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Choosing the Right Web Address

I love my husband, but Iíve got to tell you... I will never again ask his advice on most business matters. Waaaaaay back when, when I was still working for Bell Labs, I decided to do a little consulting work on the weekends. I figured it was an effective way of making some extra money. So, "what shall we name the baby?" My husband sat in front of the TV and pondered this for half an hour. "How about ‘Software Development Solutionsí?" he said. "Hmmm..." I thought. "Thatís pretty boring." But, being the newly-wedded wife, I wanted to honor him by taking his advice to heart. What could be the harm?

That was the wrong answer... that particular name was, for starters, too darn long, totally forgettable, and painfully boring. The web address, which was softwaredevsolutions.com, by the way, practically put you into a coma. Plus, the length of the domain name, especially when expanded into an email address, was so long that my fingers kept stumbling when I typed it, generating these interesting little typos throughout my client emails.

Second... and this is embarrassing... I could not seem to remember the name of my own company. That problem continued for months. By making my business name "generic," I had also made it completely forgettable. More than once, I picked up a ringing phone only to completely blank out on how to answer. Finally, I jotted down the name of my company in big red letters, and taped it to the top of the phone.

My advice to you is, make sure you choose your domain name first. Name your business according to your carefully chosen domain name; not the other way around. And for goodness sake, make sure that your new name is clever, short, and most of all, memorable.

You may be thinking that itís too late... that all of the good web addresses are already gone. If thatís where your train of thought is headed, allow me to intercept you briefly. I believe that there are thousands and thousands of great web addresses still available, just waiting for you to create them.

Let me ask you a question... what is the most successful auction site on the Internet? Itís eBay, right? Now what does the name "eBay" have to do with "auction?" Nothing. "Ebay" is a short, clever, rememberable name. Once itís in your head, you will never, ever forget it. Itís also easy to type. Now, letís pull that name apart a little bit. Why didnít the person who chose it try to squeeze in a description of their core business? Why didnít they name it "eBayAuctions.com." Well, I believe itís because the person who made that choice either knew or guessed right about the strength of a name that is devoid of unnecessary appendages. Trademark lawyers have a way of categorizing the strength of a brandname; if itís a made-up word that does not include a descriptive modifier, like "auctions," it creates the strongest possible trademark and the strongest possible brand. Case in point..."eBay."

Do you need further proof? Okay; what does "Amazon" have to do with "books?" What does "Google" have to do with "search engines?" How about "Yahoo?" Actually, that last name is one of my favorites only because of what it does mean. The letters in the name "Yahoo" actually stand for Yet Another Hierarchical Official Oracle. I canít help it; that name tickles my funnybone every time.

My advice to you is to dare to be different. You either follow the sheep, and get lost in the herd, or you are brave enough to strike out on your own. I recommend the latter. To get started, saddle up your courage and your creativity, and design a name that will not get lost in the middle.

The Great .Com Debate

Are you one of those kids from the 50ís or 60ís that can just SEE that Mickey Mantle baseball card in your hand? Or the Joe DiMaggio? Or the one of many that your sister, your mother, or your aunt tossed out after youíd moved? Well, I too share your anguish, but mine is over the .comís that I couldaí, shouldaí, wouldaí bought.

I specifically remember reading an article in the local paper in the mid-90ís that talked about the eventual, inevitable, enormous value of the .comís that were available for a mere $29.95 a year. The article suggested buying a few good names, and holding onto them as an investment.

I dismissed the idea flatly. I closed the newspaper, and almost forgot about it. I didnít have the money. As a single mother, I spent everything I had on day care, frozen pizza, and a few ballet lessons. To cough up 70 bucks for two domain names, strictly on speculation, was silly to me. And that, dear reader, is the only great regret of my entire life.

I could have bought business.com, or investments.com, or websites.com. Of course then I had no idea Iíd wind up building websites for a living.

At any rate, the point Iíd like to make here is that I believe you should always try to buy and use .com domains. I generally try to dissuade people from using .net, .biz, .org, .ws, etc. etc. etc. Unless your project happens to be for a university, donít name it .edu. Truly, people think in terms of ".com." Even in the movies and on the boob tube... itís .com this and .com that. Thereís no point in trying to retrain all of humanity.

I believe itís fine to name your backdoor site whatever you want; your customer wonít see it. But for your storefront, be creative. Choose a distinctive, short, memorable name. And, for goodness sake, make sure it ends in .com.

Finally, Iíd encourage you not to tell people the domain names you are considering... tell only 2 or 3 trusted family members or friends, and only if they are helping you make the final choice. Iíve personally dealt with people who made the mistake of mentioning the domain name they were considering to someone else, only to have that person scarf it up and hold it hostage. Sad, but true. Just use a little discretion.

4Ward Thinking

See that title? It doesnít really work, does it? The reader has to (1) stop, (2) think, and then (3) concentrate to get back to whatever train of thought they were following before. Yet there are many people who believe theyíre being clever... using 4 for "for" or "fore," or "four." I strongly caution you not to follow suit. Not only are you ticking off your visitor, but in every oral presentation of your web address, whether 30 seconds in the elevator or in a very expensive radio ad campaign, youíre going to spend at least 10 seconds, just explaining how to get to your website. Ditto for dashes. Dashes donít work, because people simply do not think in dashes.

The good news is there are lots of .comís still available. Most of them are not words in the English language... and thatís great. It means that you still have a chance to create a brand new name that has never existed before. I guarantee that, 2 years from now, there will be a handful of new .comís that are totally in vogue, and whose owners havenít even bought the domain name yet. Each will have a great, catchy, made-up name. The owners of those great domains will not have paid a fortune to buy the domain name second hand... they will simply have made up a brand new name, and run with it. That person may as well be you.


This material is Copyrighted. All rights reserved. Linda C. Uranga-Norton, President and Founder, Urangatang Web Design. To obtain reprint permission or engage the author for speaking engagements, please contact the author at . All reprints must include a link to the author's website at www.urangatang.com.

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