Archive for the ‘Domain names’ Category

The dilemma of a name, mine in particular

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

My name is Melissa Chang. That seems like a simple statement, but it really isn’t if you dig a little deeper. Some of you may know, for instance, that my name used to be Melissa Reyen – after all, it wasn’t so long ago that I got married and decided to take my husband’s name.

But the decision to change my name wasn’t a simple one. I had some credits to my name (although small ones, admittedly). I also have a strong love for my family and pride in my family name. (The Reyen Clan often breaks into chants of “Reyen’s Rule” at family weddings, BBQs and just walking down the street – hey, I said that we were proud, not that we were cool!)

But my wedding day was a solid year before I started my business and this blog. If it wasn’t, I’m honestly not sure what I would have done because changing my name to Melissa Chang was not a good business move.

The reason for this was raised by Ryan Healy today in the Employee Evolution blog. His article is all about controlling your name as your personal brand and figuring out how to dominate Google searches for your name as a keyword. As you might guess, it was simple to be ranked first for the term Melissa Reyen. In fact, just by writing the name Melissa Reyen a few more times in this post, it is entirely possible that this post will become #1 in Google for the term Melissa Reyen.

Reyen is a great name

But Melissa Chang is another story. In the U.S., Melissa is the 30th most popular first name and Chang is the 687th most popular last name. Expand the search to China, and Chang is the 5th most popular name. There are a lot of Melissa Chang’s out there, so it’s hard to stand out. I also don’t own the domain name www.melissachang.com, even though I own 500 other domains, including MadamChang.com (no, I’m not kidding).

Things are even trickier when it comes to managing my identity on social networking sites, especially when my user name is an important part of my profile. Mchang is never available; neither is melissachang. I usually end up going with mchang16, which is a combination of my name and my blog, but honestly isn’t very satisfactory.

But thankfully I didn’t think about all those issues when I was trying to decide if I should change my name. At the time I was more focused on leaving the name Melissa Reyen, which I was quite fond of, and wondering how many times people would make assumptions about me if I had the last name Chang. (Watch this clip from Seinfeld if you’re wondering what I’m talking about.)

Ultimately, I’m glad that I changed my name for all the reasons that mattered to me. But I’m very glad that I didn’t have to make the decision after I had spent time building my business and personal brand – because then things would have gotten complicated (although probably not as complicated as this).

My favorite posts of 2008

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I’m finally back and getting into the groove of 2009 after heading to my hometown to spend time with family for Christmas, and then taking off time over New Year’s, as well. It’s good to be back. But before I start looking forward to all the very good things that are coming in 2009, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2008. Here are my favorite posts (for a variety of reasons) from the past year.

2008 blog posts

 

10 less-than-great personality traits of entrepreneurs (2/25/08)
“Here’s a look at 10 qualities that some entrepreneurs share that may help them be great at starting a company, but not so great at existing in normal society.”

The board meeting & the business plan (1/25/08)
“No matter how solid the plans are in your mind, you’ll find holes when you write things down. This is true in about 99.9% of the cases. I’m sure that there are exceptions; other people like Jack Kerouac who famously wrote On the Road on one long scroll, but in general, things get clearer when they are written down. ”

What Skymall can teach you about user testing (1/23/08)
“Basho the Sumo Wrestler table will go well with any decor, unless you’re sitting behind it.”

What’s going to happen to the music industry? (1/8/08)
“So this puts the music industry in this strange position. The indie artists, who are making some money on their small but loyal audiences and the Long Tail, but often not enough money to live off of, would be psyched to get a record contract because the record companies have the marketing and distribution capabilities that they don’t have access to. The big (and already famous) bands, are trying to get out of their contracts in favor of the freedom that the indie artists enjoy. And the record companies are panicking. This is creating a weird, wild situation where everything is about to totally implode if change doesn’t happen quickly.”

7 ways to raise money for your start-up (2/19/08)
“The good news for anyone who has limited resources when starting a company is that entrepreneurs seem to agree that this can be a good thing. The need to conserve resources often leads to creativity, hard-work, and a drive to succeed that can be missing when money is available and things are easier and more comfortable. So the first piece of advice when you’re thinking about raising money is to make sure that you really need it before going after cash.”

