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

CHAPTER 3
domain name choice: getting it right

3.01 CHOOSING THE RIGHT SUFFIX


In general, the content of this book is equally pertinent to organizations all around the world. However, such is the nature of the domain name system that the United States stands alone in the subject of suffixes. Effectively, the rest of the world has more choice than America.

DOMAIN NAMES IN PRACTICE :
you say extension, I say suffix
I mentioned it earlier, but don't forget that in the USA the domain name suffix is more commonly referred to as the extension.
This is because US suffixes are not only available, but also useful, to organizations globally. Whilst domain names of some other countries are available to American companies - and in limited instances, beneficial - it is rare for a US organization to even consider registering a non-US-regulated domain.

However, for readers in the United States to skip this section would be a mistake. Not only are uses of the various US-administered (eg .info) and non-country specific domains (eg .cc) addressed, but the decision-making process for an American business considering the use of a .us suffix mirrors that of an organization from elsewhere deciding on whether to register a .com or use their own country's suffix.

The essential issues to be addressed are (a) the nature of the organization, and (b) where it trades, now or may do in the future. If the organization is a commercial entity - business - then the main choice is between the local suffix and .com.

Using a UK company and the .co.uk suffix as an example, if the business trades only in the UK then .co.uk is the suffix to choose. If the business trades globally, then .com is the better option. This is, of course, rather simplistic. So what are options in the grey areas that sit between the black and white? Considerations for that UK company include:

* If the business wants to be perceived as being a global player (even if it isn't), then perhaps .com is better
* If the business wants to be perceived as being a global player, but wants to be identified as being from the UK (perhaps the product or service benefits from the association), then .co.uk is better
* If the business trades in Europe - rather than globally - then .co.uk is generally better
* If not to be immediately identified as being from the UK is preferred, go for .com
* Where promotion might be global but the location of the product is critical. Hotels are an obvious example - nicehotel.com, for instance, could be anywhere in the world, whereas nicehotel.co.uk is obviously (somewhere) in the UK.

For American readers, these examples could just as easily be a business in any state in the US. A company in Dallas, for example, who only trades in that city or state, might consider a .tx.us domain as an alternative to a .com (note that authorities in Texas - and other states - also use third level domains on the suffix, for example .lib.tx.us for libraries).

In a wider context it could be that the product's unique selling proposition is that it originates from a distinct region - in which case that region's suffix is preferable. Isklar Water, which markets itself as being made from Norwegian Glaciers sensibly uses isklar.no, for example. Similarly, a US company might use a 'state'.us domain for the same reason.

Gaining popularity outside the US are the regional options of .eu and .asia - with other regions set to join these in the future (.uae for the United Arab Emirates, for example). As with the .co.uk examples above, these suffixes can be used to identify organizations from specific locations - but without being country-specific. Perhaps an attraction of these suffixes - so my international students and business contacts tell me - is that they are not .com. That is, not American. Whether it is a result of US foreign policy or regional pride - or somewhere in between - many folk around the globe see the .com as an association with America, and so would prefer to avoid the suffix but at the same time prefer a 'global' suffix to that of their own country.

Although it is becoming more popular in the US, where there are more businesses chasing what names there are, using a novelty suffix when the best one (ie, the .com) has gone can be an option. However, any company that registers a .cc, .tv or .biz name should do so with caution. There is a perception that a company with a novelty domain is not a reputable business.
DOMAIN NAMES IN PRACTICE :
do as I say, not as I do
I could argue that my website sits on a .eu domain because I reside in Europe and I'm a member of the expanding European community. Although I am quite happy to have my site on alancharlesworth.eu, would I prefer it to be on alancharlesworth.com or alancharlesworth.co.uk? Yes, I probably would - and I'm not because despite my working in 'e-commerce' since 1996, I never envisaged a time when I would want a website of my own, on my own domain. So I never bothered to register my own name as 'all-one-word'. Doh!
A further problem with novelty domains is that you might want to check what kind of company hosts a website on the .com equivalent in case there is either conflict or embarrassment. It is likely that a surfer - particularly in the USA - will assume that the .com is the domain name of any company they might come across. Therefore, if your company is called A Trusting Business, customers are likely go to atrustingbusiness.com expecting the website of your software (or whatever) business - which is actually on atrustingbusiness.biz - and instead they might find ladies' lingerie. That might be simply embarrassing, but it would be even worse if the site had pornographic content! There is also the possibility that the .com website sells products similar to yours - not such a far-fetched notion if generic words have been used in the primary name. For example, are dolls.com, dolls.co.uk, dolls.eu, dolls.biz and dolls.cc the websites for the same or different purveyors of toys, or do they host sites with pornographic content? (At the time of writing they are four domainer sites and a domain for sale - which is interesting, see chapter 1.08 on generic-word domains and 1.09 on domains that generate income). Note that it is for this reason that in the section on registering domain names for a global organization (chapter 1.11) I suggest registering multiple suffixes of the chosen name.

