What’s In A Name?
For any webmaster developing a new Website, there is a lot to think about - design, content, promotion, backend development and satisfying the client. The problem is that many seemingly unimportant items don't get the attention that they deserve, and a site's name is one of these.
Why Does It Matter?
OK, so you know that your site is built around the name. You'll use it as a domain, as a page title, in your logo and possibly in the design. A name is much more than this, though. Your site or business name will be the way in which people find your site, the way they will refer to it and, most importantly, the thing they'll remember when they leave.
If you don't really believe this, think about it for a moment. You want to buy a book on the web. You don't go on to a search engine and type in books, you go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and of course when you want webmaster information, you go to SitePoint. Similarly, when you have a good experience on a site, you might say to your friends 'I read a great article on SitePoint' or 'I found great book prices at Amazon'.
Whatever the name of your site and however you promote it, it's vital to realise that the name is going to be a major part of it.
What IS A Good Name?
So now you know that your name is so important, how can you pick a good one? The first thing you must think of, obviously, is domains. There's no point in having a great name for a site if you don't have the domain, so the whois databases are the place where you'll be doing your research.
So what makes a good domain then?
- Good Extension
- Easy To Spell
If you believe the spam which arrives in your mailbox every morning, .ws is the new .com. .us is the new .com. .tv is the new .com… It's simple. There is no new .com. Whatever develops in the internet industry, the .com domain will always be synonymous with the top websites. If you are looking for a site and you know its name, you try .com. If at all possible, get a .com name.
It's not always possible, as many of you will know, to get a good .com name relating to your site. So what extension should you pick instead? I would say that .net, .info and country level domains are also viable for a website, but only in certain circumstances.
- You can use a .net for most types of site, but it works best for technology. If you can get a short, snappy .net it is almost as good as a .com, but don't bother with anything long or complex.
- Use .info if your site is an informational one. For example, if I was looking for the web host HostRocket, I'd go to the .com site, but if I wanted to get more information about using it, I'd try the .info version of the domain (which just happens to be the customer driven informational site). Don't bother setting up a non-informational site on a .info domain, though. It will just annoy people.
- Country level domains are useful for particular websites. If you're building a site for an established business in a country, or if you are planning to aim at a specific county's audience then you may be better off with this than a generic .com (although I'd buy them both to be safe). As with .net, it's really not worth buying a country level domain for a worldwide site, unless you can get something very short or memorable.
I've mentioned this twice before, but it's important to cover why short domains are so good. Firstly, of course, they are easier to remember. Anyone who has tried learning 'Hamlet' quotes will tell you that a word is easier to remember than a phrase. Two word domains are probably fine, three at the most, but if you have a really long domain it just gets confusing, especially if
the words aren't capitalised.
A simple name will also roll off the tongue easily in conversation, look more professional and have less chance of typing mistakes.
Easy To Spell
Ever heard an advert on the radio where a web address is spelt out to you? The lack of good domains over the past few years lead many companies to get what could be regarded as 'nonsense' names. If you find yourself spelling your site's name out to people, you've got it wrong. If you want people to remember you, they must be able to remember your site as a word. Again, words are easy to remember. This immediately outlaws the use of 'unnatural' spellings, of course, so don't replace S with Z under any circumstances!
When deciding on a name, you should also be careful about double letters. Take CyberRadio2000, for example. Their domain uses a double R, as you might expect, but there is an uncertainty there. The two Rs together look a bit strange if written without capitalisation, and a good name will not force the user to assume anything about the name. Of course, if you really must have a double letter, the best solution is to buy both versions of the domain, but it's not perfect.
Avoid lots of dashes in your domain name. It's a great way of finding a better name that hasn't been registered, but can make your domain harder to remember. Keep to a maximum of one dash and, if at all possible, none.
A good site or business name will describe exactly what the site is about. Take the 'real world' example of the Royal Mail in the UK. In an infamous marketing move the company was renamed Consignia. Now what does that mean? If I said the name Consignia to you, you wouldn't associate it with letters and parcels. In fact Consignia have since discovered this, and renamed themselves, 'The Royal Mail Group'! It just goes to show that with some 'made up' corporate name, it isn't obvious what you do, and surely that is the whole point of a name.
Of course, many companies have succeeded using a non-descriptive name: 'Egg' the online bank, 'elephant.co.uk' (car insurance) and 'Orange' the mobile phone firm. How did they do this, though? Through huge marketing campaigns and brand awareness. Surely it's better to have an instantly recognisable purpose than to have to spend millions on telling people what you do?
An interesting use of domain names is starting to appear, and that is keywords. To give an example, I started the site Free-Webhosting.info and within two months it was number two on Google for a search on 'free webhosting'. I had very few links to my site and hadn't done any real optimisation for the search engines. It wasn't just a fluke. Other sites I have worked on have had very high search engine rankings by having a search term as their domain. With no real technique for getting high rankings easily on engines like Google, this could be just what webmasters are looking for.
Finding A Name
Now you know what to look for in a name, its time to search for one. You might already have an idea of a name you could register, but unless you are very creative, you'll probably find it's gone (unless, of course, you are registering a company name which isn't made or generic words). You could spend the next week typing names into whois searches, or you could try a domain generator. Nameboy (www.nameboy.com) is a good example. Just type in your keywords and instantly you will get 60 or more suggestions of domains you could buy, all checked and marked for availability in .com, .net and .org (and sometimes .info if the system is working). Using your newfound knowledge you will soon be able to find a name.
So that's it. You've bought a domain for your site. It's easy to remember, spell and type. Its short, memorable and descriptive, and best of all, its yours. Now you have your key to website success, and all that needs to be done n
ow is the design, content, promotion, backend...
1999 - 2003 David Gowans