When you’re choosing a domain name for your site, there are a wide variety of factors that can go into your decision. Here are some of the most important things to consider for your domain name.
New or Existing Business
If you’re starting a new business you have more flexibility in choosing a domain name because your business name probably isn’t locked in yet. In-fact, these days it makes sense to see what domain name you can get first then choose your business name to match. Most of the considerations below are geared towards new businesses.
If you have an existing business and you’re looking for a domain name you still have some flexibility but you’re probably going to want something that matches your brand.
Go With .Com (to be on the safe side)
If you’re building an international or US based business, the conventional wisdom says you should get a .com. If your business is targeting another country such as Australia or the UK then you can go with the appropriate ccTLD (country code top level domain) for that country, e.g. .com.au or .co.uk, or you could also use a .com.
Dot com is the most popular TLD (top level domain) which has created the situation where people just assume that a business’ domain will be businessname.com if it’s an international or US based business. In other countries, such as Australia, most people would assume businessname.com.au.
There are other TLDs available such as .net, .org, .co etc., and businesses commonly choose these if their preferred .com isn’t available, but they’re always going to leak visitors to the .com version of the domain. If the .com is held by a similar or directly competing business then this could be a big problem, if not it’s still going to be annoying and frustrating for the person trying to get to your website.
Walk on the Wild Side
Ok, I just got done telling you why you should go with a .com or local equivalent to be on the safe side, but what if you want to walk on the wild side and do something different to set your business apart? Enter: new gTLDs (generic top level domains).
A ‘gTLD’ is “A TLD with three or more characters that does not correspond to any country code.” We’ve already mentioned a few gTLDs including .com, .net, .org but now we’re going to talk about ‘new gTLDs’ (this is not a technical term) which refers to the hundreds (656 at time of writing) of new gTLDs released onto the internet as part of ICANN’s program to expand the number of gTLDs available. For example, here are some of those currently available on Go Daddy;
If you don’t want to ‘play it safe’ you can take this opportunity to register a domain with one of the new gTLDs. This will give you a much wider choice of domains to choose from and something different to make your website stand out both on the web in general and in your other marketing materials. However, you will probably have to invest some extra time in educating people about what your domain is and dealing with people who don’t understand the shift away from .com that they’re used to.
Branded vs Keyword Domains
You need to decide whether you want your business name and domain to be descriptive of what you do e.g. realestate.com or more brandable e.g. yahoo.com. In the past, domains made up of keywords only, known as ‘exact match’ domains (EMDs), received a boost in search engines but Google reduced that effect for low quality websites in 2012, although high quality websites can still benefit
Keyword domains also have the advantage of being self-explanatory to anyone looking at them where as a brandable domain needs further explanation. The downside of keyword domains is that they are generic, difficult to trademark and easy for others to copy.
A brandable domain on the other hand is usually not self-explanatory but once you spend time and money on advertising and marketing it can become a recognisable and memorable brand.
If you can’t decide whether you want a keyword domain or a brandable domain then a hybrid might be the right choice for you. To create a hybrid domain you take a keyword related to your business, products or services and combine it with another word (or words) e.g. Tech Crunch or Gadget Guy.
Make it Easy
A domain name should be user-friendly, which means that it’s easy to spell, easy to read, and easy to communicate to your clients. When you’re looking for the right domain name, actually try to read what you’ve written and see if it’s easy to follow. Speak the domain name out loud to another person and have them write it down; see if they write down the same domain name as you’ve picked. If you can’t pass these two tests, then you may want to reconsider the name.
Another way to make your domain name easy for users is to make sure that it clearly states what you offer on the website. A good name should allow potential customers to guess what your business is about. If your company name is based off of a word or a person’s name, consider making the final word be a keyword that describes the content of the business.
Make it Catchy
A domain name needs to be catchy and roll off the tongue. You might want to choose a variety of arrangements for your keywords and then have co-workers take a vote to see which one sounds the best. Avoid anything that’s a mouthful to say.
In order to make your domain name catchy, you need to strike a balance between making the name explicit and using metaphors and descriptors. If you sell purses and lamps, consider what’s special about the items you sell, and include at least one keyword that’s unique to your specific business.
Keep it Short
This tip goes hand in hand with the ones above. A domain name will be easy and catchy if it’s simple. A short domain name is also easier to remember and simple to type. Finally, a short domain name fits on your business cards and social media pages better than a long one does.
Leave Out the Special Characters
Part of making your domain simple to communicated is avoiding the special characters. If you have to tell your clients that your domain name is “dogfood hyphen delivery dot com”, it just adds to the confusion and makes the domain name less catchy. What’s worse, people might leave out the hyphen when typing your site name in and then they won’t be able to find you.
Leave Out the Numbers
Aside from making your domain name harder to read, numbers can be a pain for users who are on mobile devices, since they will need to switch to a different keyboard in order to type them in. Having a number in your name might also signal that the name is not unique enough, if the keywords are already taken without the number. You may need to go back to the drawing board to come up with some more keywords for your domain name.
Plan for the Future
As a small business choosing your domain name, you may only have one or two specialities. However, before you lock your business into a specific domain name, consider whether you are likely to expand in the future. For instance, if you currently sell only necklaces in your business, you may be tempted to choose a domain name with the word “necklaces” in it; you might be better off choosing the keyword “jewellery” in order to allow for expansion.
Check the History
Before you commit to the perfect domain name, it’s important to check the history of that domain to make sure it’s clean. It’s possible that, in the past, the domain name was used by spammers to send out junk emails or other threats to internet users. There’s also the possibility it has been penalised by Google and other search engines due to black hat SEO. There are several tools online for checking the domain history before you buy.
Avoid Copyright Infringement
Another problem can occur when you choose a name that is already under copyright. A certain business may go by your domain name but have a different domain name for their own site, or they may host it under a .net or other domain name ending. Check with the copyright office to be sure that your domain name is not a trademark of another company.
Choosing the right domain name can be a lot of pressure, since it’s something you’ll be stuck with for the long haul. However, if you are creative about following the tips above, you’re sure to find something that fits your personal interests and also makes your site user-friendly.