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Foundation of online success - your domain names!

By Lee Hodgson
Posted Saturday, August 14, 2004

We all know that to succeed online you need to find ways to get ahead and stay ahead of the competition. But where to start? Try starting where you visitors start - with your domain names. No, that's not a misprint, I really did say 'domain names' not 'domain name'.

'Why would I ever need more than one domain name?' I hear you cry. Read on...

Firstly, let's start with a couple of definitions:

Primary Domain Name
Your primary domain name is the name that you will promote as being the name for your website. It will be your Internet identity. It is what your customers will know you by.

Auxiliary Domain Names
Auxiliary domain names are other names that you will register for your website. You will not normally advertise them, but they will still drive customers to your website, and away from the competition.

To demonstrate the benefits of auxiliary domain names, let's invent a case study, using a fictitious company, 'English-Thai Language Services'. This company has been trading offline in the UK, selling books and services relating to the Thai Language, and are now looking to set up online. Let's try and help them choose some domain names, using a few simple rules.

Rule #1 - Register current company name

So that would be 'English-ThaiLanguageServices.com', right? Perhaps, but remember this is a UK company that mainly has UK customers, for now at least. These customers might be more comfortable using the .co.uk domain name extension. They may even believe that the .com name refers to a different company altogether. So what's the solution? Register both of course. In fact, register in all countries where you have a presence. If you don't register the name, a competitor might, and merrily redirect traffic to their site.

But what about the hyphen? If a customer sees the domain name 'English-ThaiLanguageServices.com' in a magazine, they will typically remember the name, but forget the existence of the hyphen, and end up typing 'EnglishThaiLanguageServices.com' into their browser. Therefore I strongly recommend registering the non-hyphened version of the name as well as the hyphened one.

So, using rule #1, we already have four names that we would recommend English-Thai Language Services register, namely:

English-ThaiLanguageServices.com
English-ThaiLanguageServices.co.uk
EnglishThaiLanguageServices.com
EnglishThaiLanguageServices.co.uk

Rule #2 - Register a benefit-based domain & use it as the primary domain name

OK, so you've got your company name(s) registered, but unless you are a large corporation, I wouldn't recommend using it as your main Internet identity. Why not? Because on the Internet, you need to reach out to new customers, customers who have never heard of your company, customers who are being offered services from around the world.

If there are thirty Thai language companies listed on Yahoo!(TM), how do you stand out from the crowd? Simple, you incorporate a 'benefit' into your domain name.

It's well know amongst marketing experts that people don't buy products, they buy benefits. So instead of being listed as 'AnotherThaiLanguageCompany.com', you choose a domain name that offers a benefit to the customer, a reason why they should click on your link.

A great example of a benefit-based domain for this particular company would be 'FluentThai.com', since you are offering the customer the benefit of becoming fluent in the Thai language.

So using rule #2, English-Thai Language Services would register 'FluentThai.com'.

Rule #3 - Register a generic domain name & use it as an auxiliary domain name

If you can get hold of a generic domain name for your business sector, you have a great marketing edge. Generic domain names produce a regular flow of potential customers to you site without you having to spend a dollar on marketing.

A recent case illustrates the point beautifully. The publishers of a computer game starring Brazilian soccer start Ronaldo have offered 150,000 US Dollars to the owner of the domain name Ronaldo.com. The publisher was quoted as saying "Anyone searching for information on Ronaldo, whether it is about the forthcoming PlayStation game or any other related merchandise, is automatically going to (www.ronaldo.com). If we don't secure the name in the next two weeks, we are going to have to spend considerably more on Internet advertising than we would have if we had owned (www.ronaldo.com).

For our fictitious company, the generic domain name would be 'ThaiLanguage.com', since anybody interested in the Thai language will try typing 'ThaiLanguage' into their browsers before reverting to the lottery that can be the search engines.

So using rule #3, English-Thai Language Services would register 'ThaiLanguage.com'.

The complete list of names that I would recommend registering for our fictitious language company is:

English-ThaiLanguageServices.com
English-ThaiLanguageServices.co.uk
EnglishThaiLanguageServices.com
EnglishThaiLanguageServices.co.uk
FluentThai.com (Primary Domain Name)
ThaiLanguage.com

Depending on circumstances, there are other rules that can come into play. For instance, some popular English language words are spelt differently around the English-speaking world. For instance, Jewelry (US) vs. Jewellery (UK). If you have an international business, you'll need to register the different spellings.

Of course some of these domain names might already have been registered, and English-Thai Language Services might need to look at purchasing the names in the resale market rather than registering them, but that's the subject of a different article entirely....

About the Author
Lee Hodgson is a domain name consultant at (http://DomainGuideBook.com/), dedicated to helping businesses choose the best domain names for their websites.
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