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August 8, 2014 — A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By guest columnist Eric Spellmann. Spellmann and Associates, Amarillo, Texas
“How do I go about choosing a website domain name?” Margie, Casper
A domain name represents an easy-to-remember mnemonic address designed to help a person easily reach one of millions of servers on the Internet. Typically, a company has one of two goals when choosing a domain name: branding or memorability.
If a company has been around for some time, its name becomes branded to what the company does and where it is. People associate the company’s service with the brand. By choosing a domain, including that brand, a company strengthens its brand exponentially. Good examples include carinos.com, tonyromas.com and redlobster.com.
Sometimes, a company's name is not the best choice for a domain name, primarily because of potential spelling confusion. In those cases, I recommend selecting a domain name based on memorability and spelling ease for those clients.
For example, one of my clients is “Faulkner's Pest Service.” While faulknerspestservice.com is available for registration, I recommended my client choose another domain. My suggestion was based on my own usability belief that most people on the Internet operate with a seventh-grade educational spelling ability. The word “Faulkner” is easily misspelled and would, no doubt, cause numerous problems for my client's customers and potential customers in reaching his site.
Instead, I recommended he go with something more memorable. After research and brainstorming, we decided texasbugkillers.com was the best choice -- easy to spell, easy to remember.
Every website has an authoritative domain name, the actual address for which the site is known. However, it is possible and, in some cases, useful to assign other domain names to the same website. For example, my authoritative website address is ericspellmann.com. However, as you can probably guess, the double “n's” at the end of my name create typing fiascos when people attempt to find me online.
To limit the confusion, I registered ericspellman.com (with one “n”) and forwarded it to the same website. In other words, my website is reachable by both addresses, but the authoritative address is ericspellmann.com.
Typically, the authoritative address is the domain that remains in the address bar of a user's browser. Most forwarded domains switch once they reach their authoritative site.
Some companies choose domain aliases to highlight products. As an example, Microsoft owns windows.com, microsoftoffice.com and hundreds of other product-based domains. The reasoning is simple: Many people, when unsure of the actual address for a site, will “guess” by typing it into their browser as an address.
Sometimes, my clients choose a domain name without thinking of the ramifications. For instance, clients will complain that the “.com” versions of their preferred domain names have already been taken by their competitors. They ask me to register the “.net” or “.org” version of the same name.
I strongly attempt to dissuade my clients from this action. My own experience shows that you can tell someone over and over your “.net” address, and they will still type the “.com” version. At that point, the worst possible situation can happen to a business owner: His/her customers will mistype the address and end up at the competitor's site instead.
Eric Spellmann is the owner and president of Spellmann & Associates, the largest website design and online marketing firm between Dallas and Denver.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://wyen.biz/blog1/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.