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Domain Name Woes: Mistakes to Avoid When You Decide You're Unhap

Do you regret the web address you've chosen for your business?

If you've been online for a while, you may find your domain name is causing some unforeseen problems.

If this has happened to you, you're not alone.

Chris Guillebeau is a successful professional blogger and traveler. He supports his passion for world travel and unconventional living with his blog and books. He's written more than once that his choice of domain name () was a mistake. He wishes he had started with something easier to type and remember.

He's been able to succeed in spite of this shortcoming. You can too.

Here are a few domain name regrets: - it's too long - it's too similar to the name belonging to another business - it's hard to remember or spell right - it's doesn't have any key words in it - it's old

Some of these are real problems. Some are not. Let's quickly look at these regrets and see which ones could use a good solution.

Real problems with a domain name

It's too long: Can a domain name be too long? Yes it can. Domain name registrars (firms authorized to register domain names) impose a 67 character maximum. Google AdWords has a policy that limits your URL to 35 characters for ads.

Is a long domain name, (say, 35 characters) always bad? It depends on what the name has to do. Web developer Christopher Heng puts it this way: "a domain name that matches your brand name is very important. The very name that you use to advertise your product is the name that you will want for your domain."

There is no absolute rule about how long or short a domain name should be. It needs to be long enough to convey your brand, but short enough to remember and type fairly easily.

It's too similar to a name belonging to another business: If your name is easily confused with the name of another website, you may be missing out on visitors. Yes, people make typos or get confused, or guess wrong. Then they land on the wrong website by mistake. Many of these people may try again, a little flustered, a little more typo-prone. While you can't stop people from typing the wrong thing, you can target of alternate names your customers use to search for you. Think of common typos, especially ones not already owned by others. You can use this knowledge to capture potential visitors with the suggestion below.

It's hard to remember, or spell: If no one can remember your name, or spell it correctly, this is a concern to address. Solution? Find a popular way you customers refer to your brand. Chris Guillebeau registered his blog name - Art of Nonconformity -- as a domain name: . His setup forwards traffic from to the original name: . More about this solution is below.

Not-So-Real Problems with an existing domain name

It lacks keywords: You may learn about keywords after you've bought a name. If you have a word in your business that people often use when searching, you have a keyword-rich domain name. This is a good thing. Search engine experts, even Google's own Matt Cutts, says having a popular search term in your domain helps your site rank better.

If you haven't got a name yet, by all means get a keyword rich one if you can. But if you have already purchased a name without good keywords, you may want to keep it. New names don't compete as well as domains that have been registered for a longer time. If you have built a brand around your name, you probably have more to lose by throwing it away. The search engine benefit of having a long established name outweighs having a new keyword rich one.

It's old: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to let go of a domain name, simply because you're tired of it, or you think it's too old. A website running under the same name for years has a big advantage over sites with just-registered domains. Age is a strong ranking factor in your favor. Search engines see older domain names as established, and tend to rank them over newer names.

What to do if your domain name has a real problem?

For domain names with real problems: Use one or more alternate names, and forward traffic to your primary name

First, look at misspellings, typos or nicknames that potential visitors could use. Choose ones that you suspect potential visitors may use. Decide if you want to use the same name with different extensions, like and . Register these names.

Then set up (or hire someone to set up) forwarding on your alternate addresses. It is common practice to forward traffic from several domain names to a preferred one. Domain forwarding is a lot like mail forwarding. Your web host will have a form where you (or your webmaster) specifies which address to use. This is your primary domain. Your web host forwards any traffic to the alternate names to your primary domain automatically.

If your name is outdated and your business name has changed, that is another issue. But if you simply want a 'fresh name' be careful. You may be throwing away an important factor that helps you rank better.

Guidelines for standing by a less-than-perfect name. Don't throw away a name just because it is old. Old is good in a search engine's eyes.

A significant number of people do type web addresses directly into a browser window instead of searching. This happens when people know what brand they want and they browse directly to that brand. If your brand or a product has some word-of-mouth popularity, but doesn't match your old domain name, don't abandon your old URL. Register the more popular url and forward the traffic to your old URL if your site otherwise performs well.

A good domain name will reflect your brand. It may or may not have keywords, brevity or pure uniqueness. You can register alternatives and forward the traffic to your existing one. As a rule of thumb, shorter is better. But if you have an established name with some traffic, you may want to keep it, even if it isn't perfect.