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SIDEBAR: Strategies for branding domain names

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In the rush to centralize divisional Web sites under one corporate page, there's a hidden danger -- valuable data could get buried or lost.

"This shouldn't be Net scuba diving," warns Larry Chase, president of New York-based Chase Online Marketing Strategies. "We don't want users drilling down 15 layers off a home page or trying to remember long URLs to get to important information."

To avoid this dilemma, Web marketing experts recommend two ways to configure a site's Web address.

One creates a URL that extends the corporate domain name. Sprint's Web committee settled on subdirectories that read http://www.sprint.com/brandname to roll out new products or promotions that are short-lived.

This still requires a coordinated effort to ensure that users are only "one click away from important information, either through a search engine or icon on the home page," says Sprint's New Media Program Manager Zena Weist.

The second approach incorporates the brand name in the domain name. This would read: companyname.brandname.com.

"It's much better to get your information to the left of the dot, like espn.sportszone.com," says Bill Hopkins, an analyst at the Gartner Group. "It keeps corporate branding at the highest level in the URL and makes it easier for users to remember."

In either case, make sure the brand is indexed through all the search engines, advises Mr. Hopkins. "Once you take away a division's separate URL identity, you must make sure users can still find it easily."

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