In the physical world, you can
distinguish a business because of its structure, window displays, or signs.
You can tell that a bank is a bank, or a clothing store is indeed a clothing
store. Catalogs and brochures also establish the product line: a Finger Hut
catalog can tell you that they are fashion retailers.
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In the Internet, however, it is an entirely different story altogether.
Your domain name is the only clue to your online business. You do not have
visual clues: no location, no look, and no store design. Instead, they have
to type in a word or a set of words to reach your site. Your prospective
visitors has no way of knowing what your site is all about until they find
it and read its contents. Who can ever tell that Amazon.com sells books? Or
that Excite is a search engine? There are no clues to point that Eziba.com
sells handcrafted goods from around the world. Unlike in the real world, a
person can stand in a corner, and know instantly that the business in front
is a watch store, or a record store is located at the right corner, and that
a restaurant is located down the street. With no physical clues to offer,
you only have your domain name to make your business distinguishable from
all the rest.
Your domain name can spell your success on the Internet. A good domain
name is the best asset you can ever have. It can make your business stand
out in the crowd, or just float aimlessly in space. Your only weapon to
ensure that people can find you, and best of all, remember you, is through
your domain name. In the real world, people can forget the name, but can say
"It's that bagel shop located between 1st and 2nd Streets." In the
Internet, no one says, "I don't know the name of that site, but I know
its IP address."
While weak business names are excusable in the real world (e.g. Vinnie's
Shoe Repair Store), your branding and marketing success will depend on how
good and how memorable your domain name is. The goal of every online
marketer is to etch their names in the minds of their customers, so when
people think of their product they would go to them. Yahoo! wants users to
think of their site when searching for something on the Internet. AOL wants
to be the first thing to come to mind when people think of an ISP.
Common Name vs.
The need to provide immediate clues to an online business led to the
prevalence of generic domain names. Generic names instantly provides the
user with an idea of what a business is all about, what to expect and look
for in a site. Etoys.com is a toy store. Women.com leaves you without a
doubt that their site caters to women. MyFamily.com is about families, while
SmallBusiness.com is for small businesses.
The lure of the generic has been so powerful; that some companies even
paid absurdly high prices to get the name they want. Remember Business.com?
A Los Angeles company paid $7.5 million to get the rights to that name. The
domains Loans.com and Wines.com were both bought for $3 million.
Telephone.com was acquired for $1.75 million, while Bingo.com sold for $1.1
Thus, we see sites (and lots of them!) use generic domain names, and all
its possible iterations. Take a site on business planning. We have
And these are just dot.coms. The list does not include all the dot.nets,
dot.orgs, and other domain wannabes. Majority simply want THE generic name
for their business: tickets.com, movies.com, money.com, marketing.com,
But is it working? The problem with generic names, is well … it's
generic! It's a common name. While such names could lead users to your site,
it hardly creates the zing or magic that makes successful brands. Branding
has always been about proper names: McDonald's did not name their store
Hamburger. Hertz is not called Car Rental. FedEx is not Mail Carrier. Kodak
is not Photographs. Microsoft is not Computer Software.
Even the early winners on the Internet have showed the power of using
proper names as domain names. Yahoo is not a generic name. Same with AOL,
Amazon, BlueMountain, Ashford.com, or even Priceline. Yet these sites have
grown to become the biggest online businesses in their categories.
-- So What Makes a Good Domain Name?