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The secret of picking the right domain name

By Peter Doomen
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2004

Not that long ago, you could run an internet business without domain name. Not anymore. (http://www.somefreeprovider.com/~myspace/mbusiness.html) is a guarantee to fail.

This little article tells you how to pick the traffic generating domain name for your business. I assume you already know the advantages of having a domain name: professionalism, traffic trough search engines and directories, added value and so on. Every domain registrar will tell you why you need a domain name. But no one tells you exactly how to find it. Read on to find out.

Basically, there are three types of domain names:

1) Domain name is equal to your company name, like microsoft.com or yahoo.com. Pretty good choices if you either have a well-known company either have the marketing budget to make it well-known.

2) Domain name consists of popular keywords relevant to your business such as (http://www.national-car-rental.com). These can drive traffic to your site because of two reasons: search engines attach some weight to the domain name, and surfers will remember the name because of the connection between the name and the business it stands for.

3) Bad domain names: all others. Why on earth would you choose a name that nobody knows, nobody remembers and does not drive traffic to your site?

For the rest of the article, I assume you don't have a well-known company or a big budget, but you still want a good domain name. The logical choice would be to choose a keyword-laden name.

I hear you yelling: "Okay, okay, I want a name. But keep it short". So I'll offer you a seven-step plan. Here it is:

1) Perform a keyword analysis. First list all words that are relevant to your business. Now pick all those words that you think people use to find you in a search engine. Rank these keywords in order of popularity. You can use the keyword research tool at (http://www.jimtools.com/) to estimate popularity.

2) Pick your two or three main keywords. For each one, write down synonyms or almost-synonyms. For example: if your keyword is "car" you could add to this list: auto, automobile, autos, cars, van, truck, vehicle, wagon,...

3) Combine the words in the lists to make candidate domain names. From the first list, take the first word and combine it with the first word from the second list and the first word from the third list.

4) You can also have a list with prefixes like i, e, www, b2b,... or suffixes like 4me, forsale, and so on. You can combine these with all keywords.

5) Decide whether to use hyphens or not. A simple rule: "use hyphens whenever you suspect people will type in your keywords in one search term". For example, "usedcarse4me.com" is better than "usedcars-4me.com" because people won't remember the hyphen. But "national-car-rental.com" is better than "nationalcarrental.com" because approximately 15000 people use exactly these three words as search term each month and the domain with hyphens is likely to show up higher in the search results.

6) Decide on your top-level domain like .com, .org or .net. A very simple rule of thumb: use .com unless you have very good reasons not to. The fact that the .com is already taken is *not* a good reason.

7) Rank the domain names in order of attractiveness, verify whether they already exist with a whois tool, and register the best one.

I can assure you, steps 3 to 7 are necessary but not quite what *I* consider fun. I wrote a small program to do this for me. On its first launch, I found the domain name "domain-name-tool", registered it and build a site. You can download the domain-name-tool at (http://www.domain-name-tool.com/). It's freeware. I mean "real" freeware.

About the Author
Peter Doomen
(http://www.domain-name-tool.com/)
Peter spends most of his time building bridges between computer techies and normal people.