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Good thing your parents didn’t name you Urhines or Toolio. For the more fortunate among us, here are the Top 5 tips to keep in mind when you name your next website or business. Who am I to talk? I’ve made most of these mistakes — and lived through the pain.

1. Registering an extension other than .com

There are a lot of people out there who think that .com is the Internet. To make matters worse, lots of applications work better with .com domain names (e.g. Firefox appends www and .com to a domain name when you type something and hit Control-Enter). Moreover, over the long term, your brand will automatically be associated with the .com version. Here are some other things to remember:

  • .net: Registering a .net is probably marginally acceptable. But you are setting yourself up for a painful purchase of the corresponding .com name if you become rich and famous in the future.
  • .us, .info: This is completely unacceptable if you are building a long term business. Don’t skimp on the $3. Most people associate these domains with spam (since 99% of .info domains are spam).

2. Not giving yourself the chance to stand out

Give yourself the chance to differentiate yourself and rule your category or niche. Even though a generic name like buy.com might help in the short term, it does make it difficult to make it memorable over the long term. Imagine if Amazon had called itself InternetShopping.com? Or if Google had called itself search.com (Would it have dominated advertising then? How does “Ads by Search.com” sound?)

3. Hosting your blog or website on yourname.freeservice.com

Most people dont expect to get rich and famous when they start a blog. But give yourself the chance. All it costs is $5/month to host it on your own domain. And you’ll know within a few months whether you will hit it big or not. Also, as you are bootstapping your blog, its difficult for your users to take you seriously when you yourself are not willing to invest $5 in a domain name. To make matters worse, once you do go down the free path, coming out of it is really tough. Updating links for SEO, making your users update their RSS feeds — the list of things is a nightmare.

4. Making your name so obscure, nobody has a clue what it means

It’s nice party talk to explain to people how your company name means “Dancing Gazelles” in the African Zulu language. Problem is: Two seconds later, they forget the name. That’s not a nice thing the next time they need to refer your website or service to a prospective customer. At Chitika, we initially fell into this category. Luckily over time, our phonetic resemblance to chiquita, the well-known banana company, actually worked in our favor — as people always remembered the brand.

One way to get around this is to test your brand name with real people. By running a simple user test, you can get valuable feedback on what normal users perceive of your brand name. Nothing is better than asking real people and “listening”.

5. Forgetting to register international versions (and other variations)

As soon as you see your service gaining momentum, dont forget to register international variation of your domain. Yeah — its tough to initially shell out hundreds of dollars to register domains for all countries and variations (like .org). But when you see momentum growing, dont skimp — and dont forget. The day you get your first big PR buzz or New York Times mention, it will be too late (yeah — the domainers will beat you to it!) Comments are open. Please feel free to add your own two cents — serious or otherwise (this example, anyone?)

Some More Light Reading:

Posted by Alden DoRosario (alden [at] chitika [dot] com) This post was inspired by Problogger’s Group Writing Project sponsored by Chitika.

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