Last March, Toys R Us bought the Toys.com domain for a cool $5.1 million dollars, drawing widespread attention to the value of domain names. The fact is that any business—online or offline—needs a good domain name if it wants to make any money off the web. With a well-chosen domain, you can better control your online presence and establish a more solid online identity.
So what makes a good domain name? Each successful business would probably point to a different handful of factors. Most of them, however, can be lumped into these four main elements:
The Web allows domain names of up to 67 characters (63 without the .com), but it’s never a good idea to use it all. Good domain names are short and sweet, but nonetheless effective in conveying your business. “Toys” is a mere syllable and 4 characters long, but the message is clear: when you want toys, this is where you go.
A short URL works because it’s easy to remember, but sometimes it may be worth the few extra characters. Acronyms are a classic example. IBM may get away with ibm.com, but buying bbam.com for Bill’s Books and Magazines won’t get you very far. Business adviser Dr. Michael Fortin suggests using rhyme and rhythm; rather than using obscure initials, you can use billsbooks.com, which has a much nicer ring to it.
3. Relevance to business
It used to be easy getting your own dot-com: you just took your business name and registered it. But if you’re just starting out, chances are there’s already someone using your URL. Your best bet is a name that relates to your business, although not necessarily with your name. For example, Bill’s Books can get alternate domains such as “cheapbooks,” “booksandmags,” or “bookfinds”—not only is it accurate; it also pulls up your search engine rankings for relevant keywords.
4. Ease of use
When you misspell a popular site like facebook.com, you land on some obscure, ad-laden, and possibly unsafe pages. It may not be so bad for Facebook, but when people want to go to good old Bill’s Books and end up in an online casino, it isn’t good for business. On the web, you’re always going to have a few bad spellers or bad typists. Choose a domain name that a five-year-old can remember and type in. If you constantly have to spell it out for people, chances are it’s not a very good one.