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Why Mum’s gone to penisland.net
Mike Atkinson, May 21, 2011
Why Mum’s gone to penisland.net… Or, the importance of carefully chosing yourname
If you’re putting your business online, the chances are you will spend plenty of time and effort getting the content and layout of your site just right… But how much time will you spend choosing the right sign to hang outside your virtual door?
There are a number of simple things to consider when choosing a domain name:
How memorable is your domain name?
If your domain name isn’t memorable you’re going to lose a large number of visitors. The fewer words there are in your domain name, the more memorable it’s likely to be. Competition for short is fierce, for instance the domain names pizza.com, vodka.com and toys.com have sold for 2.6, 3.0 and 5.1 MILLION dollars, respectively.
What TLDs should you buy?
TLD is an acronym for Top Level Domain. For example google.com has a TLD of ‘.com’, metric-conversions.org has a TLD of ‘.org’.
.com tends to be the most popular TLD with .co.uk as second favorite in the UK. You may want to consider buying both, or perhaps even a range of other TLDs. One company who are kicking themselves for not registering a proper set of TLDS is groupon.com… Despite being valued at $15-$20 billion they avoided spending £10 for the Australian domain name Groupon.com.au which their rival Kerry Packer bought. They may now have to buy a stake in their rival’s company for something approaching $80 million if they want to get ‘their’ domain name.
If you have no choice over your domain name and it’s not very easy to spell, you might want to consider registering any obvious mis-spellings of your domain. The language teachers rosettastone.com, for example, have registered most variations of how their name can be mis-spelled on their .com TLD but not .co.uk, with the result that speculators have brought the mis-spelled sites and run adverts on them in the hope of making a profit from their accidental visitors. Your business wouldn’t suffer too much harm from someone ‘cyber-squatting’ a similar domain name to yours, but what if a competitor was to buy them and redirect them to their site? The best solution here is to pick a domain name that is memorable and simple, but if that’s not possible then dealing with the most obvious mis-spellings may well be worth considering.
Domain name history
Several years ago we were looking at the possibility of using a short and memorable domain name that had previously belonged to a company that went bust. Embarassment prevents me from naming the actual domain, as not buying it for £10 turned out to be quite a major mistake. At the time buying a domain name that had ‘history’ probably wasn’t a good idea. Nowadays that is definitely not the case… Most search engines will search through hundreds of clues to get some idea of how authoritative your site is, and therefore how highly to place your site in their rankings. One of the signals that search engines rely on is how long your domain name has been in existence for. An older domain name can in many cases improve your search engine ranking, without changing any of the actual content on the site.
Keyword stuffing is the use of search phrases in a domain name. For instance, a law company called Paxill decided to use the domain name paxillawsuit.net and have both been top 10 in Google despite being page rank 0 at the time (which means that they had 8 or fewer inbound links). The same top 10 position has been found for toysforsalewebsite.com, a site that has equally poor inbound linking and would otherwise not be anywhere near the top. There’s no doubt that keyword stuffing works, but a lot of marketing companies nowadays would tend to recommend going for a domain name that is more memorable instead. The most popular websites seem to be ones that have no search relevancy in their names. For example, hardly anyone visits shortmessages.com but twitter.com has been a standout success, facebook.com gets much more traffic than loadsofstuffireallydontcareabout.co.uk and google.com is way more popular than www.verycleversearchengine.com.
Most people register their in 1 or 2 year increments at a cost of £10 per year on average. This leaves the buyer open to two potential problems. Forgetting to renew is the most obvious problem – for instance if the renewal reminder mail goes to an employee who leaves the company. Another issue though can be simply that prices are very unlikely to come down and always reasonably likely to go up! Nowadays we would recommend that buying a domain for 10 years is a good security measure. In addition, the duration that a domain has been purchased for is another positive signal used by many search engines and so is a simple way to earn some extra search engine authority.
One last thought… It’s always worth double checking that your domain name can’t be misunderstood. We have some small understanding of this as our domain used to be wighthat.com (nowadays we use ). A number of people used to interpret that as ‘why that dot com’, which was mildly annoying… But not nearly as bad a misunderstanding as the below!
penisland.net – The only place to go for pens on the internet. Or the world’s worst Theme Park suggestion.
therapistfinder.com – Need to find a therapist? Presumably the owners of this domain do…
expertsexchange.com – This question answering site gets much more mundane questions now it’s known as experts-exchange.com
So far penisland.net is our favorite domain name, let us know if you find any more in the comment box below.
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