However, there might be instances where a suffix away from the accepted business norm can be effective. Although I would never advise a pure-play online-only business to take this route, it can work for offline organizations where the web is for marketing support rather than being essential for sales or lead generation. For example, a .net where the inference is that the domain name is the organization 'on the net' might work for a club or society. Similarly, .info could be used for a website that provides technical support for a product supplied exclusively offline - farm machinery, perhaps, or specific safety data for chemicals. Note that the .org should be left to not-for-profit organizations. In my opinion, having a company trading on a .org is bad practice - and may even be perceived by users as a commercial firm masquerading as a charity.

Whilst a .biz domain might be considered a poor second choice after .com, there are other suffixes - introduced around the same time as .biz - that carry some validity, not least because their use is restricted. In particular .jobs, .travel, .museum and .aero can only be registered by organizations in those industries. However, as all companies that existed at the time of the introduction of these names had already created emails addresses and online presences on .com domains, these remain largely unused - even by new entities. Indeed, such is the scarcity of these names that on the rare occasions I come across them I have to look twice to appreciate them. The Egyptian Tourist Authority, for example, frequently advertises in UK newspapers using the domain name Egypt.travel - and every time I see it my first thought is that a misprint has omitted the suffix from a third level domain (ie egypt.travel.com). Given that this confuses someone who has written a book on domain names, I would suggest less experienced web-users might be puzzled also. Having said this, of course, as time goes on - and demand for domains increases - perhaps these new suffixes (the .pro included) might become the '.coms' for the next generation of Internet users.
DOMAIN NAMES IN PRACTICE :
no credit for this choice of name
Personal loans company One Call use the domain name onecall.ws. I have to admit that I had to look up for which country ws is the suffix (it's Western Semao). Sorry One Call, because the ws carries no credibility at all, I'd have taken a different route. In the context of loans it might even give the perception of being some kind of 'offshore' operation. At the time I first saw a TV ad for One Call that included the onecall.ws domain the following were available: onecall.tv, onecall.info, onecall-loans and onecallonline on a variety of suffixes (though not .com and .co.uk) - and onecall-online were available for every common suffix (as of July 2009).
Beyond the accepted norms (.com etc) and the newcomers (.jobs etc) come what I have previously described as 'novelty' suffixes. Most of these are just that - novelties, and are not really options for the majority of organizations. I would always advise that second, third, fourth or even fifth choice names on reputable suffixes are preferable to 'good' names based on novelty suffixes. Some of these, however, might have limited applications. One, .cc (from the Cocos Islands) for example, might be linked to motorcycles - where bikes are identified by the cubic capacity (cc) of their engines. Another is the .tv suffix (from Tuvalu) which can be associated with television. Financial services is an industry that has benefited greatly from the web as a medium for promotion, therefore mortgages.com is a very valuable name - and it was registered early on in the domain name 'gold rush'. A reasonable alternative, for use purely on TV adverts for a finance company, is mortgages.tv. This domain name has been registered by APS Mortgages (UK) Ltd who used it in a television advertising campaign.

A further use of some of the more unusual suffixes is to make up so called 'domain hacks' where the suffix becomes part of a product, brand or organization's name. These are rare and normally used by non-commercial entities where the novelty element is not an impediment. For example, a nice use of .net comes from the UK's Higher Education Funding Councils' education and research network, JANET - it uses ja.net. Whilst two character names are hard to get (read, virtually impossible), any organization that has a name ending in net - or any other suffix, org for example - might consider this route.

Another example is blo.gs (gs is the TLD for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands), but my favourite use of a name and suffix to make a word is the social bookmarking website - del.icio.us - a third level name based on icio.us. If you happen to be in North America, then perhaps the .us can be practical if used with a verb that describes what you want a customer to do - contact.us or join.us, perhaps. Note that I picked these two verbs at random - such is the way of things in the crazy world of domain names that the first is the domain of the Contact Labelling Systems, whilst join.us takes surfers to the website of the Scheiner Law Group - go figure.
DOMAIN NAMES IN PRACTICE :
when 'it' ain't what it should be
Featured in a UK newspaper was an ad for the Piemonte region of Italy - with a tagline of 'Piemonte, feel it'. As the suffix for Italian domain names is .it, the domain name used for the promotion was piemontefeel.it. I suppose it must have looked good in the pitch, and I am all for inventive uses of suffixes, but this just didn't work. I had to look twice at the domain name before I realized what was going on - and I'm supposed to be an expert.


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Copyright copyright 2009 Alan Charlesworth. All rights reserved.
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