Choosing Your Domain Name – Some Common Mistakes

If you’re planning to build a website for your business, picking a good domain name (or names) is helpful. You’ll make it easier on your potential visitors if you have something that reflects your business (or you), is spellable, and can be typed fairly easily. If you manage to have a good search engine keyword in there, that’s a bonus. To illustrate, it’s often helpful to see the wrong way. Some examples that I see frequently:

Gratuitous Hyphenation

This one comes from good intentions. Let’s say you’re thinking of using the phrase “West Philly Cheese Steaks”, which is your company name. People are sitting in a meeting and somebody writes “westphillycheesesteaks.com” on a board. Someone says that “westphillycheesesteaks” is really long and doesn’t look like a word. Spaces in a URL don’t work, so they try “west-philly-cheese-steaks.com” instead. More readable! Just one little problem – if someone is trying to type that name, they will tend to have trouble.

Even if you can type, most of you will do better with letters than punctuation marks, simply based on frequency of use. As a geek, I use the number row a lot, but I still make typos with characters. With three hyphens, typos will abound, which could be pretty annoying to a web surfer. Because people are quite used to the web by now, they are more accustomed to typing a phrase with no spaces. So this will make your URL easy to type. If you’re still worried about people being able to read it, you can put “WestPhillyCheeseSteaks.com” on your business card or brochure – most web servers will handle the caps gracefully.

Using Hard-to-spell Words

I had a whopper that one client had already registered before I could intervene. I won’t quote it here, but it was along the lines of Guinevere’s Resplendent Serendipitous Tchotchkes. And she had every little bit of that in her URL. A spelling nightmare (not to mention nearly impossible to remember). Even without hyphens, imagine trying to type that. And if you somehow manage to do so with no errors, it takes awhile to do it, which is still annoying. What to do? Abbreviate. Guinevere.com is not super easy to spell, but better than the behemoth. Shorter and simpler are good if possible.

Naming things can be emotional, so this could get tricky. Say your company is named “Cooper and Vishnuswamiramachunandra”. If you use all of that, you have a monster typing assignment. But your colleague Vishnuswamiramachunandra might feel slighted if you call the business the simpler “cooper.com”. You could abbreviate to, say, “vishnucooper.com” or the like. Or, a compromise: you do use “cooperandvishnuswamiramachunandra.com” for your site, but you also register “coopervishnu.com” and/or “cooper.com”, and you set up the shorter URL(s) to automatically take you to “cooperandvishnuswamiramachunandra.com”. Then possibly everybody’s happy! URL forwarding can be very helpful.

It’s also possible that you have no hyphens AND no difficult words, but there are just too many words, so the URL is still too long. “smithandmillerandshortattorneysatlawservingcentralkansas.com” You get the idea.

The last and most fun category might be URLs with misspelled words, or ones that are unintentionally hilarious, like this one. If it’s your business, you might want to try to spell it correctly, and consider whether it sounds ridiculous or not. If you’re not sure, ask someone. đŸ™‚ People in my hometown do not, and that’s why we have lots of fun misspelled signs. By the way, misspelled URLs can be your friend! Along with your good domain name, you can register common misspellings of it, and then forward them to your real site.

I hope this is helpful to you! Another time I may concentrate more on good practices, or make a rogue’s gallery of really bad ones – that could be fun!

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