Four hurdles to jump after starting a business (2/13/08)
“When you start a business, you may be trying to hold onto faith that it will be a success, but you don’t really know that it will be. Along with that, you don’t always know where you’re next client will come from. Or employee. Or dollar. So you have to come to a point of accepting the not knowing, embracing the uncertainty. For me, it’s kind of a thrill to be working this all out as I go because I have come to believe that no matter what I face, I’ll figure it out. It might not be today or tomorrow, but eventually, I’ll either determine a way to get around the issue, find someone to help me with it, or overcome it in some way.”

4 reasons media companies are so far behind in social media (3/25/08)
“One issue that the tech publishing companies have is that they are stuck with legacy systems that were created before the term “social media” even existed. While blogs that are newcomers on the scene were built from the ground-up to support social media, the big publishers are struggling to make the smallest changes to their massive publishing systems that will allow them to play in the social media space. These companies have millions of pages of content – all stuck in ancient content management systems that they adopted in the 1990s. This digging out of legacy technology and making the transition to Web 2.0 technologies is not going to happen quickly, easily or at a low cost for these companies.”

5 ways to make sure that skimmers will read your email message (3/13/08)
“The life of a skimmer is treacherous. They go to meetings and get asked a question “about that email that was sent yesterday” and have absolutely no idea how to answer. They never know what time the party is going to start, or who was invited, or what day it is going to be held. Skimming causes problems. But for whatever reason, skimmers can’t stop. They might just think it’s ridiculous that people send long email messages. They might be “all about efficiency” or “impatient” or “don’t care.” The list of reasons is long.”

The rare women tech start-up founder (4/30/08)
“Although it may have been said many times in many ways, I think it’s a mistake to gloss over the issue of having kids…For every start-up founder, I think, balancing a career with the rest of life is something to think about. But as a woman, the issue rarely leaves my mind. It adds urgency, pressure and stress. And I’m sure for some women, this trifecta of bad emotion is enough to keep them from starting that start-up.”

10 reasons entrepreneurs should take more vacations (4/17/08)
“You are getting boring to be around. This is happening to me. I meet with friends for a drink or dinner, and they ask me what’s going on, and pretty much the only thing that I have to tell them about is my business. And to me, it’s really exciting and fun and interesting to talk about my work. But I can tell that their eyes are starting to glaze over at times.”

I like Twitter, but it has a big problem (4/11/08)
Everyone was writing about Twitter. I knew that I had to figure out how to use it, but I was struggling. I personally knew only one person who used Twitter. My friends (mostly non-techies) and business colleagues (behind in Web 2.0) weren’t using it. So I started “following” people, just in an attempt to see how Twitter worked.”

Stop scheduling meetings on Tuesdays and get to work (5/8/08)
“I might be the last person to know this, but Tuesday is the most productive day of the week. I was alerted to this fact by this blog post, which pointed to some research by Robert Half International. But then when I went to dig in deeper, Tuesday-is-the-most-productive-day-ever was all over the Internet.”

.anydomainnameyouwant soon to be available for purchase (6/27/08)
“I have heard a lot of people making the case that the only domain name that really matters is .com. Although I agree that the .com domain name will stay the strongest for the foreseeable future, this thinking is really short-sighted. Although technology is advancing quickly, the Internet is still in its infancy. It’s hard to predict what will happen in two years, let alone in 20 years. I think that there is a very good chance that other gTLDs will become important. I’ve seen evidence of this in other countries, and honestly, it’s even possible that the gTLD system could eventually go away entirely.”

10 tips for building a killer Facebook app (6/5/08)
“Do the “addiction test.” Can someone use your application once and then never again? Not good. Do they use it once and then feel compelled to immediately use it again? That’s good. Do they want to go back and use it the next day? And the next? That’s even better.”

Patience is a virtue that I just don’t have (but I’m working on it) (8/21/08)
“I have fought a life-long battle with patience. I know that this story is not unique – very few people like to wait. But I’m writing about this now because I have enduring a trial that is requiring patience that I never thought I could muster – the patience needed to start a company.”

Five things your business can learn from Disney (8/13/08)
“Fake it ’til you make it. When Disney introduces a new potential star to its audience, it makes sure that the nobody looks like a somebody from the first moment they are introduced. The singer is usually introduced in a short-clip music video or concert during a commercial break on the Disney Channel. That video shows a huge crowd of adoring, hip, teenage fans screaming and swooning for the “star.” This crowd is made up of paid and wannabe actors, and the music video is usually shot in a studio. But it looks like the singer is a star, and more importantly people believe the singer is a star, even before it is true.”

