This short guide to domain names looks at some of the things that may influence your choice of domain name for your business website. We also look at a few cool examples of how others are attracting customers using a domain name. First of all, a domain name is the name of your website. For some, you may already have your business name and your online marketing strategy may depend on this, especially if it’s well known brand and is well established. In that case, it’s more a case of choosing the end part eg. a .com or a .ie domain. Top Level Domain Overview There are a variety of top level domain (TLD) names to choose from and here are the main ones: .com – most popular internationally especially for business .org – used for non-profits .eu – European in focus .edu – used for educational, but mainly in US .info – cheap and tend to be used by spammy sites .tv – useful for multimedia sites .net – used for business .mobi – for mobile sites (though whether you want a .mobi for your mobile site, or to use a subdomain of your main site eg. m.rte.ie which is picked up by mobile browsers, or whether you want to build an app is another question) Country-specific (ccTLD) – names like .ie for Ireland or .co.uk for UK are used to target particular geographic markets. from: Amas, State of the Net Winter 2010 Keeping it Irish .ie domains are the best for those sites which target Ireland. But certain rules apply to these registrations and you generally need to be a registered business or trademark to get the name, though discretionary names are allowed also. See IEDR.ie for more. Irish domain name registrations are running at an increase of 37% each year (IEDR), so they are very popular. And, as they’re more difficult to register, they tend to be higher quality sites and less spam-like. In fact, according to McAfee, .ie domains are amongst the top five safest domains in the world. [IEDR.ie] Why.ie – this one belongs to the IE Domain Registry (iedr.ie) and as the name suggests, it aims to promote .ie domains. Nice, helpful site showing the benefits of a .ie domain. 123.ie – they’ve gone for the’ jingalicious’ quality (my kids keep singing it ‘..just log on and save money’), it’s simple and easy to remember. There are no keywords in this domain name and the marketing strategy has focused on radio advertising. Now ‘car-house-life-insurance.ie’ just wouldn’t sound so catchy on the radio would it? So avoid names with hyphens as they’re hard to say. On the other hand, this term might do well in Google for insurance-related search terms. Dropped.ie will let you search by keyword through .ie domain names that have been dropped and might give you ideas (though I suppose the fact that they’ve been dropped might suggest a lack of success…). Branding Owjo.com – when you go to develop your brand you need to do some research on domains and see what’s available. Owjo is a very interesting and fast-growing Irish company that has an ecommerce platform which can be dropped into almost any online space, from a Facebook Page to a website. Even back in 2000 there weren’t many 4 letter .com domain names to be had and the founder created the brand Owjo using his two sons names and his nickname. To protect your brand you may want to try and register the different TLDs for your name and then re-direct them to your main domain. For example, if your main site is on the .ie domain, you may also want to register the .com (if you can) and the .net to prevent other people using them. Visitors who manually type in website names in browsers often forget whether it’s a .ie or a .com, so it’s good to have both. Keywords & Search Search engines like Google need help in figuring out what your website is about and how relevant it is to search terms and it’s the job of an SEO specialist to help them. You have two types of visitors to your website that you probably want to engage with – humans and search engines. If you have an established brand and the name does not reflect what the business is about, but you have a competitor in the same business who has a keyword in their domain name, then that will give them an edge over you in search for that product or service. Google use the domain name as an input in determining what the site is about. For example, www.floorsanddoors.ie (not to be confused with competitor www.doorsandfloors.ie!) ranks above brand name www.noyeks.ie for the term ‘doors’. It’s only one factor, but worth noting. International Markets www.Pants.com – if we saw this site here in Ireland we’d be thinking undies (or maybe nonsense!), but in the US where this .com is presumably targeted, they’re selling trousers. This illustrates the importance of having the right keywords for your target market. Even if you start small, you may be exporting globally eventually. To target international markets, the ideal situation is generally to have a country-specific top level domain name (TLD), .co.uk in the UK or .fr in France, .de in Germany etc. Sometimes there are restrictions on the registration of country-specific domains. In France you need to have a physical presence in the country in order to register the domain. One of the biggest emerging markets is China, with a huge growth in .cn domains. WWW There’s no need to use the www at the beginning of your domain name. Your audience are increasingly internet savvy, and leaving it out keeps your domain name shorter. You can set a preference with Google (in Webmaster Tools) for the www or non-www version of your domain name, and they will use this preference to index your content and show this in their search results. From a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective, re-direct the www to the non-www (or vice versa), so that all links are being counted to the appropriate domain. Fun Domain Names Ma.tt – If any of you have heard of WordPress (and Bloggertone runs on WordPress) – it’s an open-source blogging and CMS platform – then you may have heard of Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress. He has his blog on ma.tt, with the .tt being the country code for Trinidad and Tobago. As you might expect, he also has a pretty cool theme (or styling) running on his blog. In fact , I’d rather like to get my own – jenn.ie However, while you are entitled to register your personal name on a .ie domain, it cannot be a nickname or firstname only. Perhaps I’ll trademark it… Krishna.me -another way of individualising a domain name is to get a .me. There’s been a bit of a landgrab so your name may be gone already, but Krishna De (Social Media Marketing & Branding guru) has a very informative Digital Marketing & Social Media blog on a .me domain. Text.me – Sotxtme, an Irish start-up has acquired this domain name and is about to launch a new SMS advertising service. So you may see lots of active verbs on .me domains. The .me was the country code for Montenegro until it became so popular with virtual ‘me’s. As the domain names got taken up the Montenegrins decided to use .co.me, .org.me etc. Curious Domain Names Bit.ly – you may have seen these URL shorteners being used in social media, Twitter in particular, to facilitate sharing . To get a 3 character domain name they needed to look further than a .com and instead took a virtual trip to Libya (one of the least online places in the world at the moment due to political turmoil). It’s short, unique, distinctive, and easy to remember. Looonng According to the IEDR’s Domain Name Industry Report for 2010, the longest Irish domain name registered, at 51 chars, is: irishnationwidetaxationandfinancialplanningservices.ie Whoa, that took a long time to type. Are there any brilliant uses of domain names you’ve come across?