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WHOIS stands for “who is,” as in “Who is responsible for a domain name or an IP address?”
Each individual or entity registering a domain must provide, during the transaction, identifying information such as legal name, email, phone number, address, and administrative and technical contacts. This information is referred to as “WHOIS data.”
As the ICANN WHOIS site explains:
But the WHOIS service is not a single, centrally-operated database. Instead, the data is managed by independent entities known as ‘registrars’ and ‘registries.’ Any entity that wants to become a registrar must earn ICANN accreditation. Similarly, registries are under contract with ICANN to operate a generic top level domain, such as .COM, .ORG, or one of the new gTLDs such as .STORAGE and .LINK.
A purchaser of a domain may choose to keep most of the registration information private by paying an additional fee.
The private option may appeal to individuals and businesses in the following situations:
- The individual blogger who doesn’t have a business address and doesn’t want their home address, home phone number, cell phone number, or other identifying data available for public lookup.
- Businesses that don’t want to receive spam email or other email via their WHOIS listing.
- Companies who may be in the process of merging but don’t want that information made public yet via WHOIS research.
If you opt to keep your registration information private be sure to make provision, where appropriate, on your website for contact information that some individuals might otherwise look to WHOIS for.
- Webmaster/IT contact information: Make it easy for visitors to report website problems via a contact channel on your site.
- Business contact information: Make sure your business contact information can easily be found on your site.
- Identity: If transparency is important for your brand, make sure your full identity (as in parent corporation) is available on your site.
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How to choose a domain name
Before selecting a domain name, it’s good to know some of the principles behind making a good choice.
1. Keep it short and memorable
The top 100,000 domains are only 9 characters long. Some experts advocate for no more than 10 characters.
Shorter domain names are easier to remember and to type into a URL bar without making an error. If your business is new, consider whether the domain itself should be the name of your business. Take bill.com as an example. Whenever the company uses its own name, in spoken or visual presentations, videos, branding, interviews, online, or in print, it is the same as the domain name.
Some companies have decided to use their short nickname in their branding and as a domain name. Case in point: Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. This somewhat dull name was changed into 3M and its domain became 3M.com. The nonprofit Institute for Justice follows this strategy as well, in a modified form. They have kept the name, but the company’s logo uses the initials IJ. Its domain name is ij.org.
Consider what keywords your target audience might be searching for and whether these can be included in your domain name.
3. The creative aspect
Try saying your proposed domain out loud. Does it sound clunky or awkward? Or does it sound smooth? Is there an opportunity to use some wit in the choice of the domain name? Would that enhance your brand?
4. Understand domain extensions
There are a wide variety of extensions to choose from, including .photography, .media, .guru, and city-based extensions like .nyc. Some extensions, like .me, are references to countries — in this case, Montenegro. Despite the original meaning of .me some individuals choose to use for personal pages due to the English meaning of “me.” Regardless of your choice, be sure to understand if an extension is country or city based.
5. Domain Name Research
If you sell internationally you may want to consider whether your business or domain name has negative connotations in the local language or in slang. Your research can also include legal naming issues.
The age of a domain can also contribute to its value. Numerous inbound links built up over the years is one factor. Older domains with good “link juice” may be quite valuable and more costly. Research factors that influence value and consider consulting with individuals who successfully invest in domain names.
6. Think twice before dumping your old domain
Be cautious when considering putting one of your domain names back on the market. You could be throwing away valuable links.
For example, records indicate that the domain name
ios.org was originally purchased by a nonprofit organization in 1992. The name is easy to remember, easy to say out loud, and the letters in it stood for the organization’s name: Institute for Objectivist Studies. Many years later this organization changed its name and dumped
ios.org back onto the market. This was unfortunate since the domain was well-established, and had a high number of authoritative inbound links.
It’s likely that traffic to the site dropped significantly and domain authority was lost when the old domain was swapped for a newer one. Meanwhile, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation snapped up the old domain name and used it to redirect traffic to its site.
Remember: You can keep your old domain name and redirect it to your new name to retain its value.