Five reasons to start delegating more today (9/10/08)
“Believing that you are the only one that can do a task isn’t helpful for you and isn’t helpful for your business. And it’s probably not true. This is the most common protest made by over-achievers and perfectionists who think that they can do the work the best or the fastest or without any help. And this notion is dangerous because trying to run a business completely alone will not work.”

10 ways to stay positive when times are tough (11/4/08)
“I am an optimist, but I’ve been feeling this slump like everyone else. As an entrepreneur, I feel a little bit like I have a split personality, reminding myself of all the reasons that starting a company during a recession is a good idea, internalizing all the reasons that owning a business in a recession is a very difficult prospect. It’s emotionally draining.”

Babel Fish, Google Translate and human go head-to-head (12/5/08)
“To me, it looks like the human with moderate Spanish skills won, hands down. But if you aren’t lucky enough to sit 3 feet away from someone who is willing to indulge your translation needs, I would go with Google Translate. At least in Spanish-to-English translation, with these examples, it had a slight advantage.”

3 surefire ways to save money when shopping online

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

I realize that the online holiday shopping season is drawing to a close, but I thought I would share these three money-saving tips that I discovered this year when shopping online. I hope that they will save you some cash. Oh, and if you have any other online shopping, money-saving tips, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks!

1. Group a lot of items into one order to take advantage of the free shipping deal. I hate paying shipping costs. Paying for shipping is actually the only reason that I do ANY of my shopping at the malls these days – I just can’t bear to pay $20 in shipping for my $20 item. A lot of sites offer free shipping for orders over a certain amount. Amazon.com (my favorite online retailer) offers free shipping for orders over $25. Crate and Barrel has free shipping on orders over $100. If you group a lot of items together and buy them all from one place, the shipping charges are erased.

Crate and Barrel free shipping

2. Comparison shop using awesome online tools. There are a number of shopping sites that will allow you to comparison shop if you know what you want, but not necessarily where you want to buy it. For example, I bought Chris (my husband) a Ray Allen Celtics t-shirt for Christmas. To find the best price, I used a number of sites to compare prices. I looked up Ray Allen t-shirt on Amazon, I checked out prices on Google Product Search (which used to be called Froogle), and BizRate, which is an online shopping comparison tool. This not only let me get a quick look at all the various styles of shirts, but it also let me find the price that fit my budget. (Don’t worry, I can write this with no fear of Chris seeing it because he doesn’t read my blog. If you know him, please feel free to give him a hard time about this fact when you see him next, as long as it’s after Christmas!)

Ray Allen Comparison shopping

3. Make sure you do a search to find coupons. I’m not a big coupon clipper. Don’t get me wrong, I love when I have a coupon. But it’s rare that I take the time to pour through ads to find a coupon for something I might be buying at some possible time in the future. I am, however, a huge user of online coupons.

I was turned onto the online coupon tactic through buying domain names. I always register my domain names through GoDaddy.com, and it has a perpetual coupon (code: OYH3) that lets me buy .com domain names for $2.50 off. Since my company owns almost 400 domain names, you can see why this cost-savings is appealing.

UPDATE: The “perpetual” GoDaddy.com coupon is no longer working! So try this one: OYH7. Although if this doesn’t work, make sure that you search Google for “GoDaddy coupons” before buying. (Hat tip: @longest)

This year, I tried out this tactic with online shopping. Online coupon hunting doesn’t have a 100% success rate – sometimes I could find a coupon, and sometimes I couldn’t. But if you do find a coupon that works, it will be worth the time you spent looking. There are many sites that are dedicated to online coupons (Coupons.com, CouponCabin and CoolSavings are just some of them). But I prefer to use Google and type in my search, such as “Coldwater Creek Coupon.” In that real-life example, I found a coupon that saved me 40% off my entire order, which was as good as $20 in my pocket.

Coldwater Creek Coupon code

Happy shopping!

Facts and figures about International Domain Names

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

My latest article is now up on The Industry Standard – “Chinese, Arabic and Hindi domain names to go up for sale – finally!” The post discusses the recent domain name news from ICANN, specifically, the announcement that International Domain Names (IDNs) will soon be available in non-Roman languages.

