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July 16, 2008

How To Pick A Kickass Domain Name

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Don’t be fooled; a bad domain name can hurt your business. Whether you picked a name that doesn’t fit or you didn’t realize that certain letters don’t play well next to one another, you may find yourself in a world of trouble if you don’t take the time to give domain name selection some thought beforehand. Savvy marketers know to go with simple domain names that not only describe what they do, but that also help them to stand out.

Here’s a quick list of factors to keep in mind when selecting a domain name for your business.

Decide What You’re About: Unless you have thousands of dollars lined up to explain to the Web what your domain name means, you want to pick a domain name that reflects what you do. Google and Yahoo and eBay had budgets at their disposal. You’d probably rather keep that money for yourself. Succinct and witty are nice, but not at the detriment to clarity. Visitors should be able to determine exactly what kind of site you are just by looking at your URL in the SERPs. If they’re confused and not sure you’ll meet their needs, why would they click through? And how are you helping them to associate your URL with their needs? You’re not. Branding Fail.

Know Who You Are, Then Be Broad: You sell cupcakes and are ecstatic to find that OnlyCupcakes.com is available (it’s not, don’t look). This may be a good match for you right now, but what about in five years when you decide to expand your business to include cakes, cookies and croissants? You may suddenly find yourself struggling to show relevancy. When picking a domain name, make sure you leave yourself a little wiggle room.

Use Keywords When Possible: Fitting your site’s keywords into your domain is always a nice mini boost if you can do it. If you can’t, don’t lose sleep over it. Never pick an irrelevant or awkward domain name just because you think it’s “sexy” or you can squeeze in a word. Similar to going after keywords that don’t provide conversions, it’s not going to help you in the long run.

Be Memorable: A good domain is one that helps brand you above your competition. It should be unique, easy to type, easy to remember, and give visitors something in which to associate your Web site. Whatever domain you choose will forever affect how visitors perceive and value your company, so spend some time thinking about how you want to be remembered.

Keep It Simple: Part of being memorable means selecting a domain name that is as uncomplicated as possible. Tutushawaiianicecreamshack.com is not a good domain name, I don’t care how exact it matches what you do. No one is going to remember that and they’re certainly not going to be able to type it into their address bar or easily name drop it in conversation. Tutu’s, I don’t care how scrumptious your snow cones are, your domain name is a total fail. Redirect that monster.

Think Long-term: Chances are you’re going to be stuck with whatever site you’re creating for a good chunk of time. So when you pick a domain name, make sure it will stand the test of time and that you’ll still love it three years from now. The Web 2.0 craze of dropping letters will soon look as cool as all those companies dumb enough to put “Millennium” or “2000” into their company names. Remember, this too shall pass. However, you want your company to stick.

Consider How It Looks: Your domain name should be visually appealing. Doubling up on letters in domains like marccupcakes.com can be confusing for visitors trying to parse it. You also want to be aware of how your words will look when smooshed together. MensExchange.com may sound like a good idea, but try typing that in all lowercase letters and see what you get. Forget what visitors will think, you may also run into trouble when the search engines filter you for being an adult Web site.

Don’t Copy Someone Else: Imagine how annoyed you’d be if someone infringed upon your totally unique and successful domain name by creating one that looked exactly like it. Yes, now imagine how fast you’d sue them and make them take it down. See why copyright infringement isn’t a good idea? Seriously, if you decide to go this route it may cost you your entire business, so don’t do it. Before you finalize your domain, do some research to make sure that no one else has it and that you’re not going to be violating any trademarks.

The Extension Collection: If you’re launching a commercial site, it’s really important that you snatch up the major extensions. You don’t want to take YumYumScoreCupcakes.com and YumYumScoreCupcakes.org only to let someone else pick up the .net and .uk. It’s a reputation management crisis waiting to happen. Don’t let it.

You can find more information about selecting and selling a domain on the Bruce Clay, Inc. site.

