One of the very first and most important things that you have to do when setting up a website is choosing the right domain name for it. No matter if you are going to make a one page website or a big magazine like website, you want to name it originally and catchy.
A name plays a prominent role when people discover, remember, think about, talk about, search for, or navigate to a website. In this blog post I will list some points which you should consider while searching for the domain name of your new website.
1. Choose short domain names
Domain names can be of any length up to 67 characters, but visitors will only remember your domain. What if I named this blog ‘http://awesome-blogging-tips-by-rojish.com’? Sure, it tells the purpose of my blog and it has keywords in it. But which is easier to remember? That domain name or the current one https://rojish.com ?
There are many other advantages for having short domain names. They will easily fit into the business cards, logos, brochures etc. As a rule of thumb always try to keep it less than 8 letters. I know it is very hard to find a good short domain name because most of them are already taken. But give enough time for it, do some brainstorming and come up with creative names. This single step can have a huge impact in the branding of your website.
2. Avoid hyphenated names
Should you use hyphenated domain names? For example, should you go for freejavatutorials.com or free-java-tutorials.com? Both have its own advantages as well as disadvantages.
The main advantages of using hyphenated domain names are that the search engines can easily distinguish your keywords and thus return your site more prominently in search results for those keywords occurring in your domain name. Since the domain industry is so crowded you may find it very difficult to find available domain names for your keywords. At the same time the hyphenated domain names may be still available.
But using hyphenated domain names is very bad for branding. There is a high probability that the user will enter the domain name without hyphens and end up in your competitor’s website.
So my suggestion about hyphenated names is that if you’re concerned about branding then try to avoid them. But if you are only worried about SEO then hyphenated names can be a good option.
3. .COM, .ORG, .NET or something else?
When people think about a website their mind automatically pictures ‘domain-name.com’ as the address. ‘.net’ and ‘.org’ extensions can be used too if you cannot find a ‘.com’ extension. I won’t prefer using other extensions unless you are targeting a particular country.
4. Make it easy to memorize
Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool to drive traffic to your website. If your domain name is long and difficult to pronounce, people will not remember it and will not tell their friends and colleagues. Say your prospective domain names out loud and listen to its sounds. Does your tongue get twisted around any syllables? A domain name which is easier to say will be easier to remember.
5. Your domain name shouldn’t be easily confused with others.
Try to find a unique name for your website. Avoid something too similar to competing domain names. Otherwise the visitors can be easily confused and can end up in competitors web site. One of the greatest examples for this is Flicker.com. Many users typed Flicker.com as URL thinking about Flickr.com. Some stats say that at one point Flicker.com was receiving almost 4 million visitors a year. Finally Yahoo decided to buy that domain in 2010 and now it redirects to Flickr.com.
Spend a bit of time searching around to make sure you are not choosing a domain name that is too similar to a trademarked name. Some people purchase names too similar thinking that those companies will pay large amounts to get that name. But nowadays companies prefer calling their lawyers rather than spending money to acquire those domain names. You can search for trademarks here.
6. Avoid Numeral Substitutions and Numbers
Another trend finding in domain naming is the use of numbers and numeral substitutions. For example ‘javatutorials1’, ‘javatutorials4you’ etc. It is mainly an attempt to find the available domain with the targeted keywords, but does it make the domain name look ‘cheap’? It will also make confusions for users. There is a high probability that the person looking for ‘javatutorials4you’ will end up in ‘javatutorialsforyou’. My personal opinion is that if you are concerned about branding then try to avoid such names.
7. Singular and Plural forms of Domain
While selecting a domain many people are confused whether to select the singular or plural form of the domain name. For example whether to select ‘javatutorial.com’ or ‘javatutorials.com’. My suggestion is if both domains are available go and grab both of them and then redirect one of them to another. Owning both versions have many advantages. It will help to increase brand recognition and avoid the loss of traffic due to the name confusion. Owning both versions of the domain may cost you an extra $10 a year, but it is an investment worth the money.
8. Your Domain Name Should Be Your Website Name
Don’t confuse visitors with a domain name totally different from your website name, especially if you are running an e-commerce website. Naming a site after its domain name is important, for the simple reason that when people think of your website, they’ll think of it by name.
9. It should target your audience
If you are targeting traffic from a specific group of audience, you should pick something that is familiar to them. If your website is targeting Spanish visitors then picking up a French name is not going to help.
This rule applies while selecting the domain extension also. For example if an Indian user is searching for some local products he will not be expecting a website with .us extension. He will be more likely to click a website with .com, .net or .in extension.
10. One may not be enough
If you really care about your brand then don’t just stop by picking up the .com version of your domain name. It isn’t a bad idea to register other extensions like .net and .org. That will prevent others from misusing those domain names if your brand gets popular.
11. Be creative!
Most of the single-word domains are already taken, so you might need to create your own word. Try compounding two whole words. Example consider Dropbox (Drop + Box), Microsoft (Micro+Soft), Facebook (Face+book) and plenty of others.
