The Domain Name Game

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Posted by Brenda Timm, Vice President – Strategic Communication & Online Services

Think back to when you registered the domain for your website. Was it a fee of somewhere between $10-$40 or closer to $300,000?

Yep, you read that right. In a public auction being held this week, the going rate for “SEM.com” – short for “search engine marketing.com” – is at $290,000. That’s quite a contrast to “discountvinyl.com,” another domain currently listed, with a minimum asking price of just $2.
But this is precisely how the game of domain names goes.

How does the pricing process work? When a domain name expires and its registrant doesn’t choose to renew, the domain often goes to auction through sites like GoDaddy or Sedo. In the case of “SEM.com” listed on Heritage Auctions, the name was expected to be so sought after that an email campaign was even sent to announce that it was up for grabs. Depending on demand or the lack thereof, domain costs can vary significantly.

So how do you avoid paying the big bucks when choosing a domain while still securing one that is a good, logical fit for your website?

  • Do your homework – As one of the first steps in website development, research the main domains you’re interested in to see if they’re available and what they will cost to register. But be careful – rather than using domain search services, we often recommend simply typing the desired domain name into your browser URL bar as if it is an actual address and see if anything comes up. There are instances of ‘squatters’ monitoring domain searches and purchasing them before YOU get a chance to. If certain names are already spoken for, find who owns them through Whois and see if a purchase is negotiable and affordable.
  • Choose accordingly – Your domain should tie to your organization name and align with your branding efforts. If the two are totally unrelated, think of how much this could confuse visitors.
    Consider the extensions – Out of all the extensions available today, .com is still the most popular and universally recognized, beating out .net, .org, .co, .biz and others. It is typically a good idea to purchase both the .com and the .org (or other preferred extension(s)) all at the same time. There are several reasons to do this; one is to help keep competitors from snapping them up and directing your traffic to their websites.
  • Keep it short – An important rule of thumb is to keep your domain short so it’s fast and easy to type. Avoid a long string of words pieced together and terms with multiple spellings. That being said, sometimes a slightly longer domain with recognizable words can be more intuitive and easier to remember than a very short acronym from those words.
  • Keep it simple – The simpler your domain is, the more memorable. Extra characters like hyphens, numerals and underscores can be difficult to remember.

There are a lot of things to consider when selecting the right domains for your website. Here’s one more tip: it’s easier – and much more cost-effective – to secure the best names up front than to try and alter all of your marketing materials later.

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