When first setting up any website, one of the hardest things to decide is what to call it. Your website’s domain name will play a role in defining your brand’s image, search optimization, “buzz-worthiness,” and more.
Unique domains are becoming increasingly scarce commodities as hundreds of thousands of new sites come online each year. With millions of websites already competing for real estate on the Internet and each with a distinct domain name, finding the perfect thing to call your site is now more important than ever.
Understanding what to consider when choosing a domain requires that you know what a domain really is. In simplest terms, the domain name is made up of two parts: the part you create from scratch (like “notagrouch”) and the part after the dot, known as the “Top Level Domain” or “TLD” (such as “.com,” “.biz,” “.org,” etc.).
You officially buy or lease your domain and register it on the web through a registrar. The registrar ensures that you are the only one who can use that domain while you own it and notifies computers all over the world that when a visitor types in your domain name into its browser it is your site they should reach.
5 Considerations for Choosing the Perfect Domain Name
Now that you understand what a domain is, what the parts of the domain name are called, and how to purchase one, it is time to make your choice.
You need to do more than just pick the first name that comes to mind and happens to be available. After all, this domain will have a huge impact on website moving forward. Let's answer the question: What should you think about when choosing your domain name?
1. Target Audience
Who will you be trying to convince to visit your website? Will you sell a product or service? Are the potential visitors young? Old? Male? Female? Do they live in a certain area?
When people use a search engine to find you, what sort of search terms will they use? Is your business online only or does it have a physical presence in the real world, too? All of these considerations should factor into your final decision.
You also need to think about the terms people will use when they search for your type of product or service. If you can incorporate one or more of those terms directly into your domain name, you may get a direct boost to your search ratings. For example, if someone searches for “teddy bears,” a company with a domain like “FluffyTeddyBears.com” will probably rank higher than something with a generic name like “JimsToys.com.”
Similarly, if your business has a physical location, and you want people in your area to find you, consider including your city or state name in your domain. If someone in your vicinity is searching for a place near them offering your type of product or service, they will likely start their search with the name of your city. So, “DetroitCarCareExperts” or “BestPizzaOrlando” will be more likely to show up in their results than just “A1Mechanics” or “MariosItalian.”
2. Don’t Use Your Own Personal Name
You may be very proud of your company or organization’s web presence, but you should probably avoid labeling it with your own name. While it might be a good idea to own and control the domain of your name for personal purposes, for business purposes, there is really no benefit. It is highly unlikely that you share a name with whatever it is your company does, so anybody who is not searching specifically for you may miss you in search results or not understand what they are seeing.
Of course, there are two notable exceptions to this suggestion. The first is if your name is your brand, such as a celebrity or famous athlete. In that case, it makes total sense to use your name for your domain name, because that is what people will be trying to find.
The other exception is for a business that already shares your name. Many industries like to use the proprietor’s name, like fashion designers, hairstylists, realtors, and others. In those cases, it might make sense to have a domain with your name in it.
But, for an added boost, if your business has your name in it, but you want to appeal to a broader audience, you could have a domain that describes your business, like “RockportHairDesigns,” but then incorporates the actual owner/business name in the content throughout the site.
3. Spelling Counts
Some may find it fun to include obscure words or intentional misspellings in their domain name as a way to set themselves apart. But, be careful doing so. This could exclude or reduce your site in the search results for common words, and it could confuse visitors.
For example, a company selling low-rider truck customization may rank lower in search results if they call their site something like “LowRyderz.” It may also make it difficult for users to find your site if they only hear the name and try to type it directly into the browser, not knowing how to spell it.
Go with something easy to spell for your domain name, and save the tricky and artistic misspelling or obscure naming ideas for individual products or accent points on your site.
4. Brevity is the Soul of Wit
It was true in Shakespeare’s day, and it is still true in our modern, digital age. What seems more likely for someone to remember: “DetroitCornerBakery” or “DanAndGlendasBestLittleDetroitCornerBakery?” The more words you add to your domain name, the harder it is to read and remember. Keep it as short as possible.
The perfect length domain name is a careful balancing act between brand identity and search engine optimization. Great online brands like Google, Ebay, Yelp, and others have learned how to mix a strong brand presence in the marketplace with a very short domain name that people can easily remember. They have also spent millions in search engine marketing and optimization to make sure they rank highly in search results.
On the other hand, smaller businesses may need the boost of adding things like a product name and location in order to boost search results but have to avoid getting too wordy. A possible compromise may be using widely accepted abbreviations, like “auto” instead of “automobile,” “SoCal” instead of “Southern California,” or “NY” in place of “New York.”
Also, avoid using articles, like “a,” “an,” and “the,” such as “TheDenverRealtyCo.” People are likely to forget about these words when typing in your domain and may end up on a competitor’s website that has a similar but shorter name.
5. Avoid Mimicking Another (More Popular) Brand
Speaking of similarly named sites, many find it a pretty tempting pitfall to try to use a domain name that closely resembles someone else’s site name. Many have thought if they could use a major brand name in part of their domain, it might trick customers into visiting their site, driving up traffic.
This was actually a favorite trick of unscrupulous web developers in the early days of the Internet. But, with a deluge of trademark and copyright infringement lawsuits, and the purchase of many variations of popular brand names as domains, the practice has almost entirely fallen out of favor.
It is much more likely that using a variation of a more well-known brand in your domain will not generate any more business for you, but could anger site visitors looking for the other company, attract lawsuits, and create a number of other headaches you would probably prefer to avoid.
Use the Goldilocks Approach
Finding the right domain name may be tricky. But, keeping these ideas in mind should put you on the right path. Take your time, think it through, and find a domain that is just right for your business or organization. Want to try out more than one variation? Buy them all and see which generates the best results. In the end, choosing the right domain name will be a mix of careful strategy, intuition, and a dash of your own personality.
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If you want to run your domain idea by me, feel free to get in touch with me. I'd be happy to hear your idea and give you feedback.