In the space of the last few weeks, I have been asked by different readers whether they should get a domain name for their website with spaces in between or perhaps with embedded dots to improve the readability of their domain name. This article attempts to address the misunderstanding, suggest alternatives, as well as answer the underlying question.
There are various forms of the question. One version has the reader asking me whether he should get a domain name of the form "hereisamultiplewordedexample.com") or "here is a multiple worded example.com". Others asked if a domain like "here.is.a.multiple.worded.example.com" might be superior to a name where all the words run into each other. (Note that the names I'm using here are not the actual ones my visitors used.)
For those wondering what a domain name is, it is just a name like "thesitewizard.com". It forms the address of your website. You get one by registering a name of your choice with a domain name registrar. This is usually the first step one takes when creating a website.
The short answer to the questions asked is that you won't be able to buy a domain name like "an example.com" or "an.example.com" where there are embedded spaces or dots in the name you choose.
Don't be confused here. When I say you can't buy a domain name with embedded dots, I meant that you can't buy one where the dots occur in the portion of the name that you choose; I'm not talking about the part that separates that name from its extension. That is, a domain name registrar does not sell domain names of the form "an.example.com" (where there is a dot in "an.example") but they allow domain names of the form "example.com" or "example.co.uk" (where the dots occur only in the ".com" and ".co.uk" extensions).
In other words, there's no need to debate whether to buy a domain name with spaces and dots in between. You can't do it.
However, all is not lost. There are other ways of separating the words.
Although my answer above renders the original questions irrelevant, I should probably mention alternative methods that people use to separate words in their domain names.
Since spaces cannot be used in a domain name, some people buy domain names with embedded hyphens instead. That is, since they can't have a domain like "multiple words in this domain as an example.com", they use "multiple-words-in-this-domain-as-an-example.com" instead.
Although I said that you cannot buy a domain name with embedded dots, you can still create a domain name where there are embedded dots. For example, if you were to look up at your web browser's address bar right now, you will notice that this site has a web address of "www.thesitewizard.com", where there is a dot separating "www" from my main domain name "thesitewizard.com". Since I own the domain called "thesitewizard.com", I can create any number of web addresses ending with ".thesitewizard.com" that I want. These new addresses, like "www.thesitewizard.com", are often referred to as subdomains. They are subdomains of my main domain, thesitewizard.com.
As such, even though you cannot buy a domain name like "this.is.an.example.com", nothing stops you from buying a domain called "example.com" (unless it's already taken), and then creating a subdomain name called "this.is.an.example.com". Once you own the main domain name, you can create any subdomain of that domain that you want.
It's important to note, however, that there are both advantages and disadvantages to separating words in a domain name. Since I have already discussed this matter at length in my article Tips on Choosing a Good Domain Name, I will not repeat myself here. Instead, I'll just refer you to that article, and suggest that you read the section on hyphenated domain names there. The same pros and cons that apply to hyphenated domain names also apply to names with dots.
It's an integral part of my answer in this article, so please read it.
Besides using hyphens and dots, it's also possible to write your domain name using camel case. A simple example will clarify what this term means: even though you can reach this site using the domain name "thesitewizard.com", the same site can also be reached by using "TheSiteWizard.com", where the "t" in "the", the "s" in "site" and the "w" in "wizard" are capitalised (or "capitalized" in US English).
Note that both "thesitewizard.com" and "TheSiteWizard.com" are the exact same domain. I did not buy 2 domains with different capitalisations. Domain names are case insensitive. Once you buy your domain, you can write it with any combination of capital and small letters, and it'll still be regarded as the same thing.
In other words, if your domain name comprises multiple words, and you feel that it's necessary to distinguish between those words, one way is to take advantage of this indifference to the case in the domain name system, and use capital letters (uppercase) for the beginning of each new word in your domain name. And before you ask, you don't have to do anything special to "enable" this feature. Simply use your equivalent of "TheSiteWizard.com" (or "HowToHaven.com" or "TheFreeCountry.com", to give a few more examples) anywhere on your site where you would normally use "thesitewizard.com" (or "howtohaven.com" or "thefreecountry.com"). That is, put the camel case version of your domain name in your logos, your web addresses, your email address, your stationery, your name card, etc.As implied by my previous paragraphs, the camel case version also works in the domain name portion of URLs (ie, web addresses). For example, if I wanted to, I could also write the address of this article as "http://www.TheSiteWizard.com/domain/domain-name-with-spaces-or-dots.shtml" (notice the camel case in the domain name portion). Incidentally, this case insensitivity only applies to the domain name portion, not to the rest of the web address. The rest of the web address must use the same case you gave your folder name and filename.
As already mentioned above, separating the words in your domain name comes with both advantages and disadvantages. (If you're wondering where I mentioned it, it's in the article on choosing domain names that I suggested that you read earlier.) Since you're the one who has to live with the consequences of the name you select, you're the only one who can decide which is best for you.
However, don't let this thought paralyse you. Ultimately, it's not the domain name that will determine the success of your website. It's what you do with your website that matters in the long run. If you are truly stuck, do what many seasoned webmasters do, buy up all the different combinations of domain names that interest you. It allows you to defer your decision further (without the attendant risk of losing a domain name you want to someone else) and gives you the option to change your mind later.
For those of you who want to continue reading up on domain names before starting your website, the following articles may be helpful:
The above are a subset of the articles I've written on domain names. You can find the full list on the Domain Name Tutorials page.
For those who don't know what to do after getting your domain name, please read the complete tutorial How to Make / Create Your Own Website: The Beginner's A-Z Guide for more information.
Copyright © 2010 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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