Domains – Part One: Smart Names and Top Level Domains

Domain names are weird. In the wild and woolly days of the early Web, users picked domains based on a quirky sense of humor or raw, boring functionality. A domain name was nothing more than an address, and unless you picked a strange one, it was about as significant to you as your street number: important, but hardly representative of who you are.

Nowadays, your domain is practically another name for your business. It’s a brand and location in one package. Most companies are content to register their standard business name under a .com top level domain suffix, but this isn’t always possible. Smart (or in some cases, over-eager) businesses and marketing firms want to do a bit more, to get customers to their page faster or enhance a company’s online popularity.

Registering Typos and Alternate Spellings

“Typosquatting,” is the practice of registering common misspellings for your domain. This is an important enough topic that we devoted a whole article to it. Give it a read if you haven’t already.

Typos aren’t the only alternate names to consider. Can you name your business with a dash. No dash? In British English? If your business involves heavy verbal networking, registering as many name variants as you can means that potential customers can find you with little more than a hazy memory to guide them. Remember, too, that some words have variant English spellings by region — “colour” and “colour,” or “program” and “programme.” US English is the default language of the Web, but it’s not the only language to think about.

Alternatives to Dot-Com

Dot-com is still the top level domain of choice for business. That was its intended purpose when the Web was being developed. Although anyone can register a dot-com now, it’s practically synonymous with “business website.” Unfortunately, this means that there’s a huge amount of competition for dot-com domain names. It’s quite likely that you’ll find that another registrar has already taken your name. It might be the smart choice to give yourself a slightly different online name. You can’t have sprockets.com, but you might be able to get buysprockets.com . Remember to add smart SEO (from us, for instance) to point the way. Otherwise, your options include:

Dot-Net and Dot-Org: With dot-com, they are the big three unrestricted top level domains. Many companies register domain names across all three. These are technically separate domains, but they’ll often redirect to a common site.

Unfortunately, there are still some cultural expectations around dot-net and dot-org sites. Dot-net sites were originally IT-related and dot-org sites are commonly used by non-profits (like http://www.wikipedia.org). This doesn’t matter much for dot-nets any more, but dot-orgs are still likely to create the expectation of a non-profit site.

Dot-Biz and Dot-Info: ICANN created these two top level domains to relieve registration congestion in the big three. Dot-info is unrestricted, while dot-biz can only be registered by companies. These two top level domains currently constitute the “low rent district” of the Web because they’re filled with shady operations like link spam and adult content. To make effective use of a dot-biz or dot-name domain you’ll need to rise above the pack with an aggressive internet marketing and SEO regimen.

But That’s Not All!

Next time, well travel around the world, explore small pacific islands, create terrible puns and talk about what it all does for your web site.

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