To this point in history, domain names have all been in Roman characters. The reasons for this are explained in the article, so I won’t go into them again here, but I just can’t emphasize enough the impact that this new resolution is going to have on the Internet. Let’s put it this way – if you don’t speak Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Hindi or Arabic, you might want to start learning. English is on the decline, and although it is still the primary language of business, this recent announcement is just continuing to solidify the importance of the rest of the global community on the future of the Internet.

The following are some interesting facts & figures that I came across during my research:

- “The German ccTLD (.de) remains the largest ccTLD in terms of the total base of domain name registrations, with .cn and .uk as the next largest ccTLDs. Quarter over quarter, .de grew 2%, .uk grew 4% and .cn grew 23%. When viewed year over year, .cn’s growth at 199% outpaced both .de (11%) and .uk (16%).” From VeriSign’s Domain Name Industry Brief (pdf)

 Countrywise domain names
Chart from Webhosting.info

- In China, over 80% of the population cannot speak English. – ICANN

- 92% of the world’s population does not speak English. -ICANN 

- By 2050, more people will speak Chinese, Hindi (and its close relative, Urdu) or Arabic as a first language than English. -EurekAlert

- The languages growing the most rapidly are Bengali, Tamil and Malay, which are spoken in various countries in South and Southeast Asia. -EurekAlert

Changing of world's population
Source: EurekAlert

- The IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) is currently testing the new ccTLDs – here is what some of them will look like:

 International Domain Names
From IANA site

I can’t help but get the feeling that the United States’ days are numbered in terms of its dominance of all things Internet.

.anydomainnameyouwant soon to be available for purchase

Friday, June 27th, 2008

This week, ICANN voted to expand gTLDs (generic top level domains) so that there are no longer restrictions on the gTLDs that can be registered and used online. A gTLD refers to the letters that come after the last dot Dotcomin a URL string, such as .com, .gov or .org. Previously, there were a limited number of generic top level domains, but this resolution by ICANN, the body that controls and governs the domain name industry, will open every gTLD as a possible domain name extension going forward. These new gTLDs are likely to start hitting the market in the fourth quarter of 2009.

A companion resolution was also pushed through, which will allow domain names to use non-Roman characters. This means that Chinese, Arabic and Cyrillic characters, for example, will all be able to be used in domain names.

These are historic decisions by ICANN, although there is a lot of debate about what kind of actual impact they will have on the industry. For more details on the specifics of what was announced, check out the announcement here.

Here are some of my initial thoughts:

This decision is important and will have an impact. Since this announcement, I have heard a lot of people making the case that the only domain name that really matters is .com. Although I agree that the .com domain name will stay the strongest for the foreseeable future, this thinking is really short-sighted. Although technology is advancing quickly, the Internet is still in its infancy. It’s hard to predict what will happen in two years, let alone in 20 years. I think that there is a very good chance that other gTLDs will become important. I’ve seen evidence of this in other countries, and honestly, it’s even possible that the gTLD system could eventually go away entirely.

It will take awhile for any new gTLD to become popular. People are comfortable with their current domain names and will likely stay with them in the short term. But this decision opens the door for a new site with a new domain name to come in and make a splash. And if that happens, it could popularize a new gTLD quickly.

This decision does nothing to hurt domain name speculators, it only helps them. The decision does not lessen the value of their current domain names, and it opens the possibility that they might be able to add a whole batch more to their already-valuable portfolios. They’ll be able to use the techniques, tactics and strategies (not to mention automated scripts and money!) that they created in the first round of domain name speculation to continue to round out their portfolios.

A new energy is going to be injected into the domain name industry that hasn’t been seen in awhile. I expect a lot of creativity, and I think that we’ll be pleasantly surprised by the fun and interesting ways that people think up of capitalizing on this opportunity.

There are significant trademark ramifications. Here is a good story if you’re interested in that.

The average man on the street is going to be confused when new gTLDs are introduced. There will have to be some serious marketing and explaining done to help translate this to the millions who are just now using .com comfortably.

The current alternate extensions are in trouble. I agree with this analysis that .info, .biz and a few other currently existing gTLDs will probably not do as well going forward.

The biggest impact will be with the companion decision, which is that ICANN is now going to allow non-Roman characters in domain names. This means that countries that don’t use Roman characters in their primary languages (China, India, Russia, etc.) will now be able to register domain names in their native languages. This is the one area that I think that there will be real, meaningful and quick growth. Asian, Arabic, Cyrillic and other scripts will now be able to have domain names – this is huge based on the numbers alone:

“At the moment, there are one-and-a-half billion people online and four-and-a-half billion people for whom the Roman script just means nothing.”  

