Thursday, July 1, 2010

“I don’t like my domain name anymore”,

...was the first thing that came out of my clients’ mouth when they walked in to e-biz offices for a meeting. It was a complaint I have heard quite a number of times before and having been through it, I know exactly how they felt. In my case it was 8 months before I woke up one morning thoroughly disliking the name on my websites’ banner. In other cases I’ve heard it sometimes happens as early as a couple of weeks or even days. The common denominator here is that whereas most active domain names were chosen on the spur of the moment, only a very lucky few of them retain their appeal over time. Admittedly some of it has to do with the degree of success that the website has had e.g. if Yahoo was a huge flop I think Yang & Co might have reconsidered their silly sounding domain name, ditto Google. More often than not however, a domain names lost appeal is quite simply because very little thought went into choosing the name in the first place. The reality is that nowadays companies in the US and Europe take naming so seriously that they are prepared to pay professional firms colossal sums of money (up to $ 35K) to come up with the ‘perfect name’ for their business. WHAT!! US$ 35K could finance the entire operation of many e-commerce startup's in Kenya for a couple of years including a handsome advertising budget. Well luckily for us small–fry is that we don’t really have to sacrifice an arm-and-a-leg to name your website, as long as you remember that the most important thing about choosing a domain name is Relevance.
How relevant is the name to your core business? What is your core business? Are you a start-up or are you already operating ‘off-net’? If so, is your existing business name/brand well established? Who is your target market? What language do they speak? How much information does a 1st timer need to learn about your business just from your domain name?

Once you’ve done all of that, make a list of ‘relevant’ names (at least 10-20 names to start with) and rank them in order of preference. Give the list to a close friend/colleague and ask them to do the same thing. Use their feedback to whittle down the list to around 5 and run the names individually through an internet search engine like Google. The idea is to find out if the names are already in use elsewhere in the World Wide Web. This is useful even if you don’t plan to go global with your business, in order to minimize the risk of future legal suits. I have found that using search engines gives me better results than performing a straight forward ‘whois’ query because the results usually also capture sub-domains, brand names etc. Once you settle on a name that is both relevant and unique contact e-biz and we will register the domain name for you. Naming your website isn't rocket science and the good thing is that even if 2 years down the line you start hating it, unlike someone stuck with an ill considered tattoo, at least the pain of rebranding is bearable.

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