One for the Road

Stephen Yagielowicz
Have you ever heard the old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do”? After all that I’ve written over the past few days about ‘biting off more than you can chew,’ I went and registered a new domain name. Blame it on the full moon, if you like, but I couldn’t resist…

A small piece of a larger puzzle, it’ll take a few months before anything useful comes of it; but neither the name itself, nor the site designed around it or the seriously snazzy logo, or its place in the scheme of things, is what I want to discuss today; but rather, some of the considerations that led me to purchase it.

When something that I think would make a good website name or theme pops into my head, one of the first things that I do after seeing if it’s available is to ask someone else for an opinion. The reason for this is simple and all around you: lots of webmasters grab names that seem fabulous to them, but leave others wondering “what the heck is that supposed to be?”

Being too “cute” or using slang terms that you’re certain everyone else knows, or just being stupid, leads to all sorts of worthless domain name registrations. I know that most of the good names have been taken and that all of the great names are long gone, but stretching the options so thinly is often a waste of time and energy.

As for the great names, they are the truly valuable ones simply because they have real type-in value, for example, sex.com is a great name: lots of people will type this into their browser’s address bar, assuming that the site will contain the content they seek. Almost invariably, short, common, easily spelled, single-word names, ending in ‘.com’ (such as golf.com, flowers.com, or porn.com), these great names have long been off the market.

Good names are another matter, however, and many are still available. These are typically two-word names that make common, understandable sense in the context of the content being offered on the site they denote. While some of these have moderate type-in value, none of them are as intuitive as the great names, with the majority of type-ins coming from return visitors that didn’t bookmark the site but remembered the name – a process that effective branding encourages. The best of these names also tend to have a certain ‘ring’ to them that makes them ‘catchy,’ as it were.

So there I was, sitting in the moonlight enjoying an ice cold beer and thinking about the gap in my portfolio and how I wanted to address it, running option after option through my head, when a name with a nice ring to it compelled me to check it’s availability. Sure enough, one of two versions was available. “One of two versions?” you ask? Yep. When I settle on a name, the name itself as well as the brand that will come of it, is an issue and as such (when choosing a multiple word name) I seek out both the hyphenated as well as the non-hyphenated version of the dot-com (other TLDs being a waste of resources). When appropriate, versions of the name with and without an “s” on the end of the word are also advisably collected as a means of brand protection, i.e., “domain-names.com.”

The hyphenated version separates the names so that search engines and surfers alike know what it really denotes. For example, ‘domain-name.com’ is much clearer than ‘domainname.com’ – both to man and machine. In this example, even a spider with a sophisticated artificial intelligence engine would not be certain from the name alone whether it denotes “domain name” or “do main name” since the separation point isn’t clearly specified. While it might make sense to you, you’re not a machine, and those machines are a major source of free, high-quality traffic, so considering their needs is a priority. Having the non-hyphenated version of the name (domainname.com) pointed to the hyphenated version, effectively redirects any type-in traffic to the main site.

In my case, sadly, the non-hyphenated version was unavailable, having been registered in 2003, but pointing to no website and resolving as a 404 error. Preferring the hyphenated version and willing to accept the (slight) loss of type-ins that would hit that page if they forgot to add the hyphen, I had no problem going for the single, hyphenated name, since it really is “that good.” Well, a little problem; I decided to sleep on it, but registered it the first thing this morning. As for getting the opinion of others, my lovely wife Dawn said: “Damn! That’s perfect!”

I’m also not too sad about not being able to have both names (yet). I was in a similar position before: I watched the (non-hyphenated) name I wanted being renewed, again and then again. On the fourth year, it lapsed – and I picked it up – the moral of the story being “good things come to those that wait.”

While I’m trying to be disciplined and not over-extend myself, I also hate to see a good opportunity pass by. There’s a lot more to this story, but I’ll save it for another day. In the meantime, I hope I’ve given you some things to think about when considering your next domain name purchase.