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 remember. Was that Software.org, Computers.com,
Internet.stuff or what? It was technology related but just
what was it?

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 cannot
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 judgment. 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 cannot 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 as little as $15 per year from some of the new
registrars 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

If there is a chance your customer will misspell your name
then register the most common misspellings. You will still
get to the
barnesandnoble web site from
http://www.barnsandnoble.com/ despite the 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 cannot also register your name
ith 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 companies 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
2000 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.

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