Jun 08, 2000
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From MarketingSherpa's UK Correspondent
1. Be Memorable
There’s a company we greatly admire, and we often want to refer other people to them. The trouble is we can never remember their domain name... (For the record, it’s WorldWeb.net.)
2. Don’t Fence Me In
So many Venture Capitalists snarl ‘it’s not the business plan I fund, it’s the management team,’ because they’re anticipating the day (bound to come) when your Web site direction changes entirely. And, when it does, will your domain name still apply? Think how restricted the baby Amazon.com would have been if it had been called ‘Books.com’ instead...
3. No Trendy Words Please
Think how foolish 30-somethings with names like ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Treehugger’ feel today even if, in the ’60s they were the ultimate cool babies. Now apply the same lesson to words such as ‘Cyber’...
4. Word of Mouth
A large percentage, if not the majority, of your new visitors will find their way to your site because a friend or colleague recommended it. Most of the time, these recommendations will be made verbally –- chatted down the phone, for instance, or shouted across a crowded office. So you’d better make sure your domain name is something that can be clearly heard, understood, and spelt at first try without any questions. We’d suggest you avoid numbers (people are never sure whether to spell them out or not) and unusual spellings of common words...
The good news: once you’ve picked a great name for ‘word of mouth’ you are well set up for radio campaigns.
5. dot-com v. dot-co-dot-uk?
Whenever we look at our British subscriber list we are rather startled to see how many otherwise very British companies use ‘.com’. This probably dates back to the time when America ruled the Web and you needed a ‘.com’ to be taken seriously. But this certainly isn’t the case any more. If you do own the .com, you might consider switching to the .co.uk and continuing your old domain as a ‘shadow’ address so that people using it will still get to the right place.
If you’re registering a new name altogether, you’ll want to register both the .co.uk and the .com anyway just in case lots of people visit you by guessing your URL. But don’t buy the ‘.com’, or (God forbid) the ‘.net’ if your dream ‘.co.uk’ is taken. We have friends who did this, and now they have to pay heaps for a full-time banner ad on the other domain owner’s site to redirect mistaken visitors. And they lose an awful lot of email that way...
By the way - if someone already owns the dot com, don't even consider making due with a ".net" or .biz" or other option. Most visitors will automatically type ".com" and get lost trying to find you. Instead, come up with a new brand for your site name - something memorable and descriptive such as "bestwidgets.com" or "widgets101.com".
Or use your entire company name "widgetcorporation.com" instead.
6. Buy common mis-spellings of your name!
Until recently, there was a company in Canada making a living simply because their domain name (Yahooo.com) was typed accidentally by shed loads of people looking for a certain search engine. If you’re an existing offline company, your mailroom staff can probably tell you the most common mis-spellings of your name. Alternatively, we suggest you pop down to the pub for a few pints, try to type your proposed domain name a few dozen times, and then buy the most common mistakes resulting. We like this method – it’s one of the few opportunities you’ll have for tax-deductible drinking...
7. DUYAYDN.co.uk (or, Don’t Use Your Acronym as Your Domain Name)
We are constantly surprised by the number of companies who use their acronym as their domain name -- after all, even the Bluffer’s Guide to Marketing says that acronyms (especially long ones) are harder to remember than words. Unless you are willing to spend millions on branding ads (like IBM), or you have an acronym that looks like it might be a word (like Bol.com) it’s a very, very bad idea to use them, as they are horribly difficult for customers to recall.
The same is true of domains that are sliced bits of your company name stuck together (eg. ‘XYZMag.co.uk’). This is because nobody (besides you) will ever remember which bits to spell out or not. And anyway, these tend to be such utterly boring-sounding names...
Dashes stuck in the middle of URLs don't work well either. People forget to type them.