With the explosion of the Internet and the current fascination with Domain Name speculation it is common to think of Domain Names as being the Real Estate of the 21st century. That common analogy isn't far from the truth, as Domain Names share several of the same characteristics as their material counterparts. With that in mind let's set out to evaluate a Domain Name using some of the same criteria we'd use when purchasing a home.
Buy or Build?
In the physical world we're more likely to buy a home that is already developed on a property than we are to buy land and build a house, but when it comes to Domain Names the reverse is likely true. Most people in the market for a Domain Name have intentions of building a site from scratch, as opposed to taking over an existing site - even those buying an established name usually have the intention of tearing down the old site and putting up a new one.
A "recycled" Domain name (one that has previously been registered but has either been sold to you or has expired) can be a goldmine if you're putting up a site with the same audience as the original one had. This assumes that there ever was an original site, and that the site actually drew visitors that were not related to or living with the sites creator. If there are still previous visitors who haven't realized that the original site has been abandoned you'll have a chance to market your widgets or canine footwear to them, at least once.
Buying an existing web site is akin to buying an existing house, and you should use the same level of scrutiny when negotiating a fair price. As a web site is often a business you'll want to do all of the conventional assessments that you'd make on any business you're considering purchasing. In addition you should find out all you can about the history of the site, the Wayback Machine website is a really good resource as they may have previous versions of the site stored in their vast database of Internet history.
Know Your Neighborhood
When you select a home it's standard practice to avoid properties located next door to a brothel or crack-house, and it's a real faux-pas to locate in between them. The same can be true on the Internet.
In the virtual world of Domains the name is everything. It has to convey the image your site or company is trying to project and it needs to be easy to remember. A substantial number of visitors will try and find your site by typing what they think is the "logical" name in their browsers address bar. This behavior makes the selection of an appropriate moniker even more important.
If your name sounds like, or is spelled like another name you'll want to check that other site out first. If people misspell your URL by one letter and end up on a site selling Male Enhancement products they may take offense and shut down the browser before they attempt to correct the mistake. This is very critical when you buy a hyphenated name, if someone else has already registered the non-hyphenated version then it's a sure bet that they'll be receiving the benefit of some of your traffic. If they are a competitor (which is more than likely if you have virtually identical names) then you could end up losing sales or visitors. If you do choose a hyphenated name try and buy the non-hyphenated version yourself if possible. Similarly, if your name lends itself to hyphenation you'd be wise to purchase this additional domain, to prevent someone from squatting on your property.
To know your Internet neighborhood do some research on names that are similar to yours. The easiest form of research is to simply try them on your web browser and examine the sites. You can also do further research with a WHOIS database, especially if the name leads to a dead site - you may want to purchase the name from it's current owner and the WHOIS database will have contact information, as well as the expiry date of the current registration.
Your Internet Domain Name is a key element of your online business strategy, so it pays to exercise the same care in choosing it that you would apply to any major decision. This is especially true when the name is being purchased at a premium price from its current owner. The time you spend researching the name will pay for itself by providing your site with a solid foundation to build upon.
Welcome to the neighborhood!