Domain Names

Learning About Domain Names

Your domain name is important.  It’s on your business card, on your letterhead, stickers, magnets, hopefully it’s all over the place.  Here are some basic tips on choosing a good domain name, why you need one and why it’s probably not worth it to buy more than one domain name for a site.

What characters are and are not allowed in domain names?

Special characters {!@#$%^&*()} are not allowed in domain names.  Numbers (123…) and letters (abc…) as well as dashes or hyphens (-) are allowed.  So if thisdomain.com is already taken, maybe try this-domain.com instead.  If you are less concerned with people seeing the domain name and properly being able to type it (so for instance, if you are getting all your traffic from Adwords or directly from Google) then you could even go with two consecutive hyphens, like this–domain.com.

Should I use dashes or hyphens between the individual words in my domain name?

In the case that both thisdomain.com and this-domain.com are both available, you can buy both.   However, it’s important to choose one or the other as your primary domain name, and then have the secondary domain name(s) forward on.  Do not point multiple domain names at your hosting root as that can confuse Google.  The reason you might buy both is because saying “this domain dot com” out loud is measurably easier than saying “this hyphen domain dot com” is.  However, if you don’t say that “hyphen” piece, people may assume that your domain is the one-word version of it.  If your domain is more complex, like custommakeatshirt.com you do not want to have to say “custom dash make dash a dash…” out loud.  However, visually, look how much easier it is to read custom-make-a-t-shirt.com than it is to read custommakeatshirt.com.   So, lots of things to think about, nothing is absolutely right or wrong…just think it through.

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How Do I make my domain name very easy to remember?

Again, I’d go for the “say it out loud” test.  Imagine telling someone your domain name in a conversation, where you don’t have your phones, or at least don’t feel like using them.  You want something reasonably memorable that you can easily say, even if that’s it’s only purpose.  So for instance, if your online ebay store was like ebay.com/store/whateversintheirdomain it would be great for you to buy “Isellminnesotawildrice.com” (I’m assuming that’s what you’re selling, otherwise that would be dumb as hell) and forward that to your ebay store.  You can imagine how just saying that out loud, “Isellminnesotawildrice” is WAY better than trying to explain to someone how to navigate to a particular store on eBay.

How much does a domain name cost?

A .com domain name is going to run you about $13 a year.  They are often free with a year’s hosting package, which typically start at about $5 a month.  So if you’re willing to commit to a hosting package at about $60 a year, you can usually get one domain name for free.  GoDaddy runs sales on Domain names a lot.  I would warn you about overdoing it.  It’s super easy, when domain names are $0.99 a piece to go nuts and buy 50 of them.  However finding a meaningful use for multiple domain names is difficult and rarely done well.  And next year, to renew them all it’s gonna cost a whole heck of a lot more.

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I found the domain name I want, but someone else owns it.  Is it worth it to pay what they’re asking?

Well, that depends on how much they’re asking and how much you’re willing to pay for it, but if you’re considering buying a domain name from an auction or re-seller for more than $100 I’d tap the brakes.  There are a lot of scenarios where it makes sense.  I mean, if you just got a $2,000 paint job of that domain name on your truck and need to buy it back, you do it.  But before you spend a lot of money on a premium domain name consider the fact that there are alternatives.  Look for plurals.  My last name was selling for $2500 (the .com version).  I wanted to make a site for my family, but not for $2,500.  Then I checked the plural version, and I got it for $12.  As a result, instead of having johnson.com I had jonsons.com which actually made as much sense for what I was doing anyhow.  Point being, check for alternative, plural or domain names including dashes before you shell out big bucks at a domain auction or re-seller.

Do all domain names end in .com? 

No, but if you can find the version that does, I’d suggest it.  People hear “dot com” A LOT in a day’s time.  Trying force them to remember that you are actually myname.NET instead can be hard.  Especially if my-name.com was available.  Again, different situations make for different priorities, but it’s important to understand that a domain name that ends in something other than .com is sort of like when someone says their phone number out of cadence.  Instead of saying “one eight hundred, three-two-four, six-six, five-five” in the traditional cadence, it’s like saying “call me at eighteen billion three million three hundred twenty six thousand six hundred and fifty five”.   Come on.   No one says that.   I guess it’s not THAT different, but just get the .com one if you can.