There will be some shakeout on the specifics of this decision in the coming months, and expect a lot of buzz as the end of 2009 approaches.

Photo by husin.sani

Domain names & widgets in Ireland

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

I’m back from my vacation, and it was terrific. Basically, Chris and I spent an entire week having fun and relaxing – and not a bit of work was done by either of us. It was a real vacation!

Of course, I may not have officially been working, but I was on the lookout for business ideas and interesting perspectives on the Internet during my time in Ireland. Only two things stood out:

1) Most ads, billboards and marketing that I saw in the country included a URL, and most of those URLs ended in .ie. I really was surprised at the prevalence of the country-specific domain name usage in Ireland. I can’t be sure if it was just Ireland that uses it’s country code, or if that practice is common across the world, but I definitely expected .com to be more popular in Ireland than it appeared to be, at least in what I was looking at as I drove across the country. This trend (or non-trend) is something that I am going to be watching closely for globalization projects.

2) In Ireland, a widget is related to Guinness, not the Web. In fairness, many people in Ireland probably think of the Web when they hear the word widget. But for us, during this trip, the widget was all about the Guinness.

According to this interesting post by Fred Wilson that I read when I got back from my trip (Why Widgets is the Wrong Word for What We’re Doing), widgets as they relate to the Web may soon be an outdated term (or concept) anyway. But for posterity, a widget is “an object on the computer screen that the user interacts with,” according to Wikipedia. It’s basically a piece of code that can be used on a Web page (or blog) to deliver specific content or functionality to a Web page. (I am not convinced that the widget is going away, although Wilson makes an interesting point.)

In terms of Guinness, the widget is a little plastic ball that is in the canned version of the beer that releases gases to help make the head that Guinness is so famous for. This link provides some very helpful information (and a picture) about the Guinness widget.

I told you I was on vacation and not working, right?

The dominance of .com domains

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

I just published an article for The Industry StandardThe allure of the .com domain name. The article deals with the reasons that the .com top-level domain has become by far the most popular in the world.

To see just how big a lead .com has over its closest competitors, check out this chart. The chart shows the top 6 TLDs and the percentages when compared against each other, not the percetages when compared against the total of all TLDs. (The data comes from here.)

.com domainance

As part of the research for this article, I posted a question to the Targeted Traffic Forum, which I am lucky enough to be a part of. This site, which was founded by Rick Schwartz, has the best domain-related conversations of any that I have ever seen on the Web, and the people who hang out in this forum have really great insight into the domain name industry.

The question I posted was this:

I am working on an article about how the .com extension has maintained the highest value and allure compared to other top-level domains. I’m curious if anyone has interesting thoughts or theories as to why .com is so much more valuable.

I got some really great responses, and I wanted to include some of them here.

Joe Alagna, CentralNic:

95% of the largest brands in the world and their sub-brands advertise .COM domains every day on TV, Billboards, Radio, in Print, and Online. Here are the top 10…

Company | 2007 Ad Spend

proctorandgamble.COM (et. al.) | $3.4 Billion
att.COM | $2.3 Billion
verizon.COM | $2.1 Billion
generalmotors.COM (et. al.) | $2.1 Billion
timewarner.COM | $1.7 Billion
fordmotors.COM (et. al.) | $1.6 Billion
waltdisney.COM (et. al.) | $1.3 Billion
johnsonandjohnson.COM (et. al.) | $1.3 Billion
sprint.COM | $1.3 Billion
newscorp.COM (et. al.) | $1.3 Billion

Total for just the top ten advertisers in the US | $18.6 Billion

There are 18.6 billion reasons that .COM is the most recognized Tld on the planet (benefiting all .COM owners in the world) and this doesn’t include the long tail which is a larger piece.

The biggest advertisers in the world advertise .COM domains. Dot.COM is burned into our collective consciousness every hour of every day. It’s as simple as that.

 

Mark Teaster:

I’ve seen the arguement go around many times – and the explanation that seems to fit best to me was always the “implied” restrictions on .net (As Networks etc ..) and on .org (Non-profit and various Organizations).

