• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL

Chapter four. Getting Ready to Say It > Finding the Perfect Name

Finding the Perfect Name

“I like the phone book analogy,” said Claude, “but this system seems more complicated.”

“Not really,” I said. “Have you tried getting a new phone number recently?”

“Yes,” Claude answered, “I got a new phone number when I signed up for my residential Internet-based phone service-the voice-over-IP stuff I was talking about earlier.”

“So that's the first step-finding a service provider,” I continued. “The market's pretty competitive now for any kind of phone service, whether it's wireless or fixed-line. Voice-over-IP adds some interesting twists, though. What area code did you choose for your phone number?”

“The local one,” he said. “I didn't have a reason not to.”

“You mean he could have chosen a different area code?” Anita asked.

“Sure,” I said, “he could have chosen one on the other side of the country, pretty much anywhere the phone company operates. You can do the same with cellphones, too, of course-have them activated in different area codes. That's the second step-choosing the area code.”

“That's right,” she said, “I remember that. And I even got to choose which cellphone number I wanted from a list of available numbers.”

“Exactly,” I said, and turned back to Claude. “So you see? Getting a phone number is actually more complicated than you might think at first. Registering a domain name isn't any harder. The hard part is finding an unclaimed name, because most of the obvious names are already registered.”

“But not all, right?” Stef asked.

“Sometimes you'll be lucky and catch a desirable name immediately after it expires,” I agreed, “but that rarely happens. You'll probably have to compromise on the name, but it's worth spending the time to find a good one. You can always change the name later, but things are easier if you start with the best name possible. Let's see how that's done.”

Domain Name Spelling

Consider alternate or creative spellings-don't just limit yourself to words in the dictionary. You can use hyphens, capitalization, and other tricks to individualize your name.

List Keywords That Describe Your Site

A domain name is like a brand name for your site. If you've ever tried to name a product or company, you know how hard the process is and how hard it is to find a name that someone else isn't already using. You'll face similar challenges when choosing a domain name. There are no hard rules about what makes a good domain name, but there are some general guidelines to follow: Shorter names are better than longer names, and descriptive names are better than generic names.

The first thing to do is to build a list of keywords that describe your site. Make the list as comprehensive as you can. Include phrases (but no punctuation except for hyphens-no spaces or underscores) in your list. Arrange the list with the names you like best at the top.

Claude's list was as follows:

  • voice-over-ip

  • voip

  • home-phone

  • phone-service

  • internet-phone

  • residential

Anita had different keywords:

  • weight

  • weight-loss

  • eating-well

  • nutrition

  • exercise

Stef's list was more personal:

  • Stef

  • college

  • life

  • random-thoughts

  • a-day-in-the-life-of

The lists were actually longer, and I've shortened them for brevity. But be comprehensive with your keyword list.

Trademark Issues

Watch out for trademarks and other protected names. If the name you choose too closely resembles or is easily confused with someone else's intellectual property, they may ask you to stop using the domain name. If you don't, they may start legal proceedings against you and/or use ICANN's domain-conflict resolution process to wrest the domain away from you. See www.memwg.com/domain-name-conflicts for details on the conflict-resolution process.

Select the Top-Level Domains

Generic TLDs

The official list of generic top-level domains is maintained on the ICANN Web site at www.icann.org/registries/listing.html.

After building the keyword list, decide which top-level domains to target. Each TLD operates independently, and not everyone who registers a name bothers to register it in every possible TLD. The .com TLD is normally the first choice for a domain name, but it's also the most crowded registry, so you may have better luck finding a good name within the other TLDs.

Which TLD is best? It really depends on your topic and the audience you're trying to reach. Here are the five generic TLDs available to the general public at publication time and what they are (or were) intended for:

  • .biz is restricted to business purposes, but there's no strict definition of what constitutes a business.

  • .com is unrestricted; it was originally meant for businesses and other commercial entities.

  • .info is unrestricted; it was originally meant for making information available to a global audience.

  • .net is unrestricted; it was originally meant for Internet service providers.

  • .org is unrestricted; it was originally meant for noncommercial purposes.

There are other TLDs, of course, such as the .name and .pro domains I mentioned before, but they're restricted and generally unsuitable for our purposes.

Of the five TLDs above, the .com domain is by far the most common and in many cases the most desirable-a domain ending in .com is instantly recognizable as a domain name. Both Claude and Anita wanted .com domains, if possible. The other four TLDs are about equal in stature. Stef thought .org or even .net suited her needs better than the others.

What about country-code TLDs? A country-code TLD is a good choice when your topic is specific to a country or language and you meet the TLD's residence requirements, if any. Some of the country-code TLDs have appealing letter combinations: Tuvalu, a former British colony in the southern Pacific Ocean, owns the .tv TLD and generates significant income for itself by selling domain names to television broadcasters.

