the name.
Barnesandnoble.com however may be putting too much faith in
peoples typing and spelling skills. In either case it should not
matter. Your objective should be to get a link that people can click
on and not to have them type at all.

Another suggestion I think any serious web promoter should
consider is to have multiple URL's. The fact is, registering a URL
for the equivalent of $70 US is one of the least expensive promotion
expenses you can have. Many ISP's (Internet Service Providers) will
let you assign multiple domains to subdirectories of your main
account for a nominal fee. Our ISP charges a $25 setup fee and $1
month. These additional domains can focus on a different aspect of
your main business and then link to your main site. Not only will
they cast a wider marketing net, the multiple links may also help
with your search engine ranking.

If there is a chance your customer will misspell your name then
register the most common misspellings. Barneandnobel.com will
still take you to the Barnes & Nobel web site even though it is
mistyped. Most ISP's will also let you 'Park' several domain names
in your main account directory for a nominal fee. Parked domains
use the same web pages so there is no extra work in maintaining
multiple web sites.

What about registering foreign domain URL's? By all means do so if
it makes sense for your business. Not all jurisdictions will allow
you to register a name with their commercial country code unless you
have a physical commercial presence there. The ".com" ending is
the primary name for commercial US web sites. To the best of my
knowledge ".com" names can be registered with Internic by anyone.
What is more, many US Service Providers pride themselves on
hosting as many foreign web sites as possible. If you have a
European business with a product that can be easily sold in the US
with a credit card, setting up a US presence could be very effective
and inexpensive.

In the US the two additional name types are ".net" and ".org" The
".net" ending is intended for Internet related services such as
ISP's. The ".org" ending is intended for none commercial organizations
such as charities. Even so there is no reason why you can not also
register your name with these endings. Whether it is really worth it
is another issue. Few people will actual search under these URL's for
a commercial site as Software.net found out. Even so, the cost for
most businesses is negligible and has the advantage that it can block
a competitor from registering it. If money is tight however, look for
additional URL's that are likely to expand your marketing efforts.

Finally, when you do register your name make sure that you have
control of it. In the US, your Hosting company will require that they
are listed as the Technical Contact since they are maintaining your
site. They will also be happy to let you be registered as the Billing
contact since you have to pay the bills. In the past, many Hosts
would also list themselves as the Administrative contact if you asked
them to register your name with Internic. The Administrative
contact is the person that approves any changes to the name such as
moving it to a new host.

The Administrative contact for all intents and purposes owns the
Domain name even though they may not be paying for it. Hosting
company's have registered themselves as the Admin contact to block
the rightful owner from moving their domain to another host for any
reason. This is unethical but not as uncommon as it should be.
Getting Internic to change the Admin contact can be difficult if the
current Admin contact say's no.

When you register a new domain name in the US, make sure you are
listed as the Admin contact with Internic. If you already have a
domain name but are not sure who the contacts are, you can check
by going to http://www.networksolutions.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois
And entering the URL you wish to check.

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 1999 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on
creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.

To subscribe send an email to tips@imswebtips.com with SUBSCRIBE
as your subject or visit the IMS Web Tips home page for subscription information and a list of past articles.
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