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Today: The importance of owning your own domain name, and suggestions for alternative website names.

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What happens when someone Googles you?

Seems like an innocent question, right? But go ahead and ask 10 random friends and see what they say.

– Some are confident and know that the top results are their own website, or a LinkedIn page or Facebook.
– Others have a popular name, and thus can’t quite make it to the frontpage.
– Some have positive results come up, such as a listing at a conference or something with the college alumni, but nothing special.
– For the unlucky, an unflattering photo or comment appears near the top of the list.
– And for some segment of people nothing comes up, and they don’t care.

As I’ve talked about many times, it’s easy for someone like me, living in New York City and completely immersed in all things media, to have a distorted view on a topic like this. Not only do I have a blog and a podcast and a book, but I actively own websites and purposely try to make sure my results rank high.

Just the fact that you are listening to my podcast or reading a blog like The Hopkinson Report, means that you probably have a certain degree of knowledge about your results, and are probably proactive in controlling it.

And yes, there are plenty of people that don’t know and don’t care.

However, there are maybe millions more that WANT to have a presence on the web, but don’t know how to get started. If that’s you, I’m going to show you how at the end of this post. But first off, here are…

4 reasons WHY you should own your own domain

(Listen to the podcast to hear me dig deeper on each of these topics)

1) Rank higher in search
If you’re establishing a personal brand or starting a business, you’re going to want to own your own domain. While major sites like LinkedIn and Facebook will bubble to the top for newly established people on the web, Google’s algorithm weighs exact searches heavily. So if your name is John Doe and someone types John Doe and you own JohnDoe.com and it is a legitimate site with good content on it, eventually that will bubble up to the top.

Ironically, I am a bad example of this. If you Google Jim Hopkinson, in most cases The Hopkinson Report.com shows up before JimHopkinson.com. The reason for this is that this site was established in 2008, and has hundreds of links back and forth to major sites like Wired, and tons of content. Meanwhile, I launched JimHopkinson.com within the last six months. But if you’re starting from scratch it might work differently for you.

2) Hide negative search results
It’s not always easy to remove that drunk photo from college that comes up in a search, but by registering your own name, you can make efforts to try and make sure that your domain comes up ahead of it.

3) It’s crucial for job seekers
Every job seeker should have their own domain. According to the NY Times article Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle, “75 percent of recruiters are required by their companies to do online research of candidates, and 70 percent of recruiters in the United States report that they have rejected candidates because of information online.”

4) Reserve your name or children’s name for later use
Even if you don’t have plans for yourself or a business now, you might want to reserve your name so no one else gets it. Also, many parents are registering their children’s names, whether to put up some baby photos and videos, or just have it set aside if they become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

But what if your name is already taken?

IE, Your name is John Smith and JohnSmith.com was snagged long ago. Never fear. Here are…

7 suggestions for alternate website names:

(Listen to the podcast to hear me dig deeper on each of these topics)

1. Use another domain extension
Option: Register JohnDoe.net, JohnDoe.co, JohnDoe.org, etc.
Pros: Address remains short and easy to read.
Cons: You may need to constantly remind people that it is not the most common .com address. Be aware of what actually does live at the .com address, as at least some people will go there accidentally.

2. Add a middle name or initial
Option: Register JohnTDoe.com or JohnThomasDoe.com.
Pros: It uses the common .com extension and works if people are familiar with your middle name.
Cons: It’s a little more unwieldy and harder to remember.

3. Add a clever modifier to the name
Option: Register TheJohnDoe.com, YouveGotJohn.com, OriginalJohnDoe.com, TheRealJohnDoe.
Pros: Very “Twitter Celebrity-esque and works for some people.
Cons: Harder to remember, feels forced, and tells everyone you couldn’t get the domain you wanted.

4. Add an internet based word to it
Option: Register JohnDoeOnline.com, JohnDoeWebsite.com, etc.
Pros: Pretty straightforward and keeps your name as you want it.
Cons: Harder to remember.

5. Create a new word or company name
Option: Register DesignFroggle.com, DesignForSocialChange.com, etc.
Pros: Using a fun or generic word worked for Amazon, Google, and Yahoo. Just as easy to promote your company as yourself.
Cons: Harder to find unique names vs. back in the 90s. You still won’t own your name.

6. Tie your name to your location
Option: Register JohnDoeNYC.com, JohnDoeInSeattle.com, etc.
Pros: Ties your name and brand to a specific part of the country.
Cons: You can never move.

7. Tie your name to your profession
Option: Register JohnDoeDesign.com, ArchitectJohn.com, etc.
Pros: Ties your name and brand to your specific industry.
Cons: You can never change jobs.

3 things NOT to do

1. Use dashes
Option: Register John-Doe.com
Pros: Straightforward.
Cons: It’s one thing to see this written, it’s another to say it. Every time you tell someone your website, you’ll need to say “John Dash Doe.”

2. Use Numbers
Option: Register Website4JohnDoe99.com
Pros: Nothing.
Cons: Again with saying it out loud… you’ll need to say “The word website, the number four, john doe, the number ninety-nine.” You can do better than that.

3. Try and be really clever
Option: Register J0hnDoe or JohnDoh! or YouveGotSexyJohnny
Pros: You are clever for 1 minute.
Cons: People will be annoyed for a lifetime.

So how do you make that first step?

It’s easy to think about hiring a designer or installing WordPress or planning a huge web presence. But if you’re just getting started, you just want a simple landing page, or you just want something for companies to find while you are job seeking, here is my suggestion:

1. Buy your domain GoDaddy.com
2. Set up a free about me landing page
3. Redirect the url (yourname.com) to the landing page.

That way you look a little more professional and can put jimhopkinson.com on your resume and business cards and not about.me/jimhopkinson

This is incredibly simple, takes less than 10 minutes, and can be up and running in an hour, so I tell people.
Get Your Name Today!

And to make this simple, I created a website called, you guessed it,

www.GetYourNameToday.com

Disclosure
I want to give full disclosure that I am a member of GoDaddy’s affiliate program, which means I earn a small commission if you sign up by clicking the link on the site. This does not in any way affect or increase the cost of your domain — think of it as a small ‘thank you’ if you found the information I presented here valuable and time-saving for you.

So don’t wait another minute to grab your domain because someone might snag it from you… Get Your Name Today.

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