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How to Choose a Domain Name

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, their name becomes branded to what they do and where they are.  People associate their service with the brand.  By choosing a domain including that brand, a company strengthens their brand exponentially.   Good examples include,, and

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 a domain name based on memorability and spelling ease to those clients.

For example, one of my clients is “Faulkner’s Pest Service.”  While 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 was the best choice – easy to spell, easy to remember.

Authoritative versus Redirecting Domains

Every website has an authoritative domain name, the actual address the site is known for.  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  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 (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  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,, 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.

Competitor Name Confusion

Sometimes, my clients choose a domain name without thinking of the ramifications.  For instance, a client will complain that the “.com” version of their preferred domain name has already been taken by their competitor.  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 customer will mistype the address and end up at the competitor’s site instead!

Most businesses try to avoid this confusion.  The only businesses that welcome it are those that stand to benefit in some way.  For example, the guys that registered for their porn site knew the likely confusion with the high-traffic address would generate huge amounts of traffic.


Eric Spellmann continues to be one of the highest rated speakers at our national ASBDC conferences.  His unique view that small business websites should “do” something pushes against the standard “online pamphlet” view of most web design companies.  He believes your customer’s websites should be driving qualified leads and sales on a weekly basis.  Eric speaks at a number of other national and state conferences nationwide, but enjoys running one of the most successful web design companies in the country.  He truly believes in the SBDC mission as it helped him start his own company many years ago.  To contact him, visit his website at

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