Country-Code Prices

Note that the prices for domains in country-code TLDs are often higher than for those registered in generic TLDs.

Multiple Names Are OK

You're not restricted to one domain name for your site or blog. When registering your domain names, check to see if similar names-or the same name in different TLDs-are available, and consider spending the money to register them as well. The same IP address can be associated with multiple names, the same way that married couples with different surnames have separate listings in the phone book for the same phone number. Your Web hosting provider can easily set this up for you. For example, the companion site for this book can be reached from any of the following domain names:

  • make-easy-money-with-google.com

  • make-easy-money-with-google.net

  • MakeEasyMoneyWithGoogle.com

  • MakeEasyMoneyWithGoogle.info

  • memwg.com

If you register multiple names, choose one of them as your site's primary name and use it consistently in all links and references to the site, unless you have good reason to use one of the other names. For example, I use the memwg.com name within this book because it makes for shorter Web addresses on the printed page, not because it's the best name for the site.

Choose One or More Registrars

With the TLDs in mind, find an appropriate registrar to work with. Most .com registrars can also handle the other four public TLDs, but you may have to use different registrars for the country-code or restricted TLDs.

There's no magic formula to choosing a registrar (Figure 4.6). Price is the most important factor to consider. After making sure the registrar can handle the desired TLDs, check out the registrar's price list. Not only do prices vary widely from registrar to registrar, they also vary widely from TLD to TLD within the same registrar. At the time I write this, for example, a .com domain sells for $7.95 at many (but not all) registrars, while a .info domain sells for as little as $1.95. If you buy domains in bulk-which you won't be doing-you can get even cheaper pricing.

Figure 4.6. A domain-name registrar will offer a variety of services, such as Web hosting, in addition to basic name registration.

As with any service, customer satisfaction varies widely among registrars. Some registrars try to lock you into their service by making it hard to transfer your domains to other registrars. Most try very hard to get you to buy their other services, such as Web hosting. (It works both ways, actually, since many hosting services offer domain name registration services as well.) Some don't answer the phone if problems arise. As usual, word of mouth is a good way to go: If you have friends who've registered domain names, ask them whom they recommend.

Registrar Ratings

See www.memwg.com/registrar-ratings for links to different registrar-rating services.

Not all registrars are directly accredited with ICAAN. Many accredited registrars resell their services to other companies and individuals who want to sell domains but don't or can't meet the stringent accreditation requirements. These services are often rebranded so that you don't know who the true registrar is, and you may pay a higher price for using such a registrar. It's worth digging around a bit to figure out if you're getting a good deal or not.

Search for an Available Domain

Searching for an available domain is easy once you've selected a registrar-just type the desired name into a search box on the registrar's home page (Figure 4.7). If it's available, the registrar considerately offers to register it for you; otherwise, the registrar usually suggests alternative names or TLDs to consider instead (Figure 4.8).

Figure 4.7. A domain-name registrar's search engine.

Figure 4.8. Many desirable domain names are not available.

Online Thesaurus

Need an online thesaurus? Try www.m-w.com/, www.thesaurus.com, or www.visualthesaurus.com.

The search process takes time, so don't feel rushed into taking a name that isn't perfect. It helps to have a thesaurus or dictionary on hand to help you with your search in case none of the names on your original list are available. Try prefixing names with articles (the, a, or an) or common adjectives. Try different verb tenses. Be creative!

We went to the computer and tried finding a name for Anita's site first. It was no surprise to any of us that the domains based on her keyword list were all taken-they were all common words. Then we tried some variations, but nothing was available except names like WeightLossAnita.com that didn't appeal to her at all. After scratching our heads for a while, I asked Anita what her site's main focus was-weight loss or nutrition.

“It's both,” she said, “because I really believe they go hand in hand. Eating well leads naturally to weight loss.”

“Then let's find you a domain name that includes both concepts of eating well and weight loss,” I told her, resuming the search. In the end, we came up with the name EatLessWeighLess.com, which Anita thought was a good description of her philosophy.

Claude asked me whether hyphens in domain names were a good idea. “Shouldn't she use Eat-Less-Weigh-Less.com instead?” he wondered.


For more on voice-over-IP, see the links at www.voip-at-home.com/.

I described the pros and cons of hyphenated domain names. The advantages are that hyphenated names are easy for humans to read without resorting to capitalization tricks and that search engines can easily split the name into separate keywords. The disadvantages are that hyphenated names are longer, harder to type, and easily confused with their unhyphenated equivalents.

“Ideally,” I said, “you'd grab both the hyphenated and unhyphenated versions of the same name and have them both point to your Web site.”

