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Selecting the Right Domain Name

Selecting the right domain name (or domain for short) can be a challenge. Branding, budget, target audience, and several other factors must be considered in order to choose the digital asset that represents you or your company best.

Your URL, also known as a Web address (displayed in your visitors' browser when on your site), is part of your identity online. Nearly gone are the days of adding your business name attached to a .com and calling it a day. Today, there are countless possible angles for effectively representing your brand, and many need to be considered (especially since most generic .com domains are already taken).

'Generic' doesn't necessarily equate to a single keyword describing your products or services, it extends to popular titles for businesses and non-profits spanning the entire planet. To illustrate, while "Bob's Coffee Shop" might sound original (and fairly specific) to you, a simple search online can bring up dozens, hundreds, and in some cases thousands of relevant results. This is because the Internet takes into consideration the entire English-speaking market (given, of course, it's your language of choice when searching).

So, what do you do when your preferred domain name is taken? You really only have two options; offer to buy it at a premium price (ultimately determined by the seller), or choose another one. Going with the former can set you back up to a little over a million dollars - and we're not kidding. Some of the highest valued domains are up for sale at this ballpark figure.

A domain name can be worth significantly more where demand is high, if it consists of a lower number of characters (generally three or less letters or numerical digits), when it can be pronouned as one syllable, etc. The majority of these are usually .com domains as well. While purchasing a domain can get expensive (with the cost fully-justified in most cases), you shouldn't let the hype around premium domains confuse or discourage you, as sometimes a good ol' available name does the job just fine.

Domains that are released/re-released or have never been registered in the standard marketplace are separated into three main categories. There are (1) general TLDs (i.e. top-level domains) like .com, .net, and .org to list a few; these are the Web's most popular domain extensions, and are suitable to almost any individual and any type of business or non-profit. Because they are general-usage domains, they're often registered to represent websites covering a wider demographic or geographical area (or none at all).

The second category are (2) general domain names that aren't considered TLDs but can be used in a similar way (and registered by virtually anyone and for any purpose). Most of these, however, are focused on a particular industry (for example, the .tech extension is non-formally reserved for technology websites).

The third category of standard domain names are a combination of (3) country code TLDs and associated secondary domains.

In rare instances, a domain name can encompass a combination of the three categories, such as with the .co extension (being a general TLD and the country code TLD for Colombia along with offering secondary country code options [eg: the .com.co extension]).

Although these are standard domains, pricing can range from anywhere from $1 USD when on sale to $500 or more for reach.

Regardless of the type of domain you ultimately decide to go with, premium or standard, there are points to consider when seeking to maximize your returns. The first takes into account the mobile revolution. Smartphones, phablets (i.e. smartphones with relatively larger displays), tablets, and other smaller portable devices see users consuming content at record speeds. This, in turn, sets the use of acronyms at an all-time high... literally because it's more difficult to text (i.e. type) with two thunbs than it is with ten fingers. Websites also need to adapt in this context. A shorter name, therefore, might work slightly better in this day and age.

Word-of-mouth, quick in-person encounters, and print/radio/television advertising (where those on the receiving end don't have time to take digital or print note of the domain) also favor shorter domain names. Since shorter names are typically easier to spell, they're most likely easier to remember. The caveat, however, is that the majority of people still view .com as the default domain extension; therefore, even if your marketing strategy requires a different extension (and there are cases where it does), register your chosen name's .com as well if it's available and/or if you can afford it {In this case, you'll need to either set up domain forwarding to your main website address, or map it to your website as a back-up domain; The advantage to the latter is that if anyone visits a specific page (other than your Home page) using this extension, it will display the correct page as opposed to a 404 error page}.

Popular keywords (also known as key phrases) can also be used to replace your brand name. They tend to increase the value of a domain name whether or not it's backed by a good website (let alone a credible indvidual or company). For example, if you're a plumber servicing the city of Atlanta, AtlantaPlumber.com would be a logical choice to at the very least complement your existing domain name. High-value keywords instantly build credibility with search engines, and can also position you as an authority in your field.

There are countless determinants to why one domain name may be more beneficial than the next, but what's important to take into account above all is you and/or your company. The age-old question "Who am I?" is difficult to answer, but it brings about clarity to an overall vision. What does your existing or upcoming website want to convey? Who are its target audience? How will it distinguish itself from the competition? Just keep in mind that as with everything else, there isn't a perfect domain name. You eventually have to take a decision and simply run with it.