How to Choose a Domain Name
You’ve decided to start your own business and thought of a perfect name for it. You might even consider copywriting it. The next step is choosing a fitting domain to launch your services online. Domain names can be many things: long, short, quirky, whatever fits. Logically, whatever you go for, the domain name you pick should complement your business or service.
Given the hundreds of thousands of websites in existence, the logical domain name might have been snapped up by someone else. When your first pick isn’t available, you have to settle for a different name. This is the real struggle behind choosing a domain name, finding a viable alternative.
Tip 1 - Keep it Simple
Length - Successful site owners swear by the KISS method (keep it simple, stupid). We’re talking short and memorable. Long, complex domain names are off-putting to read and risk being misspelt or mistyped. On average, the most successful websites have nine character domain names and range from one to two words. Pinterest and Paypal are popular websites who have succeeded in keeping it short and punchy.
Pronunciation - If you have to spell your domain name out to your friends, you’re heading for trouble. People misspell domain names routinely, especially if they are hard to figure out. Go for something easy to pronounce, thus easy to spell to avoid losing traffic this way. There’s nothing wrong with creative spelling, Flickr for example is a successful website. On the other hand, can you imagine Siri understanding terms like this? For this reason, Flickr purchased Flicker.com to redirect their misplaced traffic.
Avoid hyphens and numbers - Non-alphabetic characters are often misunderstood. Imagine hearing a website name with a number. You won’t know if you should spell it out (seven), or use a numeral (7). Similarly, dashes can lead to misunderstandings, do you write out dash, or use a dash, or leave it out completely?
If these are essential to your domain name, be sure to register all the different variations to be on the safe side. Cola-Cola is an good example of this in practice. Type Cocacola.com into google only to be redirected to their trademarked namesake coca-cola.com.
Intuitive - Be logical, give your site an intuitive domain name which gives a good idea of what you’re all about. Seriouseats.com is an excellent example of an instinctive domain for a website all about food. Potential customers can reasonably predict what they’ll find at that site.
An added benefit of an instantly intuitive domain name, you’re instantly more memorable. It’s bound to stick in people's minds when they can grasp your concept from the domain name alone. Reconsider your choice if you find people struggle to pronounce your business name once seen written down.
Keep it local - If your business is strictly local, why not include the city or state in your domain? This will not only be instantly recognizable, but easy to remember. Las Vegas advertising firm fatbeardstudios.com changed to fatbead.vegas as soon as the .vegas gTLD was made available. Similarly, the official Eiffel Tower website moved from their Tour-Eiffel.Fr domain to even more location specific Tour-Eiffel.Paris once the .paris extension dropped.
Tip 2 - Find the Best Domain Name Extension
Bias toward .com - We’d recommend you go with .com wherever possible. .com domains are the most recognized and websites with this appendix are ranked better in search engines. The biggest global brands and organizations are registered with a .com domain from the New York Times to Apple.
Alternative extensions - When your domain name is not available in .com, or out of your price range, use an alternative suffix. The availability of thousands of new top-level domains makes it easier to create a short and memorable name which isn’t always possible with .com.
You’ll find a larger inventory of domains with the relatively new top-level domain extensions such as .coffee, .me, and .info for example. These might even be a smarter choice for your brand than a .com domain. Consider the photographic agency Behold Photography. Their original domain bhldphotos.com was less memorable than their current behold.photography address.
Localized TLDs - Going with a known country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is a viable alternative if your name is unavailable with .com. Purchasing ccTLDs is also wise for when your company grows and you expand internationally. You’ll want country specific domain extensions for your potential new customer base.
Buying these ahead of time will not only protect you from competitors doing so, it will improve your site’s appeal to your international customers. ccTLDs exist for pretty much every geographic region. For example, the ccTLD for the United States is .us, .ca represents Canada, .uk for the United Kingdom, and so on.
Tip 3 - Be SEO Aware
Search engine optimization, commonly known as SEO sounds more daunting than it is. It’s widely practiced method of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. Your domain name should be chosen with SEO in mind. Using keywords in your domain is a search engine ranking factor (which explains domains such as where-to-buy-the-best-pizza-in-new-york.com for example).
However, you must tread lightly when it comes to optimizing your domain name for search engines. There are SEO best practices to stick to make sure google recognizes your website and avoid a penalty for keyword stuffing.
Related Keywords - Use keywords related to the business or the services you offer. If you sell laptops, include the word laptop in your domain name. This will not only make more sense to your customers, but serves as a signal to Google. The more positive signals you give a search engine, the more likely it is that they will rank your site well.
Use Broad Keywords - While experts often say that having keywords in your domain can help your SEO, It’s also not wise to bend over backward to include exact phrase matches. They might deflect from your brand name. Google is also pretty hot on spammy tactics so they’ve reduced the importance of keyword prominence in the URL. It also doesn’t give a good impression to Internet users, who have come to the idea that such sites are low quality. Think about it, who would you think is more professional, TennisPoint.com, or TennisAdviceforCountryClubPros.com? Our advice is to avoid generic keyword strings like this. They won’t benefit your search engine rankings or your customers.
Tip 4 - Use Your Creativity
Length - Don’t be afraid to abbreviate. It's ok to append or modify your first choice domain if it's not available. The only problem with short URLs is that they are more than likely taken already. If your brand name contains a common word or phrase it will be more difficult, whereas a made up words such as Netflix and Whatsapp are short, unique and memorable in place of using a formula like common keywords + films or messenger + app.
It's also good practice to shorten an otherwise lengthy domain name, the fewer characters your domain has, the easier it is to type. Short URLs are more catchy and easier to stick in someone’s head. Let’s say your brand name is ChelseaPizza. Your restaurant is already up and running somewhere in New York and you want to go online as well. It’s ok to do something like TheChelseaPizza.com, ChelseaPizza.nyc or Chelsea.Pizza if the .com TLD is unavailable.
Distinct branding - Represent your brand and be memorable. Remember, your domain name is the face of your business - in URL format. It’s no easy task to build a brand that stands out from your competitors and sounds appealing. Make sure your domain name sounds like brandesque. For instance, cola-cola.com is leagues ahead of inferior options such as coca-cola-drink.com or cola-2-drink.com.