When Domain Names Go Wrong
As the official addresses of online businesses, domain names bear a unique responsibility. They’re expected to highlight a company’s title (and ideally its industry or location) within a few characters, creating a positive impression while avoiding ambiguity. That’s a lot to successfully convey in just a handful of letters, although it can be done. Britain’s DIY chain B&Q chose www.diy.com, brilliantly resolving their inability to use ampersand symbols in website addresses. And netflix.com makes its purpose abundantly clear, too.
Unfortunately, the internet is full of less successful domains. The owners of Analtech and Fifth Third Bank probably rue their branding decisions on a daily basis. Robbed of context, these addresses seem confused at best. Then there’s the added complexity of choosing a brand which looks good written without spaces, capital letters or punctuation. Therapist Finder probably seemed perfectly respectable until it was condensed into one word, as (presumably) did Power Gen Italia.
Suffix it to say
However, such concerns are generally foreseeable and avoidable. A bigger issue concerning website domain names involves the choice of top level domain, better known as a TLD. Starting with a mere handful of options in the mid-1980s, industry regulator ICANN has drip-fed a thousand TLDs into the marketplace. These have ranged from country code domains to regional identifiers, and from industry-specific TLDs through to novelty or comedic suffixes.
Some of ICANN’s approved domains make perfect sense, like .nyc and .texas. Others, including .wtf and .xyz, are probably unsuitable for mainstream use despite being fairly innocuous. And then there are TLDs which are difficult to recommend…
According to global spam monitors Spamhaus, this is the most abused of all TLDs. An astonishing 90% of registered domains are used for malicious purposes. The sale of every web address with a specific TLD is handled by a domain registry, and some agencies really don’t care who they sell to. The .gq domain is a damning example.
Another TLD enduring an image problem is the .fun domain, intended to add character and whimsy to domain names. The original domain registry resold .fun to a new owner in late 2016, before it had even launched. Since then, all but three thousand of the .fun websites registered around the world have been developed by spammers and malware operators.
According to European domain agency CENTR, the number of active .kiwi websites has fallen by over 90% in the last year. That’s a staggering rate of decline, indicating a domain dying a rapid death. Whether you’re a fan of New Zealand or a small green fruit, it’s difficult to recommend a domain that’s contracting quite so dramatically.
Many newly-launched websites are effectively abandoned with a sparsely-populated homepage. Visible content may include clickbait or adverts, while owners wait for their investment to increase in value. Statistics on domain parking are hard to obtain, but 73% of .club websites are reportedly parked. As a result, it’s best avoided.
Another gTLD with a parking rate of over 70%, .men was originally intended for firms to promote products and services to a male audience. Unfortunately, websites which weren’t immediately parked were mostly managed by spammers, resulting in a score of 62% in Spamhaus’s Badness Index. A good .men domain is hard to find.
It probably seemed a good idea to launch .country, given its relevance to everything from travel to music sites. However, a blog by antivirus specialists Symantec claimed a staggering 99.95% of .country sites are ‘shady’. In other words, .country sites are used to infest visiting browsers with popups, flashing messages, redirects and/or spyware.
Symantec also reported only one in 400 .stream websites was safe to visit. The other 399 were linked to suspicious behavior or unwanted software, spam or malware, phishing or botnet software. Not only will consumers give a .stream website a wide berth, search engines will downgrade it while compiling their results.
How to avoid the pitfalls
These are Midphase’s tips for choosing effective domain names:
#1. Brainstorm ideas.
Don’t assume your first idea is the best idea. Ask friends and colleagues for advice, suggestions and feedback.
#2. Stick to a tried and trusted TLD.
We offer numerous top level domains on our site, but classic choices like .com and .net are enduringly popular.
#3. Research niche TLDs.
Investigate negative domain associations using platforms like Spamhaus, CENTR and our very own Midphase blog.
#4. Type a potential web address into a text editor, and read it aloud.
Do you keep mistyping it? Does the lettering look weird? Is it easily dictated as a web address?
#5. Study competitors.
Which domains have your rivals registered? You may be able to learn from their choices or identify recurring industry themes