[Worth nothing that many of these rules can also be applied to selecting a name for your daughter.]

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12 responses to “How To Pick A Kickass Domain Name”

  1. pat writes:

    Lisa, I was literally just about to write something about this that was based on that damn squishy sheep you mentioned in an earlier article, their domain is squishable.com which is simply a wonderful wonderful name that will stick in my head.

    The on again off again keyword based domain name are truly secondary to a great memorable domain name if you are building a long term presence.

    If ever a reason arises, I will go to squishable.com to buy big fluffy squishy stuffed animals. It is a memorable and appropriate domain name.

  2. David Temple writes:

    Great advice. I would also add avoid placing hyphens in the-domain-name you choose. Too hard to remember and looks spammy if more than one. By the way I think you meant worth noting in the refernce to picking names for you daughter. Then again I’m not so perhaps it is worth nothing to me.;)

  3. Shalom Issenberg writes:

    Great advice!

    Picking a domain is getting harder especially if you are focused on getting a .com. I think many people are too set on Keyword rich domains – which I believe are less practical for branding purposes, especially in relation to trademark laws.

    Again great post!

  4. John@123-reg writes:

    Some really good tips here. What do you think about registering variations on your chosen domain as well? I know you mentioned grabbing the different extensions, but what about typos etc? Is it worth spending a bit of extra money to secure some of these?
    (Personally, I think it depends – I wrote a blog post about how to decide which typos / mistyped domains to register. I think there are a few tools you can use to see which ones are worth buying. The article’s here: http://inside.123-reg.co.uk/archives/save-money-by-choosing-your-domains-carefully)

  5. Select a good domain name writes:

    Good article.
    I have another point to add. A good domain name is something that can be easily pronounced. I use phone test to determine this.

  6. Stephen Ward writes:

    I’d add a note about using dashes as word separators in domain names. I can think of times when this would be useful, but for the most part, I’d advise against it from a usability standpoint. Other than that, great points. I couldn’t have said it better myself. ;)

  7. Mark Alves writes:

    Good URL Bad URL
    http://goodurlbadurl.blogspot.com/
    has interesting examples of, well, good and bad domain names and formats.

  8. Mikael Rieck writes:

    Picking domain names has always been a challenge. The perfect domain is already taken and trying to fit all your suggestions into one domain is hard. But on the other hand I absolutely agree with you and hopefully I’ll learn to be patient in coming up with a name the next time I launch a business :)

  9. ScreenRant.com writes:

    “MensExchange.com may sound like a good idea, but try typing that in all lowercase letters and see what you get”

    ROFLOL!!! That’s priceless and one of those things that could be easily missed. :-)

    Vic

  10. Bill Quimby writes:

    I hope you don’t mind, but I like this and talked about a slight variation of this for toll free numbers. They are similar to domain names in several ways. I linked back to you but thought I’d mention it here as well.
    Bill Quimby
    TollFreeNumbers.com

  11. SEO Services writes:

    Nice post ! proper image building of your domain is necessary , it reflects your position , strategy and work processes , hence it deliver complete business to the audiences .

  12. Alex Newman (Link Building Black Book) writes:

    I often get asked by clients for help choosing a good domain name. What with so many .coms being already taken (and so often just parked with no site on them), the one question that comes up time and again is whether a .com automatically scores higher in SERPs than other TLDs such as .net or .biz

    I think the extension question is a complex question – a nice snappy .net can be good, but if you are expecting a lot of type-in traffic, you want the .com otherwise the traffic’s going to go to your competitors. It depends how people are looking for you; if much of your customer acquisition is done through live networking, a snappy name matters more than if it is through search traffic.

    One of the most important factors is definitely to be memorable. It wants to be the kind of thing where they get home, switch on the computer and think “What was the name of that web site?”. The difference between memorable or not, at that moment, is the difference between a customer or not.

    Also be aware of the fact that it’s possible to run into legal difficulties is your domain name is that of a registered trade mark.



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