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IDN: International Domaining

Old but great quote from Kieren McCarthy on the very strange world of IDNs, those “international” domains made up of characters not found in the typical “English” keyboard:

One of the things about researching IDNs is it makes you feel so uneducated….When you start looking at the issue at IDNs though, you realise that even your best languages skills often aren’t up to the job. I kinda like that. I love feeling stupid. Reminds you to keep learning and to never start believing you’re wise about anything, just slightly better informed than you were.

I totally agree. And I add, researching IDNs in *any* language other than the one or two you grew up with will show you quite clearly just how “clever” the domainer mind really is. We tend to take for granted how easily we “just know” that is worth more than, and or are worth more than, yet that determination is actually non-trivial.

Hat-tip to successful domainers – you’re brilliant. And for the rest, there is still hope, right?


  1. Demerzel wrote:

    It’s only going to get more fun when domains begin to come out in different languages…

    Friday, July 25, 2008 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  2. IDNers definitely need special skills to find the gems within the rocks. But having language skills will give anyone an edge over the competition. For instance, I find constantly IDNers promoting accented (tilded) domains that may or may not (haven’t really tested) get the exact match benefit, but that are sold because of the type-ins. In real practice, those type-ins (been tested) do not bring considerable traffic to think about a good ROI. Plus, depending on the language and search volume, using Spanish as an example, people prefer to search for non-tilded accented keywords like in this case: compañia, compania or compañía as seen in Gtrends.

    @Augusto: yes, good point about the search implications, which everyone in search/seo would see plainly.  BUT, and this further emphasizes my point, professionals in search have to know more about their own target markets than those of us outside of that market can see using published tools (like Google). Otherwise how can they win? I can see from Google insight that Latin American countries search X or Y, but unless I understand why they do that, I can’t do a good job of SEO. I can do a mediocre job, but not a good job. I think many SEO people have gotten lazy in this one search engine world.

    Friday, August 8, 2008 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  3. John,

    Thanks for your response. Yes indeed, search is deeply rooted and intertwined with other disciplines.

    Learning how to interpret data from tools is not enough, though this can give you patterns that can ultimately lead you to a better understanding of the ‘why’. However, quantification of behavioral or cultural aspects behind search is something that is just being explored. Perhaps the closest concept that comes to mind is Hitwise inclusion of demographics and lifestyle variables using Mosaic USA as a part of their competitive intelligence analysis tool.

    The reason why I brought up the difference in search results with those keywords was to support the hypothesis that the vast majority of Spanish speakers use keyboards that are pre-configured for English speakers. Personally, I don’t think that most users have the understanding on how to reconfigure their keyboards to better assist their needs. I’ve personally seen that in many occasions, discussed about that and finally came to this conclusion. That may respond to the ‘why’ there are lower search volumes between tilded and non-tilded keywords. As you said, it’s about knowing your target audience more than anyone else to get a competitive edge. Language as an isolated variable will give you an edge, but nothing better than having a deep understanding of other cultural and behavioral aspects.

    But the question remains, how is it possible that some IDNers without really knowing their target audience/markets benefit from current IDNs and may even further benefit once full IDNs are implemented?


    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 10:17 pm | Permalink