Image source: globex.co.za
Choosing a good domain may seem a straightforward process at first. But it’s not always been easy. By the middle of 2013, pretty much all the best .coms and .co.uks were sold-out. Companies were having to resort to using SEO-unfriendly hyphens and numbers in their website names in order to secure a web address name that was even slightly similar to their business name and purpose.
However, a revolution took place at the start of 2014. The domain name regulating body ICANN released the news that they were making a new range of TLDs available as alternatives to .com and .co.uk. Internet records would be essentially restarted – marking a new ‘year dot’ for domain names and the internet.
With the introduction of these new Year Dot domain extensions, there are a few extra rules you should follow when choosing a good domain name.
The following nine tips can help you find a suitable domain name while avoiding the potential pitfalls that come when picking one.
1. Register your company name (or name)
Your best choice for a domain name should be your company name. For a personal website, it should be your name. That’s for obvious reasons, mainly branding. Your customers already know the name of your company and they expect it to be the same as your domain name. For example FedEx.com, Microsoft.com and Pepsi.com are the domain names for these famous companies as we know them. Imagine how disastrous it would be if those domains were owned by totally unaffiliated individuals/companies. They’d probably file lawsuits and win those domains, but after unnecessary trouble and wasting so much time. The same cannot be said of your small company or relatively new business; you’ll have to make do with some other alternative if you found yourself in the same predicament.
At this stage, it’s important to think about how you can protect your brand online. If your company grows into the success you want it to be, you can expect competitors to spring up. Technically, you could take out legal action on a competitor who might start running their business under the same web address as yours but with a different ending – a yourcomapny.net instead of a yourcompany.com, for example. However this is a costly process. To avoid this, you should consider buying a few domain names and redirect the traffic from the extra ones to your primary one. Redirection is something that can be done easily by calling your host tech support team (like UK2 or Godaddy for example), or the admin panel if you’re confident enough.
2. Find a keyword related to your business
Many website ideas were born out of keyword ideas. For example, you’d expect a domain name such as weightloss.com to be a website about weight loss. But there are so many keyword ideas that revolve around this term. Examples: weight loss tips, safe weight loss, how to lose weight, quick weight loss, weight loss diets etc. Just from these examples, we can be sure – even without checking – that weightlosstips.com, safeweightloss.com and the rest are already registered.
In such a situation, you may need to look at different words that relate to this niche, such as natural, healthy, workout, etc. and experiment their combinations with the main keyword to see if you can find a good name that still hints on weight loss.
3. Make it easy to remember
The best domain names must be easy to remember – even if the word used in the domain is not necessarily an English word or a word that makes sense. Think Twitter, Google, AOL, Amazon etc. Some other domain names are word/letter combinations that do not refer to anything or are modifications of real words, but are still easy to remember e.g. LinkedIn, Pinterest, Dropbox, Tumblr, Flippa etc. The examples are from famous brands, you would argue, but how popular would these websites be if they had adopted long, hard-to-grasp names?
4. Make it short
The assumption here is that the shorter your domain name, the easier it is to remember. If you plan on using a certain keyword but you can still find a shorter version of the same, go for the shorter version. For example, websitedesign.com and webdesign.com are both great, but the latter is much more preferable because it’s shorter. Remember that you want your customers to be able to type in this domain – the longer it is, the lower the likelihood they’ll enjoy typing it. Worse still, typing a name to go directly to a website is always prone to errors. The longer it is, the higher the chances of typing it wrong. Find a domain name that is 10 characters long or less (excluding the TLD). Look at the most famous websites and you’ll notice that most of them use an easy to remember and easy to type name.
5. Use modifiers, prefixes and suffixes
If you find your main keyword gone, add modifiers and suffixes or prefixes e.g. weightlossguide.com, weightlosshub, weightlossnation, theweightlossclub,myweighlossact, loseweightnow, etc. This has been a successful technique for many websites on the internet that couldn’t find their first-choice domain, so why should you feel locked out?
6. Avoid numbers and hyphens
A good domain name should be in plain words for the simple reason that it will usually be typed as it is pronounced and hence less prone to mistype errors. If you used a number instead, such as 4, some people would assume the word version when you pronounce it e.g. 4tutors.com sounds like “fortutors.com” and “fourtutors.com”. Users are more likely than not to end up on the wrong website in this example.
Hyphens are also never implied in the pronunciation, e.g. coffee-maker.com sounds exactly like coffeemaker.com if you were saying it loud. Many people also forget to add the hyphen when typing domain names – you can imagine how easy it is for them to land on the competitor’s website in the above example.
7. Look out for nasty word combinations
Some seemingly harmless word combinations can end up being the subject of ridicule or even disgust because of other words that will be implied within the domain name. Ensure that people cannot read the name in any different ways than you intended. Real world examples:
- ExpertsExchange.com may be perceived as ExpertSexChange.com
- WhoRepresents.com may also read as WhorePresents.com
- Mole Station Nursery – MolestationNursery.com
8. What extension (TLD) is best
You must always go for the .com first if it’s available, no matter the nature of your business or country of residence. But are other top level domains (.net, .org, .biz, .co, info et al) not good enough? Well it really depends on how you expect your customers to access your website. If most of them will come through search engines, or referrals, this shouldn’t be a major concern. But if your customers will be typing in your domain, not owning the .com is going to be a problem since most will type yourdomain.com and hit enter.
However, all is not lost if the .com is gone and you settle for the .net or .org. especially if you can concentrate on your branding efforts and popularize your domain name to minimize confusion among customers.
If your business is limited to your country, your country code top level domain (ccTLD) should be prioritized immediately after – or in some cases – before the .com domain.
9. Consider premium domains
Premium domains are domains that have previously belonged to someone else, but been released back for sale. They’re premium for a number of reasons. Some might just be short and memorable, others might have really good search engine rankings because of their history. They cost more than new domains, but they have value beyond their monetary worth.