This is the second article in what I hope will be an indefinite series about the processes involved in developing a brand new community from scratch. I am currently developing a brand new online community and will detail its development on this blog. As I have said before, I think it is far easier to learn by example rather than simply reading another person’s theories and ideas.
Step One: Brainstorm the concept of your website
Deciding on a domain name for your community should not be rushed or taken lightly. If your community is successful, the domain name you choose now will likely be associated with your site for the rest of its life. Of course, you can change the domain name of a website once it has been established, but this is something that you don’t want to do unless you really have to.
In order to come up with the domain name for my new community, I brainstormed the concept of the website. This involved writing down the niche the website would be operating in and then having keywords associated with this niche ‘spidering’ away from this core concept. At this stage you do not want to be critical about the words you come up with – write down each and every keyword that you come up with. As you come up with ideas, come up with keywords for the keywords. The more ideas you come up with, the more thorough your eventual thought process will be.
Step Two: Search through the storm for the rainbow
Once you have a massive list of keywords, you have something to work with. I always recommend including an aspect of your site’s subject within the domain name itself. This blog is focussed on building online communities, therefore I felt it essential that the word ‘community’ was contained within the domain name.
Once you have decided to include the main theme of your site into its domain name, you can shorten the keyword combinations you previously brainstormed. Make sure the domain name you choose adheres to the following four principles:
1) It is easy to remember
2) It is not excessively long
3) It does not contain words that are prone to misspelling
4) It does not contain a hyphen (unless you can also register the non-hyphenated version)
Step Three: Decide on your domain extension
Do you want a .com? Do you want a .co.uk? Deciding which extension to choose can be a tricky business – particularly because a .com will tend to be the favourite choice and consequently your preferred domain name will likely already be taken.
It is perfectly fine to choose a country specific domain name if you will be targeting your marketing efforts at that specific country. I was not fazed by the fact the .com extension for Just Chat had been taken as I was always focussed on developing a community with a British identity.
If you are aiming for a global audience you simply cannot beat a .com domain name. That is what I chose for my new online community, although I also registered the available extension alternatives. The last thing I wanted was to go to the effort of developing a new online community only for someone to steal my hard work by promoting a site by the same name, but with a different extension.
If your choice of domain name has already been registered, wait a few days before going through what may be an expensive purchase process. Very often I think of the ‘perfect’ domain name only to think of something far better just a few hours or days later.
Step Four: Be prepared to negotiate
The chances are, you choice(s) of domain name will already be registered – particularly if you are after a .com; this is what happened to me. Consequently I needed to commence negotiation with the owner in order to purchase the domain name. My advice when it comes to negotiating a domain name purchase would be as follows:
Do your research
How long has the current registrant owned the domain name? If they have had it registered for the past seven years they are more likely to want to see a sale than someone who has only had the domain for a few weeks. Is the domain name about to expire? If so, perhaps you should keep quiet and see if the current owner renews – if they don’t, you could get that name at the regular registration cost.
Never reveal your budget
If you reveal the budget you have for the domain name, you can only expect the current owner to price the domain name to match. Never reveal your budget unless you want to pay over the odds for a domain name.
Never use your business email address
Do you already run a popular website? Don’t use your professional email address – after all, if you received two approaches for your website from these email addresses who would you ask to pay more: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org?
Start low and keep communicating
Always offer a price for the domain name based on your opinion of its value. Don’t pay attention to any ‘appraisals’ that the owner of the domain may start to present to you. Appraisals are worthless – the value of a domain name is quite simply the price someone is willing to pay for it. Start with a low (but respectable) offer, and see what happens next.
Even if your offer is rejected, keep the line of communication open. Normally a rejection will be met with the current owner advising you of a price they are aiming for. If not, then ask them – don’t put everything down to guesswork!
Once this happens, you have good ground for negotiation – you have started a line of communication with the current owner and have two monetary values to work with. I wouldn’t recommend immediately offering the full amount the current owner wants; keep negotiating and you will soon reach a value both parties will be happy with.
Step 5: Be sensible
People online aren’t always who they say there are. Protect yourself by confirming details of the domain name sale through a written agreement – this can be done in electronic form. I would also recommend the use of an escrow service to ensure the seller doesn’t take your money and run. I used Escrow.com for the purchase of my new domain name and feel the cut taken by the intermediary is well worth it for the security and peace of mind the service brings.
The escrow service is simple – terms are established (the domain name for sale and the price), then payment is sent to Escrow.com – not the seller. When the payment is received by Escrow.com, they email the seller to advise them they have received the funds and that they now need to transfer the domain name. Once the domain name is transferred, there is a pre-agreed period for both parties to ensure the ‘WHOIS’ information has been updated to reflect the details of the buyer. When this is done, payment is transferred from Escrow.com to the seller and you now have your brand new domain name.
How did you decide on your chosen domain name? Did you go through a brainstorming process or did the ideal name just pop into your head? Did you purchase a domain name from an individual as I have done? Please share your thoughts and ideas regarding this article by leaving a comment below.