a Domain Name
Top Level Domains
Up a Name
Think Of a Name?
a Domain Name at Auction
a Domain When It Expires
Names Can Be Fun
You may have a great idea for a site, a great list
of products to sell or really useful information you'd
like to share with the world - but when it comes to
creating your web site you'll quickly find that getting
the right domain name for your site can be extremely
It's worth taking the time to do plenty of research
and to have a good think about what name you want to
give your site. In some ways it's like naming a baby,
it's best not to rush at it - but in addition, you rarely
have to worry about trademarks with baby names!
Your domain name is the key to your web site. Control
of your domain name give you the ability to choose a
host at will and control all aspects of your on-line
presence. We'd recommend that you register your domain
name with someone other than your web hosting company.
This gives you a great amount of freedom with your hosting
and ensures that you will always be able to host your
site somewhere else if unhappy. It also gives you more
time to shop around for hosting after registering your
Domain registrars we like are Dotster.com,
In our view Dotster offers the best service with a wide
choice of different domain types, Namecheap is reliable
and great value for money,and TotalRegistrations is
our choice for UK domains. Alternatively, you can use any ICANN
Accredited Registrar that offers the features you
After registration, you need to find a web host that
meets your needs. Our list of recommended web hosts
along with some tips on finding the right host here.
Domain Name History from 1999.
1999 was the year of the big dot-com boom, and there
was a feeling that there were huge sums of money to
be made from the web - but back in 1999 people seemed
more concerned about branding than business
plans. Inspired by the success of names like Amazon.com,
a raft of dot coms came (and went) under snazzy-sounding
titles. There was a huge land grab for virtually all
words in the English dictionary, plus every other combination
of words people could think of. Most of these sites
were never developed, but domains were often priced
at huge prices.
A prime example of an expensive domain name that
has never been developed fully is America.com
which was listing for $30,000,000 in March 2001, now
a snip at $15,000,000. One budding entrepreneur decided
that if America.com was worth $30 million, then the
would also be worth something by association. In March
2001 this was listed at a cool $100,000, then in October
this has been dropped to $12,000. At the time of writing,
the domain AmericaC.com is unregistered and can be picked
up for less than $15.
By 2002 the concept of "branding" and multimillion
dollar media launches was dead, and a lot of interest
started to form in catching expiring domains and using
their traffic and presence in search engines to give
their new owners a boost. This led to a huge boom in
expiring domain names being picked up the day after
they had "dropped" and skewing search engine
results. By 2003 the major search engines had stamped
down on this, and a change in the way domain names expired
made it easier for the original owners to keep hold
of them. So, ironically, in 2004 the key issue again
About Top Level Domains (TLDs)
There are lots of top-level domains (TLDs) doing
the rounds at the moment. A TLD is something like the
"com" in a dot-com and there are literally
hundreds of TLDs. The most popular is .com, but
the are many others. A dot-com name is usually the best
to go for, because that's the name people usually associate
with the web.
Dynamoo's recommended list of TLDs to look out for,
starting with the best first is:
- .com - the classic TLD for any site anywhere
in the world. Virtually all the good .com domains
have already been bought up though.
- .us, .co.uk, .ca, .de,
.fr or whatever your local country TLD is,
if your target audience is country based. A country
TLD is a great way to target those people living
in a particular country, but not good if you're
reaching out for a global audience. Domain names
tend to be more readily available.
- .biz (for business sites), .info
(for informational sites), .org (for nonprofit
sites). These TLDs have much greater domain name
availability that of .com, but lack the prestige
of a dot-com tag. However, you may be able to get
exactly the domain name you want. Unfortunately,
a lot of spammers use .biz and .info domains and
their value is becoming degraded.
- .net (for anything Internet-related),
.tv and .fm for television and radio
sites (tv is actually the country TLD for
Tuvalu, fm for the Federated States of Micronesia).
Best to avoid these sites though if your site isn't
- .ws, .nu, .co, .bz,
.tk and .cc are best avoided
- these are all country specific TLDs marketed as
alternatives to .com - but to be brutal most
people will either not remember them or consider
you to be a loser who couldn't get the .com
they wanted. Probably both.
Thinking Up a Name
is the all important concept in 2004. Before that, one
way to get ahead in search engines was to stuff your
domain with as many keywords as possible. So, you got
awful domain names like very-cheap-trinkets.com
which were usually the sign of a nasty cobbled together
site by someone who just wanted to get rich quick. Try
to pick something memorable.
As mentioned earlier, virtually all words in the
English dictionary are registered, so you can forget most
of those as possibilities. You are much more likely
to succeed if you got for a compound word made up of
two or more individual words related to your site. Two
words is easier to remember for repeat visitors - one
word is ideal, but only if you can get it.
For example: if you want to sell trinkets
you can be reasonably assured that trinkets.com
will be already registered, so try a name like trinketworld.com,
worldoftrinkets.com, buyatrinket.com etc.
There's a good chance that one of these will be free.
Getting the "trinket" keyword into the domain
name may or may not give the site a boost in search
engine terms. Generally speaking, highly competitive
keywords tend to get filtered out by search engines,
however for niche markets this can still be important.
Next, you'll want to check domain name availability.
Simply going to your browser and type www.. followed
by the name of the domain will generally tell you nothing
as most domains aren't developed (i.e. they don't yet
have a site associated with them). A simple tool to
use is whois.sc, which will allow you to look up contact
information and registrations details about a domain.
So, if you type dynamoo.com
into the search box, you'll see all the contact details
and registration dates for the domain. If you type an
unregistered .com name into the
(in this example americac.com) you'll get a result
Whois Server Version 1.3
Domain names in the .com, .net, and .org domains can now be registered
with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
for detailed information.
No match for domain "AMERICAC.COM".
