How to Pick Domain Names - A Proper Name
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This law states that "your name stands alone on the Internet, so you'd better have a good one." Right now, Yahoo's most valuable resource is not the email service, or Yahoo! 360, or their search. Their most valuable resource is the brand name.
Of you launch a web site with a good concept and a good name (a proper name as opposed to a generic name), in the long run, after all the generic web sites have bitten the dust, you will win big! Like I said there are exceptions to every rule, but long term, for branding purposes a proper name (Gizmodo, Yahoo, and Google) has a bigger chance of succeeding than a common name (computers, business, search).
Once you are online your most valuable resource is your domain name. Here are some rules that should be followed as we look at the law of the "Proper name." Note that there are exceptions to every rule, however following any of these rules improves your chance of picking an exceptional domain name.
Short and Simple
The shorter your domain name, the easier it is for your user to type it into the address bar. Conversely, the longer it is, the harder it is to remember the domain name. Also it should be simple. I have to admit that I have broken this law at least three times: I have chosen domain names that are far too long in order to cash in on short term SEO key words. In one case I agreed to a 19 letter domain name for a non-profit organization. And I once bought out a fifteen letter domain name for myself (hopefully I will withstand temptation next time it comes).
An example of an ideal name is www.cnet.com. The company took the generic term "computer network" and shortened it to the word cnet. This satisfies the short and simple rule and also does a little bit of constructional linguistics along the way.
Unique, Speakable and Shocking
To fulfill all of the above three conditions together will be hard, but the first two are absolutely essential. Still, when we look at how web sites pick names in the next article we will see how to use constructional linguistics, brainstorming and personal experience to pick a unique name. The only way to create a unique name is to build it from scratch; a proper name is always unique. Some of the most unique names online include www.google.com, http://www.phlameworks.com/, and www.yahoo.com. All of these are proper names; none are generic names [with the possible exception of Yahoo, but even then it's not being used in a way that really fits its dictionary meaning. --Ed.]
Apart from being unique all the names are speakable. The easiest way for users to remember a name is by hearing it being spoken. If you have an unspeakable (literally) domain name, nobody will pronounce it to their friends, family and acquaintances. Most people shop via recommendation; the first time I ever heard of Google was via word of mouth. The same was true with P2P software limewire, as well as www.downloads.com.
Most sites I find online via search engines, and I bookmark them if I want to remember them. But any impossible to speak domain name will ensure that at least ten percent of buyers will miss your web site; that is the percentage of the buying public computed to suffer from some form of dyslexia. An excellent illustration of a web site that puts me through pain, which I have long since stopped using with any real frequency, is gotenborg.com -- or is it gutenbog.com? Actually it is a dot org; now how was I supposed to remember which is which? The best way the people at gotenborg.org could have kept me happy would be if they had every possible variation to the name. Take it for granted that I failed several times at referring the above site.
Not all names should be shocking; indeed, not all names can be shocking. But monster.com wins all my prizes when it comes to shock value; in my opinion that name was an excellent idea. Dice comes close to it, but I sincerely do not see how far a site like careerbuilder.com will go (it comes in a distant third or fourth). Another set of web sites which have great shock value as names include some financial services sites -- and everybody assumes financial services are tame! These include names such as http://www.motleyfool.com/ and www.morningstar.com. They are not too short but they're easy to remember mostly because they are shocking. It's also worth noting that they have no key words connecting them to financial advice.
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