 

Derek, Aardwolf MUD:

Somewhat philosophical, but this is similar to how language itself develops. The words we use for most things are arbitrary, if a “rose” had been called an “esor” then, by convention, it becomes a standard. If “Blog” had been called “Webiary” (web diary) we’d all be using that term. It doesn’t matter *what* the term is, but once it is established it takes generations to change it. You can’t just suddenly declare that a “blog” is now known as a “webiary” and everyone falls in line. This is where .COM is, imho.

 

Paul W. Smith Jr., Realty Net Sales.com LLC:

I think also, if you asked the majority you will find their favorite website is a .com. Allot of us visit .com for daily activities. The .com is synonymous with the internet, for instance you can ask people if they have gone to your myspace page and you don’t have to say myspace.com. Also, have you googled it, again, no mention of google.com, just google. Ebay.org, nahhh, that even sounds funny. You can type in google.net and it redirects to the .com. The .com is the internet.

How about your favorite news site, car site, travel site, search site, etc….. Dot com is the gold standard. Name an interest or hobby and I can name a .com website for you but I cannot name a .net or .rw .or .ps, or .tv etc…

Will it change? Possibly but it took a generation to learn, it will take a generation to change.

 

What do you think?

The top 30 blogs and the domain name lesson they teach

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

I recently was doing research for a project that led me to the Technorati Top 100 – the list of the 100 most popular blogs as ranked by Technorati.

TypoFor my project, I was looking at the design of the various top blogs, so I had two browser windows open. In one window, I had the page with the list opened. I looked at the names in that window, closed the window, opened the other window, and then typed the domain name into the address field in the new window. I don’t have two monitors, so this entailed closing the window that had the names listed before opening the other window.

What did I find? I mistyped a LOT of the names.

Here are the ones that I got wrong in the top 30.

Correct URL / What I typed

www.gizmodo.com / www.gismodo.com

www.BoingBoing.net / www.BoingBoing.com

www.dailykos.com / www.dailykoz.com

www.thinkprogress.org / www.thinkprogress.com

www.consumerist.com / www.theconsumerist.com

www.scobleizer.com / www.scobelizer.com 

The interesting thing I found through all of these errors is that none of these mistyped URLs redirected to the correct domain name. They were all owned by domain name speculators who were out to make money off bad spellers who might click on a link on one of the parked pages. This practice entails buying domain names that people might accidentally type into the address bar – like I did with these popular blog names – and then putting a page up on the site that is fed by ads – so every time someone clicks a link on one of those pages, the speculator earns some money. For more on this industry, read this article.

The lesson? Try to consider easy-to-do misspellings of your domain names, and buy those as soon as you can – maybe not when you buy the initial domain name (if you’re trying to save on cash) but as soon as you know that you’re going to do something significant with the domain. And don’t forget to snap up the .com, .net and .org extensions, as well.

Photo by Marcin Wichary

Pizza.com domain sells for $2.6 million

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Just saw the news that Pizza.com sold for $2.6 million in auction. I’ll need to add this to my list of million dollar domain names.

Some people think the the domain name industry is crazy, that domains are selling for too much money. I disagree. There are a limited number of .com domain names, and having them is going to get increasingly valuable unless (or until) another naming convention takes over on the Internet. But that will be years away from now if it even happens.

My philosophy – if you find a good domain name, buy it immediately. Of course, I am not in the market for million dollar domain names, but I do think that this is a good buy.

Subdirectories vs. subdomains

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Thinking about About.com yesterday reminded me of one of the reasons that I paid such close attention to them for so many years – About.com is the best example of a successful company that uses a subdomain structure for its domain names.

There has been a perpetual debate over which is better way to set up the domain names for a site network:

– A subdirectory structure, for example www.sitename.com/ships 

– A subdomain structure, for example http://ships.sitename.com 

In my mind, this debate was recently ended by Google’s Matt Cutts. In his words:

“Historically, it’s been kind of a wash about when to use subdomains vs. subdirectories…My personal preference on subdomains vs. subdirectories is that I usually prefer the convenience of subdirectories for most of my content. A subdomain can be useful to separate out content that is completely different. Google uses subdomains for distinct products such news.google.com or maps.google.com, for example. If you’re a newer webmaster or SEO, I’d recommend using subdirectories until you start to feel pretty confident with the architecture of your site. At that point, you’ll be better equipped to make the right decision for your own site.”

Bottom line: either way is fine. Pick your favorite and go with it.