Domain dilemmas

30 November, 2007

Q I've got a terrible domain name for my website and want to organise a relaunch. Should I stick with the current name, and its small but loyal band of customers, or start again from scratch?

A Sounds like a familiar dilemma. In their

hurry to establish some sort of online presence, many small businesses rush some of the details and choose hard-to-remember,

unwieldy domain names. It may be too late to change your mind about the names you've allotted to your children, but it's never too late to make improvements to your website.

According to recent research by Fasthosts Internet, one in four business owners have concerns about their web address and one in three believe their revenue would improve with a better URL. Yet a quarter of those surveyed said they thought changing a domain name would be too much hassle.

In fact, it's easy . The best advice would be to keep your current site's home page operational (assuming you're only paying peanuts to have it hosted) but change it so it automatically re-routes traffic to a new all-singing, all-dancing site, with a domain name that is likely to be more memorable than the current one - and which stands a better chance of being discovered by search engines.

When you think about a new web address,

get a second opinion (something that 61 per cent of business owners fail to do, according to Fasthosts) and if the domain name you want appears to be unavailable, remember that by using suffixes such as .biz, .net or .eu you could be in business. The only question would be whether you wanted to risk being confused with another company - which might not be such a big issue if your trading name is shared by an injection moulding business or a tree surgeon.

You might assume that all the obvious domain names have been bagged, but it's not the case. has been reserved and is "coming soon", according to its makeshift home page. and have been nabbed too. is available, though the asking price of around £2,300 will put off most retailers.

But there's nobody camping at, or And if you're really in the mood for some mischief, remains unclaimed and is available for purchase.

Q Having visited Cologne and been impressed by the local beer, I'm interested in stocking a small range. Is this likely to be a commercial success and what beers are easily obtainable in this country?

A Cologne is famous for its kölsch beers, which are fairly delicate, malty golden ales with an abv of less than 5 per cent. There are around 20 breweries in the area making this style of beer, which was noted by Michael Jackson for uniquely functioning as both an aperitif and a digestif. In its native city, kölsch is served in narrow 20cl glasses and occasionally necked in one swoop.

The Americans have developed some approximations of the style, some more faithful to the original than others, but assuming you're looking for the real thing there are various sources in the UK.

James Clay & Sons offers Kuppers kölsch in keg or bottled form and Vertical Drinks supplies Gaffel. Both are also available from Beer Paradise, which also lists Früh and Reissdorf beers.

As for whether you'll be commercially successful: kölsch might not

set the pulse racing in quite the same way as weightier, more challenging

beers from Germany or Belgium. But if you're prepared to

sell a style which will please many and offend nobody, perhaps you may be on the verge of discovering a house speciality.

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