So you want to buy a domain name?

The value of a domain name depends on many factors, some of which are difficult to assess. These factors include: its memorability, the length of the domain name, the extension, its generic quality, the number of potential uses it might have, its ‘goodwill’ value, its ‘type in’ value, the image the name conjures up in the public's mind, and whether it already has ‘traffic’ going to it.

The domain name market is essentially an artificial and contrived market. In the past, the rarity value of a particular name (and hence its price) was entirely controlled by the fact that there were relatively few top level domains (TLDs) to choose from.

The release of new TLDs, such as .info and .biz, should in theory have relieved some of the pressure on the web’s most popular .com extension. But in practice .com is as popular as ever, as it is the extension most easily remembered by the general public. Memorability is easily the most important factor when choosing a domain name. So .com names still command a substantial premium over other extensions.

The domain name market has changed and matured over the last few years. Good names are becoming harder to come by, and the creation of automated ‘backordering’ services by the bigger registrars means that it is becoming difficult to acquire quality domains at a reasonable price.

Choosing a domain name
Hyphen or no hyphen, that is the question.
Search engines find it easier to deal with ‘generic-name’ than ‘genericname’. However human beings often forget to include the hyphen and many people consider it to look ugly.
Which extension?
The most popular extension remains .com by far, however if that is unobtainable you might consider .biz. The .info TLD is meant to be for informational websites and the .org TLD is meant to be used for not-for-profit organisations. The .netTLD is supposed to be solely for internet service businesses but in fact has become a second choice to .com names.

There are also country code top level domains (ccTLDs) you can consider, such as .co.uk or org.uk if you live in the UK. If you have a UK limited company you can also register a .ltd.uk name. Other ccTLDs such as .cc (Cocos Islands), .bz (Belize), and .ws (Western Samoa), are now marketed as 'alternatives' to .com with varying degrees of success and acceptance by the general public. The .tv ccTLD (Tuvalu) is popular among television and media companies and the .fm ccTLD (French Micronesia) for radio stations. However be warned that some of these ccTLDs have much higher renewal costs than the more 'traditional' TLD names.

Your ultimate success will depend to a large extent on how 'memorable' your domain name is. People are generally much more likely to remember .com, .net or .co.uk than other extensions. Before buying a name try this simple test. Write down the name along with other potential choices and show it to your friends and colleagues for a few seconds. Then ask them to tell you which names they remember from the list. You may be surprised by the results of this simple but effective marketability test.

Size matters

Keep your name as short as possible. You can now register very long names, but remember that longer names suffer from type-in errors and the sheer laziness factor. Ideally your name should be less than 10 characters long.
Content is King

Remember that, no matter how good your name is, its ultimate ranking in the search engines - and hence the ease with which it can be found - will depend largely on how useful the content of your website is.

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