Anita wasn't interested in the hyphenated version, though. “Maybe later,” she said, “but one's enough for now.”

For Claude, however, I thought a hyphenated name might make a lot of sense. The problem with his site was that neither the phrase voice-over-IP nor the acronym voip are common English terms, especially the latter. Any name that included voip in it would be clearer in its hyphenated form, I thought, and Claude agreed. Since Claude was going to focus on residential uses of VoIP technology, we started by looking at names that included both voip and home in them. In the end, Claude chose voip-at-home.com as his domain name. “I think it's pretty clear what the site's about if they know what the voip stands for,” he said, and I agreed.

Stef's name was the last to be chosen, but it was the easiest to find because she absolutely wanted “Stef” in the name and she wasn't interested in the .com top-level domain. Her existing blog was called “Stef at College,” so that's what we started with. As it turned out, Stef-at-College.org, StefAtCollege.org, Stef-at-College.net, and StefAtCollege.net were all available. I also noticed that the .com versions were unclaimed and that she might want to get them anyhow, but Claude pointed out in a very fatherly tone that Stef was a “poor college student” after all and perhaps she should just choose one or two to start with. She chose the two .org versions. Now it was time to register everyone's chosen names.

Names for Sale

If the domain name you really want is already registered, you may still be able to obtain it by purchasing it from the person or company who owns it. Type the domain name into your Web browser and see if you land on a “domain for sale” page, which usually leads you to the site of a domain reseller. Alternately, contact the owner of the domain (using the WHOIS information if it's available) and ask if they'd be willing to sell it to you.

Domain Resellers

See www.memwg.com/domain-resellers for details on purchasing domains from a reseller.

Register the Name

We went to a registration site and I walked them through the process. The details vary by registrar, but in general there are four steps to follow:

Create an account with the registrar. This is free, but you'll need a valid email address. The account lets you check the status of your registrations as well as make changes later.

Grab the domain names and add them to your online shopping cart.

Fill in the registrant and contact information for each domain name.

Check out and complete the transaction by using a credit card to pay the domain registration fees.

There may be additional steps required at checkout time, such as confirming that you're entitled to register a domain in a particular registry. The registrar will try to sell you additional features or services, such as private domain name registration or Web hosting services. You can decline most of these, except perhaps for the privacy protection if privacy is a concern.

Domain Names and Email Addresses

The contact information for a domain includes email addresses. Those addresses must be valid and regularly monitored, otherwise important notices that the registrar sends you-such as requests by unscrupulous parties to transfer the domain to them-will be lost. Email addresses that are not tied to your school, employer, or Internet service provider are best, otherwise you'll have to remember to change the registration information for each of your domains whenever you change email addresses. Since registrars require domain owners to confirm such changes via email, you'd have to make those changes before you lose the email addresses in question. A “permanent” or “lifetime” email address that you monitor on a regular basis is a good address to use, though expect the amount of spam you receive at that address to increase once the address is made public in the domain registration information.

Permanent Email

Get a permanent email address at www.pobox.com, www.hotmail.com, or www.netaddress.com/.

When you register a domain, you must supply contact information (name, address, phone number, email address) for the owner (you) as well as for the administrative and technical contacts. You can (and initially should) use the same contact information for all three. The administrative contact receives requests for approval or information when there is an administrative issue with a domain that needs to be addressed by the registrar or by ICANN-for example, the domain is up for renewal. The technical contact is contacted whenever there's a technical problem with the domain. Contact information can be changed at any time.

At some point in the registration process, you'll be asked to provide DNS information for each domain, specifically the IP addresses of the name servers for the domain. Name servers are computers that know how to map the host names or subdomains within a domain into actual IP addresses. You don't have this information yet, so choose the free “parking” option to let the registrar temporarily host your domain. While the domain is parked, anyone who enters the domain name into a Web browser is presented with a “coming soon” Web page (Figure 4.9).

Figure 4.9. A sample “coming soon” Web page for a parked domain.

Registration Propagation

You own the domains as soon as you pay the registration fees, but it normally takes a few hours for the registrations to take effect, so don't be surprised if your “coming soon” pages aren't shown at first.

As the owner, you can change the registration information for any of your domains at any time through your registrar's Web site. You can even transfer domains to another registrar or to another person. Important changes like transfers will require confirmation (by email) before they occur.

Lock Your Domains

Some domain owners have had their domain names hijacked from them by unscrupulous individuals who managed to convince a registrar that an owner had authorized a transfer. To combat this, most registrars let you lock your domains at no extra charge to automatically refuse any transfer requests. If you legitimately want to transfer a locked domain, you must first return to the registrar and unlock the domain before proceeding with the transfer. Locking your domains is a good idea.

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint