But large, corporate buyers are not alone. Even small business owners and speculators alike are making a comfortable living in buying and selling domain names. For instance, eBay.com recently had actual bids for as little as $400 for netmotors.com to as much as $25,000 for drpepper.net -- and everywhere in between.
While it is true that scarcity is a contributing factor to the commoditization (and sometimes overvaluation) of domain names, the fact remains that a short, memorable and suggestive domain name carries instant brand value, credibility and traffic.
For example, today I taught my marketing class about branding, which led to an interesting discussion about domain names. One of my students, Mike Rouleau, is the competitive convenor for a girls' hockey team in my home town of Ottawa, Canada.
When I said that, "The shorter and more suggestive a domain name is, the more instant traffic and credibility that name will generate," he concurred using his team as an example.
"When we registered the name http://girlshockey.org for our team's website," Mike said, "our traffic multiplied, almost instantly." He added, "A lot of people were simply 'stumbling' onto our website ... Some of them out of nowhere, it seems."
There is a significant reason for this.
Added to the fact that our lives are getting even busier, the growing overload of information on the web forces people to make their best website "guesstimate" when they no longer have the time for searching the Internet. More and more people would love to skip search engines and their plethora of irrelevant, misleading links to find exactly what they want.
As a result, many will attempt to reach a website directly by typing a plausible URL into their browser. Therefore, a good, magnetic domain name is crucial since it has the ability to stick in the mind more effectively. In fact, the simpler your domain name is, the more visible your website becomes.
Domain names that are part of a free host, unattractive, easy to misspell, obscure or too long can be easily forgotten or ignored. More importantly, it can also kill your credibility - - and online, since nobody knows you, credibility is crucial.
For example, let's say you own a toy store on the Internet. On which of the following URLs would you click (and note that the names below are fictitious and used only for illustration):
4. Or simply http://KidsToys.com?
Nevertheless, while the availability of domain names let alone good ones is shrinking, here are five important guidelines you should follow when registering one. I call them the "Five S's of Magnetic Domain Names." If you follow them, your chances of creating instant traffic and credibility will be multiplied.
First, choose a name that suggests the nature of your product, business or website. If the domain name communicates your main purpose or benefit, you will realize a multitude of advantages beyond ease-of-recall, including higher recognition, greater perceived value and instant credibility -- like, for example, http://www.investright.com versus http://www.nafep.com.
Make it intuitive, easy to pronounce and, above all, hard to misspell. If you have to spell it, scrap it. Make it easy for people to find you by avoiding anything that impedes a name's pronunciation or spelling. Avoid hyphens, numbers, acronyms and hard-to-pronounce words, such as "made4you.com" or "art-u-frame.com" (the firm that bought "art.com" mentioned earlier).
The shorter the name is, the better it will be. Although you must avoid initials, if an acronym helps to shorten a name and make it easier to pronounce, then use it. For example, which one would you remember the most and have the least amount of trouble (or potential for error) in typing into your browser: "YetAnotherHierarchicallyOrganizedOracle.com"? or "Yahoo.com"?
"Dot-com" is the most popular suffix and will remain so. It is a mnemonic (a device or a "mental anchor" aiding recall). For example, even though it initially stood for "commercial" many people interpret it as "company" or "communications." Also, it uses a plosive, making it easier for the brain to retain the word (like "K," "T," "B" or "P" sounds). Names beginning with plosives have higher recall scores than non-plosive names.
Finally, use repetition. Repetitious sounds are pleasing to the ear and add a singsong quality to the word. As the adage goes, "Repetition is the parent of learning." By making the pronunciation simpler, repetition, such as with rhymes and alliteration, helps to turn names into "mental hooks."
Nevertheless, with good domain names becoming increasingly scarce, new services and websites offer web developers ideas. "Domain Name Generators," as they are called, usually combine a list of suggestions based on given keywords, coupled with a WHOIS tool to check the availability of the domain names.
While some offer synonyms, variations and add-on words, others offer access to lists of expired (and advance notice of soon- to-expire) domain names that are available for registration. Here's a brief list of popular domain name generators: