Let’s start with the basics – choosing the right name for a domain. What does a famous website design consultant recommend doing? What does practice prove to be successful?
Choosing a memorable Chinese domain name
The simple truth is for many Chinese numbers are easier to remember than Latin characters that are perceived as alien and unreadable. It means that memorizing a domain in Latin characters for Chinese is almost as difficult as memorizing a domain in Chinese characters for you.
This is the main reason why domains that consist partially or completely of numbers are so popular in China – they are easy to pronounce and remember for Chinese.
There is another example that illustrates the above-mentioned phenomenon of Chinese internet – an ad without any mention of a company’s website. The only things mentioned here are a company’s name, slogan and “Search it in Baidu” line.
An example of Chinese TV commercial without mentioning a website
That is why the launch of IDNs (domains such as 携程.com) was at first warmly welcomed by Chinese, because it was supposed to simplify their lives. It turned out that the only people who benefited from this were cybersquaters that somehow managed to take over the addresses of the biggest Chinese websites. However, there is some hope in QR-codes that can shorten the distance between a Chinese user and a website. But, let’s not deviate from the main subject and return back to domains.
A Chinese domain ad (IDN) from byleon.com
.COM or .CN
Clients often ask us: What should we register .com or .cn? Does it have an impact on a Baidu indexation?
According to Melissa Fach, a famous website design consultant, you should choose .com, since foreigners face problems with a registration of a .cn domain. Baidu.com officially claims that a domain zone has no effect on indexation. Nevertheless, we recommend registering on .cn/.com, because Chinese public simply does not take all other website addresses seriously.
Tips For Choosing The Right Domain Name:
A domain should be short (it is true for all countries, unless you want to win a Guinness for it), no more than 8 symbols.
It should have a good equivalent in Chinese, consist of standard syllables and wrriten in Pingyin (compare: taobao, douban, baidu, alibaba, magazeta that can be pronounced in Chinese 马嘎泽塔).
Choose either .com or .cn zone; less preferred option is com.cn. The remaining ones (including even .org or .net), a lot of Chinese do not recognize them by hearing or know how to spell them.
If some words can be reduced to numbers (homonyms), choose that version (compare: 我要buy -> 51buy.com).
Here’s a real-life example: after having chosen a Chinese name for the project 爱飞搜 (ai fei sou — love, fly, search), one real company began selecting a domain name for it and came up with: ai → i; fei = fei; sou → so. As a result, it got ifeiso.com that was not only catchy, but also encouraged people to reflect on the meaning of the name 😉
There is another type of Chinese sites such as hao123.com (that was bought by Baidu) and other start-up (default) websites or home pages. This type was very popular from the late 1990-s to the late 2000-s. The site that particularly stood out was hao123.com. It was a home page in browsers of pirate Windows PCs and also went together with different free Chinese software (could automatically get into your computer without you knowing about it). Even now Hao123 has around 1000 clones.
The website is a catalogue of websites, directories with categories (news, shops, games, films, sport and etc.), and an integrated search engine. It was very useful for a Chinese user at the dawn of Chinese internet (and still is for internet illiterate users). Placing a link on the main page of hao123.com costs at least 100K Yuan a month (in 2012 year).
As the percentage of well-educated people in China is growing, the situation with Latin-character domains is also improving. If your future project’s target market is 18-29-year old people from big Chinese cities (Shanhai, Bejing), you can bravely choose any regular Latin-letters domain (do not forget the basic recommendations!).
Of course, there are exceptions to these rules such as popular websites with absolutely non-Chinese names: ctrip, tmall, eastmoney and etc. But, please keep in mind that every year all these companies invest a lot of money into marketing to support the recognition of their brands. For example, very few Chinese talk about website ctrip.com, but almost all of them buy airplane tickets on 携程 (xie cheng), which is the same thing.