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choosing the right domain name: a marketing perspective
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book cover: choosing the right domain name

CHAPTER 1
the who, what, where and when of domain names

1.13 BEYOND THE DOMAIN NAME - GOOD PRACTICE IN URL CONSTRUCTION


It might be a reasonable argument that this section is not actually about domain names because a domain name can be a URL but a URL is not necessarily a domain name. For example, www.alancharlesworth.eu is both a domain name and a URL. www.alancharlesworth.eu/contact.html is a URL but it is not a domain name. However, as domain names and URLs are inextricably linked, I've included this section because it has relevance to some aspects of domain name use.

For most techies and programmers, directory and file names are just something they use to segregate one from another - hence you get URLs that are full of numbers, question marks, tildes (that squiggly thing '~') and heroes from their favourite virtual-world game. I say that as subdirectory and file names come after the domain name suffix, they are part of the web page's address - and so they are part of the communications of the publishing organization. And as communications is part of marketing, getting the full URL right is important.

DOMAIN NAMES IN PRACTICE :
The low down on subs
In the same way that second and third level domains are called subdomains, so any directories and files that come after the suffix of a domain name are referred to as subfolders.
The first point is to make the navigation of the site obvious - in web development this is called usability. Take this URL, for example:
www.alancharlesworth.eu/interesting-articles/branding.html.
It's hardly rocket science to work out what the content of that page is about. Perhaps more importantly, in an e-commerce environment:
www.atrustingbusiness.com/men/shirts/casual/polo.html
tells the user what page they are on or if it is a link, going to. OK, so what? You might ask, and it might not make a big difference in the great scheme of things - but some things are just better if they are done right. But wait, I have another argument up my sleeve. As we saw in the previous section, search engines like to find keywords in domain names - and supporters of that notion say that it also applies to the full URL. Only the engineers at Google, Yahoo!, Bing et al can say if I am right, but surely a search engine would look at:
www.atrustingbusiness.com/men/shirts/polo.html
and think that something on that page should match the needs of a searcher who types "men's polo shirt" into the search box? Secondly, if you are going to match web page URLs with their content, stick to characters that make sense. I would argue that you should use only those characters that are allowed in a domain name - and this includes the 'no-spaces' rule (a space in a URL can show in browser navigation bars as '%20'). Within the directories and files, I would use hyphens to distinguish the words rather than 'all-one-word', eg 'interesting-articles' rather than 'interestingarticles' in my earlier example. Avoiding upper-case letters is also a good idea. It's not a big issue if the URL is a link, but as far as computer files are concerned 'InterestingArticles' is a different file name to 'interestingarticles' (try it with your own word documents). Depending on your PC's operating system - or that of your site's host - the URL may or may not be case sensitive, so I say, don't take the chance, put them all in lower case. And finally, don't use the underscore (_) in anything related to the Internet. The simple reason for this is that when a link appears on a webpage, the default setting is for that to be in bold, blue and underlined - and if a file name with an underscore is underlined, the underscore looks like a space (eg interesting_articles / interesting_articles).
DOMAIN NAMES IN PRACTICE :
a sound investment
In June 2006 investment advisers Facility International ran ads in the print media promoting the international element of their investment portfolio. In the ads they featured the URL www.fidelity.co.uk/intl. I say, why '/intl' and not '/international'? Not only is 'intl' not the normal abbreviation of international (it's 'int'), but the promotion is about international investment, it's not a hard word to spell - why confuse the issue with this abbreviation. Wouldn't www.fidelity.co.uk/international have been a better choice? Having criticised their URL construction, however, fidelity.co.uk is a good example of registering the domain of the name by which a company is commonly known (more of this in chapter 3.04). The actual trading name of the company is Fidelity International, and the small print in the ad also mentions Fidelity Investment Funds, Fidelity Unit Trusts and Fidelity Investment Services Ltd. All this adds up to make the generic fidelity.co.uk an ideal domain name for this group of companies.


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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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