Domain names are being registered at such an enormous rate that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to come up with good domain names that have not already been snapped up by somebody else. These “Golden Rules” are designed to help shape your creative process in dreaming up new names. However, they are not a recipe for “instant success”. You still have to put thought and effort into coming up with suitable domain names.
Rule #1: Avoid “Clever” or “Joke” Names
A joke that cracks you up when you hear it for the first time after knocking back a few beers with friends may seem funny at the time. However, beyond this threshold the joke rapidly loses its edge with each repetition.
The same can apply to a “clever” domain name. If you’re expecting to use the domain name for years as part of your company’s identity, branding, and promotion, make sure you won’t go red with embarrassment every time you repeat the domain name. One domain name twist that lost its luster almost instantly was beginning a generic word with ‘dot’, as in “dotfactory.com”.
You should also avoid abbreviations and “minimalist” spelling if at all possible. If you buy the domain name “4ever.com” you will be sending free traffic to “forever.com” every time you mention the domain name in conversation or on the radio. You can also expect an endless series of conversations explaining the “clever” spelling. The use of “2″ for “to”, “u” for “you” and other similar shortenings are also best avoided.
Other domainers and webmasters have known this for a long time and they’re not going to buy up your collection of substitution domain names. As a matter of fact, many such names have already been registered and dropped again because of their lack of resale value.
Rule #2: Think Like an Investor…
A good commercial domain name must be able to distinguish itself from the crowd of pretenders. There are several ways to achieve distinction:
Consider the target market
Try to aim your domain name at a specific, but broad, market. Use search tools, such as Google’s Keyword Tool, and other resources to narrow down categories of businesses. Next, try to find domain names that would have clear appeal to such businesses. Focus on a specific sector such as “biotech” or “travel”, for example.
Most of the highest value generic domain names have already been registered, but by using search tools like the Google Keyword Tool, you can narrow categories down and focus more on niches. Lately, there has been a lot of hype talk about the long-tail, which, when it comes to the domain market, would be longer names with keyword phrases, instead of generic one-word names.
Follow trends… or create them
If you’re serious about picking good names and prepared to invest the necessary time, try to follow the latest news and trends on the Internet. Try to see what has staying power and what simply fades away. “Cold fusion” is a great example of the latter from the early 2000’s. For weeks, the media was full of stories about cold fusion, but then they died out. A related incident took place in 2001, when there was a lot of fuss about “Project Ginger”, a predicted life-changing wonder invention. The “Ginger” turned out to be a code-name for the Segway scooter, and most “Ginger” related domains that were registered during the initial media coverage lost their desirability.
Longer term trends include nanotech, plastic chips, genetic engineering and cloning, global communications, etc. None of these is likely to disappear in the next few years, although the popularity of each may fluctuate. And this is just in the technology field, one of thousands of different fields of interest!
Act on a whim
Creativity is not a slave to logic. If you’re hit with a great idea, go for it! Don’t hesitate, have second thoughts, or dither. Considering the sheer number of domains registered every day, it’s not as uncommon as you may think for someone to have the same idea as you and beat you to your choice of domain name. But, don’t put too much money into it. Remember that if it was a good choice, low investments could pay high., but high investments could easily pay nothing.
Rule #3: Buy All The Alternatives to a Domain
When you’ve found a domain name that really clicks, one that you’re going to use for your site or business for years to come, spend a bit of extra money on securing variants of the name. There’s no need to go crazy on alternative extensions (unless you want to), but make sure you at least buy the .com, .net and .org versions of the domain.
Consider registering the singular and plural forms of the domain name, along with the hyphenated version(s) as well. For instance, “EmailAddress.com” and “EmailAddresses.com” but also “Email-Address.com” and “Email-Addresses.com”
As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, you may want to consider registering popular misspellings of your domain name as well. This will help to avoid potential typo-squatting from others in the future.
Basically, when you have a great idea, why let somebody else have a free ride on your tail? For a nominal fee per additional name, you can buy yourself some serious protection.
Rule #4: Don’t Tailgate
On the other side of Rule #3, if you’re a serious domain name buyer, avoid “tailgating” off another domain name unless it has enormous potential. Don’t buy “ABC-DEF.com” if somebody else owns “ABCDEF.com”. While it’s not a misspelling, it’s a variation oftypo-squatting.
As stated several times through this guide, never try to tailgate on a registered trademark or well-known servicemark. For example, Dell filed lawsuits in 2000 against several domain owners who had registered domains with their trademark ‘Dell’ in it, such as DellSolutions.com and DellBackup.com. Be aware that if you register domain names with trademarked terms, you could very easily find yourself with a letter from the trademark owner’s legal department. For more on the legal aspects of domain name ownership, check out our Domain Legal Issues guide.
Rule #5: Don’t Rush – But Don’t Wait
Don’t automatically buy the first domain name you think of. Think some more, sleep on it, and ask your friends for their opinions. Although the supply of domain names is diminishing daily, it’s better to expend more thought at the beginning and save money later. After all, an unmarketable name you’ve decided not to use for yourself is purely a liability.
At the same time, don’t sit on a good idea forever, because “forever” will come soon. Somebody else will stumble upon your idea when you least expect it and, if they react quicker, you’ve lost your chance at that domain name!
Rule #6: Remember the .com Rule
.com is always worth more than any other TLD for the same name. As a matter of fact, most other TLDs don’t even come close to the .com price of a domain name in the aftermarket. However, the smaller price tags on alternative TLDs could make them ideal for someone starting on a low budget.
Don’t be fooled into putting loads of money into second-choice names with an alternative TLD though. A name like computer.com is great. A name like computer.net is good, but not nearly as good as computer.com. But a name like thebestcomputers.org ends up being practically worthless in terms of resale value, unless a fair bit of online marketing is done to earn traffic for the site.
Once you understand all the rules, look at some of the most common mistakes that novices make in the domain industry.