Domain name karate with Bill Sweetman at DM Day

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Bill Sweetman, the general manager of domain name portfolios at Tucows, schooled his audience in the intricate art of domain name karate at DM Day, held at the Westin Bayshore on Thursday. His three levels of karate are to maximize your domain name, defend it, and outmaneuver your competition.

To maximize your name, make sure it’s easy to read in lowercase, as well as easy to see, hear and type. Make sure it’s a name that won’t be misheard (and hence mistyped). He also said to avoid abbreviations, never us what he termed the “dashes of death,” and to avoid using numbers. He also singled out dropping vowels, or as he called, it “Web 2.0 disease,” as another non-starter.

If you think all the best names are taken, hit online thesaurus and rhyming dictionary sites, and head to sites like AfterNIC that show recently expired domain names that are up for sale.

Another alternative is to turn to the domain name aftermarket, where resellers list names up for sale for varying prices.

Lines of defense for domain names include registering everything you can as cheap insurance, much like warnerbros.com does with looneytunes.com or bugsbunny.com. Extension variations, like .net and .org, vary case by case but should be a consideration. If you have a controversial property, you may want to register “sucks” variations in order to avoid hate sites springing up about your company. securing typo variations are another good domain defense strategy, as well as looking into phonetic and transposed (smartcar.com becomes carsmart.com, etc) variations. A great example of a transposed variation is at gordonandfrank.ca, where marketer Ken Schafer outlines how Bell Canada missed the boat when creating a site for their beaver mascots.

Renewing your domain name before it expires is another important but sometimes neglected process that name owners have to keep on top of. It’s human error, and even Microsoft succumbed to it when they didn’t renew Hotmail.co.uk.

In order to outmaneuver your competition, always make sure you keep your Whois information private. To buy an already-owned domain name, use the previous advice in reverse to find out (through Whois) who owns the domain, what they’re doing with it, and see if it’s already on sale. You can register backup domain names in advance, and only then approach the owner discreetly and get them to suggest the price.

You can also put a deposit on domain names through services like snapnames.com in order to be notified when a domain name you want to buy is about to expire.

The final tip he shared is to go to domain name after-marketers and check what kind of traffic those sites are getting, because they’re a great way to drive already targeted audiences to your site.