A reader sent in the following question recently in regards to website domain names:

"I'm setting up a small consulting business, and I need to have a website. I tried to get the dotcom domain name for my business, but it's already taken by some kid who wants to charge me $50,000 for it. I can get the dot-biz or the dot-us domain name, but I'm worried that using these other domains won't give me the marketing presence I want for this business. For example, will it be more difficult for search engines to find me if I'm a dot-biz as opposed to a dotcom?"

It was never easy to get the right web domain name for your business, but these days it's next to impossible. Just about every word in the English language with a dotcom after it has been taken, mostly by speculators like this kid who buy up hundreds of names and sell them at a huge profit.

There are a couple of ways you can get around this problem, but Catherine Seda , internet marketing expert and author of Pay-Per-Click, a five-hour DVD program on search engine advertising, doesn't think you should use a dot-biz or dot-us name. "Always go for a dotcom if you're a business, because people continue to assume dotcom equals a business," Seda advises. "You'll miss branding and business potential if you use any other domain extension (sometimes referred to as a domain suffix)."

So what should this reader do since the domain he really wants is taken? Seda advises that he should consider adding a search engine keyword to it. "This can also help your site's free rankings in the search engines," Seda explains. "For example, if you own a wedding dress shop and your company's name is 'Bella,' then buy www.BellaWeddingDresses.com."

OK, but what if there are a gazillion people out there named Bella selling wedding dresses? Now it's time for some difficult choices. There are three things your website domain name needs to be:

  1. It has to be short enough to type so people don't get writer's cramp each time they go online looking for you. I have to believe that if I wanted to set up a website with the domain name www.cliffennicotheworldsgreatestsmallbusinesscolumnistwho - yesisalawyerbytrainingbutwhoisareallygreatguyonceyougettoknowhim.com, I wouldn't have much competition for the name, but most folks would give up looking for me before they would start typing all that.
  2. It has to be easy to remember. If you have the choice between www.xtixibieiciir.com and www.cliffsantiques.com, go with the latter.
  3. According to Seda (and me), it really has to be a dotcom.

So if your name is Larry, you want to sell bicycles, and www.larrysbicycles.com is already taken as a domain name, how about www.larrythebicycleguy.com or www.larryontwowheels.com? People love it when you throw a little whimsy into your domain name--and that makes it doubly easy to remember.

When all else fails, remember that your domain name (in fact, I would say this is true of your business name as well) doesn't have to have anything to do with the products or services you're selling. Think about it:

  • What does "Monster.com" have to do with looking for a job online?
  • What does "Amazon.com" have to do with buying books and other stuff online?
  • What does "Google" or "eBay" or "Little Caesars" have to do with online search, online auctions or pizza?

If you have the choice between a long and convoluted domain name that accurately describes what you do in your business and a name that's cool and easy to remember but has nothing whatsoever to do with your business, I'd go with the latter if I were you.

One more thing: If your business takes off and becomes successful, it'll be a lot easier to trademark your name and build a national or international brand around it if it doesn't describe the business you're in.