In many ways, choosing a domain name for your new website is the hardest part of the site creation process. Given how difficult it can be to transfer websites to new URLs – and given the potential SEO losses that could occur by doing so – it’s vital that you get things right from the start.
For domain names, as in real estate, having the right address can make all the difference. Web traffic, branding, expectations, and recognizability all can depend in large part on the digital storefront that is your domain name.
Choosing the right domain name can be a daunting task, but here are some tips to help guide you in the right direction.
1. Look for “.com”
When it comes to domain names, you have the option to register everything from a standard “.com” URL to a country-specific extension like “.tv” (Tuvalu) or “.ly” (Libya).
That said, registering a “.com” is the best choice for nearly all businesses, for two specific reasons:
“.com” domains have better name recognition. If you want readers to be able to enter your URL directly into their browsers, they’re far more likely to remember your address if it ends in “.com.”
There’s a small SEO benefit to registering a “.com” domain, as the search engines tend to view these web URLs as belonging to stable, legitimate businesses.
Unless you have a truly compelling reason to register an alternative domain extension, stick with “.com” for best results.
2. Consider registering multiple domain extensions
Keep in mind that the right URL might not just be one web address – it might be multiple versions of the same domain name!
As the number of domain names registered continues to increase, good names are becoming more and more competitive. For this reason, it’s possible to have a competitor snatch up the “.net” or “.biz” version of your URL – even if you’ve secured the “.com” version.
Because this can lead to lost traffic – especially if your competitors wind up outranking you in the search engine results pages – consider buying up popular TLDs (Top Level Domains) for your chosen domain, if they’re available.
3. Aim for no more than three words
Another issue that arises due to this increased competition is the availability of desired domains. If your company has a truly unique name (for example, “Kaczmarek Consulting”), you likely won’t have an issue securing your “.com” domain.
But if your business name is even the slightest bit more generic, expect to encounter some difficulties when it comes to finding a “.com” domain.
If you find yourself in this situation, your first instinct might be to register a longer domain name (as in, “www.johnsontaxlawattorneyssanfrancisco.com” rather than “www.johnsontaxlaw.com”). Again, though, keep in mind how important domain memorability is.
When your domain name is too long – typically, more than three words in length – your customers won’t be able to remember your website’s URL. And while they’ll still be able to find your business using the search engines, you risk sending traffic to your competition if these visitors enter their “best guess” URL into their browsers instead of doing their due diligence.
For best results, keep things short, sweet and easy to remember!
4. Avoid “cutesy” names and abbreviations
On that same note, another domain name choice that’ll kill your memorability is to include “cutesy” names, abbreviations or numbers in your URL.
Take, for example, the sample domain name, “www.realtors4u.com.”
While this might initially look like a good way to skirt around availability issues while still maintaining your company’s branding, there’s a big issue here. Whenever you try to tell somebody your domain name, you’ll have to explain that your URL uses the number “4” – rather than the spelled-out word – and the letter “u,” not the full word “you.”
If you think people might have trouble remembering long URLs, know that they’ll have a field day trying to remember your text-speak domain name! Steer clear and look for alternative domain names that convey your company’s brand messaging without resorting to tricks like these.
5. Avoid unintentional domain hilarity
One final caveat when it comes to choosing a domain name is to carefully review your final selection before hitting the “Register” button for any inadvertently inappropriate language that might pop up.
To see what I mean, consider the real-life URLs for the following legitimate company names:
Pen Island – “www.penisland.net”
IT Scrap – “www.itscrap.com”
Who Represents – “www.whorepresents.com”
Experts Exchange – “www.expertsexchange.com”
Speed of Art – “www.speedofart.com”
Clearly, one final check will go a long way towards maintaining your business’s dignity online!
6. Manage customer expectations
When a customer sees a name like billreducer.com, they have one expectation in mind: this website is going to help me save money by reducing my bills in some way.
Choose a name that is going to let customers know from the moment they read it, what they are in for. If you run a company that provides office supplies, consider options like OfficeSupplies.com or OfficeNeeds.com, regardless of your company name. Both examples establish what is available at the site and hone in on the kind of customer you are looking for: individuals, whether personal or business, that are looking to purchase office supplies. Just as importantly, make sure your domain name sets expectations that you can fulfill. Choosing a domain like OfficeDreams.com suggests that your company remodels or redecorates offices, the word “dreams” suggesting a service instead of a product.
7. Choose a domain that’s easy to remember
Customers will find your website URL on flyers, newsletters, search queries, and other websites so making the address stick is key.
Consider the domain Lifehacker.com. Potential visitors will look at the address and think, “how does one hack life?” The combination of life, a rather un-technical, haphazard venture, and hacking, a highly skilled, potentially sneaky way of shortcutting tasks, leaves a lasting and curious impression.
Memorable domain names are often short, clever, and avoid trendy humor, hyphens or numbers. The longer or more complicated the domain name, the less likely it is to stick.
8. Stay clear of copyrighted terms
Intellectual Property (IP) has become a jealously guarded asset of many businesses, so your domain name should respect any potential copyrights. With the frequently nebulous nature of IP laws, you can never be too careful. In fact, in 2007, the University of Wisconsin pressured an Iowa school district over the similar shape of the two brands’ “W” logo. Research competitors in your market, paying attention to local, national, and even international firms, and consider whether or not your idea could be construed as a copyright violation.
9. Incorporate keywords
Internet search is based on a framework of keywords and phrases when indexing addresses and sites, so why not take advantage of this when choosing your domain name?
Brainstorm keywords related to your organization and use these in shaping your chosen name. For example, a butcher’s shop might name meat, butcher, smoked, cured, savory, friendly, and service as descriptive keywords for his/her business. An appropriate name might then be SavoryService.com or TheSmilingButcher.com. Either domain respects the fact that search engines work off of such keywords when indexing and fetching information for users, while providing a description of what customers can expect in the process.
Final thoughts on choosing your domain name
The important thing to remember is that your domain name is as much a part of your identity as your company logo and products. Think of your URL as your virtual storefront; a chance to set expectations and brand your organization. Respect search engine protocols, copyright, and be prepared to make an investment in your company when you finalize your purchase.
Before customers see your layout, content, and branding, your domain name is the first impression they have. Convoluted strings of incomprehensible prefixes, varyingly successful attempts at niche humor, and over-acronymed domain names can all send customers packing before they even open the page.
As you go about the domain name selection process, remember that moving your site from one URL to another is a complicated process. Not only do you risk losing visitors as the result of your rebranding process, your site could potentially lose SEO value as well – damaging your ability to drive traffic from the search engines. Take the time to think through all of your available domain name options to make sure that your ultimate selection represents the best long-term fit for your business needs.
Ready to get started? Check now to see if your domain name is available today.