Pick a great name, then add something to get a great domain name. Unleash your creativity! There are plenty of tools which will assist you in this process which we will see later.
12. It should have available Social Media Handles
This is not a must do step, but highly recommended. While registering your domain name side by check whether they have available social media profile user names on Twitter, Facebook, etc. This will help a lot in your social media marketing. You can use services like KnowEm to check for the availability username instantly on over 550 popular and emerging social media websites.
13. Check for previously used domains
It’s good to check if your domain has been previously registered. Spammers often buy up domain names and then abandon them later once they’ve used them up. This can leave these domains banned by Google, which gets you off to a pretty poor start.
14. The domain name should be relevant to the content of the site
This step is self explanatory. You are not going to name your cute puppy blog ‘TechToday’, are you?
15. Take care to avoid bad word combinations
Once you figured out a good domain name for your website, get someone else, preferably someone who doesn’t know about your business or your company name, to look at it. You don’t want to end up with a domain name that has a completely different meaning from the one you intended. Well, it happened to some of the websites (and it’s funny).
Experts Exchange, a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views (www.expertsexchange.com), Pen Island, a website where you can get customized pens (www.penisland.net) and Who Represents, where you can find the name of the agent that represents any celebrity (www.whorepresents.com). Read out those domain names loud if you dare!
Now if you are concerned about SEO then there are some more points that you should take care about.
16. Use Keywords in Domain if possible
Adding keywords to your domain name will help to communicate something to your readers very quickly with regards to what your blog is about. Search Engines will take a good look at the words in your domain name when deciding what your blog is about and how to rank it. The domain industry is a crowded space and so these days it is very difficult to get the domain name for the exact keyword you are targeting.
17. Extension Selection
Most people believe .com to be more powerful, and that .net and .org are also good. Some SEO expert says that .com is the best TLD to bring search traffic. .com domains are generally considered to have more credibility with searchers, and they have a higher resale value. If you are starting a website with a localized focus it is well worth considering a country code on your TLD as it will help you bring more local visitors from search engines.
Tools to help you pick up domain names
There are plenty of tools out there that can help you ease the burden of checking available domains and suggesting similar names that are related to your searches. I am listing some of them below.
1. NameStation – My favorite tool. Name station helps you to discover names that are memorable, brandable and unique. You can evaluate keyword variations, synonyms, affixes and their combinations in minutes. If you are ready to spend some money then there is even an option to create contests where other users will brainstorm for your domain name.
2. Domjax – Domjax is free fast domain name search tool, offering seo tools, website owner information, website traffic information, html validator, search engines page rank, google seo tools, tracert, webpage archive, list cached and indexed pages and many other more!
3. Bust A Name – Bust a Name suggests available domain names based on user-defined keywords. After you add keywords, the tool suggests different available domains using your keywords and suggests synonyms to increase your possibilities.
4. DomainGroovy – DomainGroovy is a domain name generator. Enter any keyword and instantly receive hundreds of great domain names that are available to register right now.
Where else to find good domain names?
1. Snatching up expiring domain names (Backordering)
Domains do not expire when they say they do. If the owner does not renew by the expiration date of the domain, the domain goes into “expired” status. It will enter a grace period of 40 days where the owner can still reactivate the domain name by paying the standard renewal rate. After 40 days if the owner still doesn’t renew the domain it will enter a ‘redemption period’. In redemption period the owner can re-activate the domain, but paying a fee around $100.
Finally, after the redemption period, the domain’s status will change to “locked” as it enters the deletion phase. The deletion phase is 5 days long, and on the last day between 11am and 2pm Pacific time, the name will officially drop from the ICANN database and will be available for registration by anybody. The entire process ends exactly 75 days after the listed expiration date. The expired domain names are available to the general public after it.
But the process of snatching up expired domains is not easy as they look. With so many people looking for good, expiring domain names you may find it difficult to get the domain you want. So you will need to use domain backordering services like eNom, Pool.com, SnapNames etc. Describing the entire process is out of context of this article, so I will explain it in detail in a future post.
2. Buy a domain in the aftermarket
Some important points to consider while registering domain names
1. Use trusted providers only
Don’t register your domain name with just anybody. There are hundreds of domain registrars on the web but before choosing them do some research to see which domain registrar will fit the needs of your website. NameCheap and GoDaddy are two of my preferred domain registrars.
2. The domain name should be registered in your name
I know it sounds silly, but I had seen it happen to many people. They will contact a web design agency for a complete website package including domain name. The agency will purchase the domain name, but it will be registered under the agency’s name and address. So if you are using a design agency for your web development then make sure that the domain name is registered in your name.
Always remember that the domain name work as a brand name of your website so think about it before going to buy, don’t just rush for the first name that comes to mind.
Do not get discouraged if your current domain doesn’t have all these characteristics; or if you can’t find one that does. These are just factors that you should consider when evaluating domain names. But if you can find a domain that satisfies the points described above it will be great and will definitely boost your website’s branding.
Typical geek, night owl, gadget freak, budding entrepreneur, WordPress & Ruby enthusiast.