>>> Last update of whois database: Sat, 14 Dec 2002 05:04:58 EST <<<
The Registry database contains ONLY .COM, .NET, .ORG, .EDU domains and
This tells you that the domain can be registered.
There's a full list of WHOIS services at the Open
Directory - so if you're looking for a specific
TLD that whois.sc doesn't cover, try one of those. If
you're looking for a UK domain, try the WHOIS service
Can't Think of a Name?
Sometimes your imagination lets you down and you'll
need a little help. Again, the Open
Directory comes to our aid with a list of Name
Generators - our favorite of which is NameBoy
which will allow you to come up with different variations
of a domain name and tell you if they're available.
For example, for our online trinket store we discovered
that trinkets.com was probably registered, and
a look at whois.sc
page confirmed that it belonged to someone
already. With Nameboy we can just enter trinket
as the primary word and click the "go nameboy go"
button and we discover that trinketfairy.com
is available and sounds like a pretty reasonable domain
name, so we could try that. whois.sc
offers a similar service to Nameboy.
One Careful Owner - Second-Hand Domains
Sometimes it's better to get a domain that has already
been registered and expired. Sometimes these domains
will come with good directory and search engine listings,
most of the time they might just be inventive and catchy
A great (and free) resource for finding deleted domain
names is DeletedDomains.com
- this lists many .com, .net and .org names when they
expire or when they are soon to expire (placed "on
hold"). So, if we click on the power search
link we can search in all sorts of different ways for
For example, if we type trinket in and restrict
the search to domains deleted and select anytime,
we get a list which includes cool-trinkets.com,
Some of these are interesting names, which might be
worth looking at. A quick copy-and-paste of the domain
name into alltheweb
will also tell you if the domain name has any listings
on the web, although its unlikely that you'll find anything
really good that hasn't been re-registered.
Once you've found your perfect pre-owned domain name,
use a WHOIS
tool to see if it is still available.
Buying a Domain Name at Auction - Caveat Emptor
Sometimes good domain names become available at eBay
in their Domain
Names or Websites
For Sale category. It's tricky to find good
names amongst the stupidly overpriced rubbish out there,
and buying anything at auction requires practice and
caution. Don't overstretch yourself - an undeveloped
domain name with some decent listings can be had for
under $100. A fully-developed web site is worth about
what it would make in a year (but get some proof
of income for the site).
If you're buying a domain name that claims to be
listed at Yahoo! or any other directory, it's vitally
important to check the listing by actually drilling
down into the claimed category.
If a site or domain name is being sold with claims
that it's long established or has traffic you will need
to check. For an established web site you can ask to
see the access logs. You can also do some research yourself.
is a useful tool with traffic rankings, but they are
very vague and easy to manipulate upwards.. however,
if the site has a traffic rank of 3,000,000 or so it
basically never gets any visitors. As a rough indicator,
20,000 unique visitors per month should show up with
a traffic rank in the 200,000 to 300,000 range. The
Archive will also give you a good idea of how long
a site has been around and its history and target audience.
An alternative to eBay is an aftermarket domain site
such as Sedo.us
which is a major aftermarket domain broker, or many
others that can be found in the Open
Directory. You will pay a higher price here that
at an auction, but with a greater peace of mind.
All-in-all though, buying a domain name or developed
web site at auction is probably for the more experienced
domain developer.. if you're just starting out it may
well be better to take the lowest-risk option and avoid
auctions altogether. However, if you know what you're
doing you can turn a domain name at auction into a real
money and traffic generator.
Grabbing a Domain When it Expires
Sometimes the domain name you really want isn't always
available. A search of the WHOIS entry shows that it
is registered but not developed. You could wait for
the domain to expire, but they're not usually available
on the date shown and there's a high risk that you could
miss the domain altogether.
Luckily, there are some automated tools to help you
acquire domain names. One of the best known (and one
that Dynamoo has documented many times before) is SnapNames
- this monitors the domain status and tries to acquire
it for you. The success rate is pretty good, although
the price for a years subscription is $69 which is expensive
for a domain registration, but quite inexpensive for
the amount of work and worry it saves. If SnapNames
can't get the domain name for you, you can re-use the
subscription to try to get another name. Namewinner
is a similar system to Snapnames and worth considering.
We covered this kind of web site development back
2002 with a story about the development of an abandoned
site that had been recreated using SnapNames and then
tuned to meet visitor expectations.
Trademarks - Tread Carefully
One minefield with domain name development is the
issue of Trademarks. Very often, the name you're using
may be a trademark belonging to somebody. This is most
likely when redeveloping an expired name, but it can
also be a problem for new domains.
One typical example is this - the well-known toy
store Toys'R'Us is also well-known for protecting the
"R Us" part of its name, to the extent that
any webmaster creating an "R Us" site (e.g.
trinketsrus.com) may well find themselves in
legal difficulties. Make sure that your domain name
is not substantially the same or similar as any major
company or trademark.
Patent and Trademark Office is a good place to start
checking for trademarks for any site with a US presence.
Office in the UK also holds trademark information,
as do several other national trademark offices. If in
doubt, seek the advice of a professional or use an online
Service to check.
If you have bought an expired name, then check also
Archive and look at old copies of the site to see
if any trademarks are claimed. A search of the web using
your favorite search engine should help too.
If you accidentally violate a trademark, you will
probably be required to surrender the domain name, but
possibly anything you've earned with it too. For this
reason it's best to try to find a fairly unique name.
Domain Names Can Be Fun
You might think it sad, but a lot of people enjoy
the creativity involved in thinking up a great domain
name.. but be warned, registering domain names can become
addictive! Dynamoo owns about 100 of the things, of
which only about a dozen are actually developed. In
other words, don't get too carried away and forget to
build your web site!