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book cover: choosing the right domain name

Choosing the Right Domain Name:
a Marketing Perspective

all you need to know about domain names (and some you don't need to know, but is interesting anyway)


CHAPTER 3.05
CHOOSING THE RIGHT DOMAIN NAME FOR A NEW COMPANY

In many ways this is easier than choosing a domain name for an existing company in that the marketer starts with a blank sheet of paper. As stated in the previous section, the nature of the business will largely determine the importance of the domain name. Needless to say, if the web is to play a significant role in the marketing of my new venture I would look for a company name that has not already been registered as a domain name. For the small to medium firm that trades predominantly offline, the chances are that the 'best' business name will also be the best domain name - and it will be available to register (as in my Hallam's of Immingham example).

In the case of the new venture, there is something of a chicken and egg situation - as in, 'what comes first, the domain name or the company name?' Well, for the offline company that will have a website as an element of its marketing efforts I would go with the best company name and see if the best domain name is available for it. Going back to Mr Hallam in the previous section, let's say he is starting a new haulage business - so we are talking about a name that will be displayed on 40 foot trailers as well as two-inch business cards. In which case he could call his business simply 'Hallam's', 'Hallam's of Immingham' 'Hallam's Transport', ' Hallam's Haulage', 'Hallam's Freight', 'Hallam's Transport of Immingham' ... well, you get my drift. If I were his marketing advisor I would say pick whichever name you like best, and then check to see if the domain name was available. If it wasn't (and that would suggest a business of that name already exists and so would be a problem when registering the company for legal purposes), then go to the second choice company name and check that domain name. Naturally, suffixes will come into the equation. If there is already an American company called Smith's of Washington with the domain name smithsofwashington.com, then a company in Washington, England could quite easily use smithsofwashington.co.uk (yes American readers, our Washington is where your George's family - and name - originated).

It is the availability of suitable domain names on pertinent suffixes that is one of the primary reasons for Greek, Latin or totally made-up words being used by new companies and those launching new subsidiaries or re-branding themselves in the marketplace. Such words are unlikely to have been registered as domain names. Another alternative - if the money is available - is to buy an existing generic name around which your entire business, website and brand will be built. In this scenario, the company name will effectively become the brand - and so in all of the discussion and research into a suitable brand name, the availability of domain names will be a significant factor in that decision-making process. For the company that trades globally (or plans to), there is the additional problem of having the domain name available in a selection of suffixes - indeed, perhaps every suffix. It is in this latter scenario where the domain name question is inextricably linked to the business strategy of the proposed venture. For example, when expanding into international markets, the key marketing problem is 'do you localize or standardize your marketing mix?' Allied to this in the digital age is 'do you localize of standardize your web presence?' Though the issue is somewhat more complex than I am suggesting here, the normal practice would be that localized website would sit on the local suffix of the domain name, and standardized sites would be based on extensions of the 'home' domain - usually a .com.

It is for the localized web presence that the 'invented' word comes into its own. Examples of such names include:

* The name chosen for the web presence representing an ensemble of European airlines: opodo. Apart from reading the same upside down (a good idea for a passenger jet?), I can only guess that this made up word had not been registered as a domain name anywhere in the world. It certainly has no logical connection with flying or air transport.
* After a rather acrimonious split from its 'parent' (Arthur Andersen) some years earlier, in 2001 Andersen Consulting decided to make that break even more obvious by re-branding itself as Accenture. Although the PR at the time suggested the name was derived from 'accent on the future', I can't help but think that the lack of trademarks and domain names anywhere in the world for the made-up name played a part in the decision-making process.

A postscript to the suggestion of using made-up words as company names would be to avoid deliberate misspellings. Much of the reason why is covered in chapter 3.17 where I address text and SMS abbreviations in domain names, but I'll sum it up in one word. Unprofessional.

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Copyright copyright 2009 Alan Charlesworth. All rights reserved.
International Standard Book Number: 978-1-4452-0538-0
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