How to Choose a Domain Name: 12 Tips to Pick the Right One
Whether you're rebranding or just starting out, choosing a domain name is a key consideration. Good domain names are a factor in building your online presence.
Wondering how to choose a domain name? It's all about picking a domain name that truly represents who you are and what you do. There are a lot of things to take into consideration, though, on the path to URL bliss.
Read on for 12 tips we recommend keeping in mind when choosing a domain name!
1. Choose a Domain Name that Reflects Your Brand and What You Do
It's very helpful if visitors can determine 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?
Furthermore, your domain should be identical to your company name. Establish your brand and ease the user's task of having to locate you online. For established companies, users will often assume your URL will be the same as your company name and put it straight into their address bar.
2. Don't Limit Yourself
Let's say you sell cupcakes and are ecstatic to find that OnlyCupcakes.com is available (it’s not, though — we checked). 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.
3. Using Keywords Is Nice, But Not Required
Using a keyword in your domain name has value, but it's no longer a golden ticket to the top of the SERP. The value is found in a domain's ability to communicate (to users and search engine crawlers) what a site is about, thereby influencing the user's click choice. If a keyword is legitimately part of your business name or reflects what you do, sure, include it.
In October 2012, Google's Exact Match Domain update marked the end of a time when a site could rank simply because their domains were exact match keywords. Previously, these kinds of domains could rank without quality backlinks or content. The EMD update changed all that, and helped level the playing field for sites to compete against sites whose only strength was their keyword-laden domain.
4. Shorter Is Better
When selecting a domain, research shows that shorter names are the easiest for users to remember. When picking a domain name, keep things short and straightforward. The two main reasons for traffic diversions are users mistyping your URL and users who use the wrong extension. Combat mistyping by keeping things concise. Combat the second reason with factor #6!
5. Own All the Extensions, Not Just the .com
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 .org. It’s a reputation management crisis waiting to happen. Don’t let it. Also it's important to remember here is that .com is still the big winner.
6. Consider Typos
Even with a short, clear URL, a user might still mistype your URL. A good idea, then, is to buy out all possible spelling and word-choice combinations, and then 301 redirect that traffic to the correct domain.
7. Think Long-Term
Chances are you’re going to be stuck with whatever site you’re creating for a good chunk of time. 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.
8. Consider How the Domain 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 connected together. MensExchange.com may sound like a good idea, but try typing that in all lowercase letters and see what you get. Are you comfortable with that association? Avoid domains with hyphens while you’re at it. If you have to explain it after you say it, look elsewhere.
9. Make Sure You're Not Accidentally Infringing on a Copyright
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. Copyright infringement is never a good idea. Going this route could 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.
Domains can include trademarked or bizarre coined terms that may have pending legal matters attached to them. You do not want to involve your company in their legal mess — often these domains have a low value and are not worth the hassle.
Generic names work better for URLs because trademark issues are far less common, and if there is an issue, it will be less restrictive. Unless you happen to be the one to own the trademark, in which case, capitalize on that.
10. Be Aware of gTLD Options
There are more than 1,000 generic top level domains available, ranging from .pink to .dance to .yoga.
If you choose a gTLD, remember that there is no SEO benefit tied to using a specific gTLD. Choosing .movie rather than .com, for example, provides no SEO effect. In 2012, Google’s former Head of Web Spam Matt Cutts said that "We’ve always wanted to return the best results we can to users … whether it’s on a .com or a .de or a .whatever, and we’ll try to return that to users.
Bruce Clay, Inc. Vice President Duane Forrester, who used to work as a senior product manager at a search engine, warns to err on the side of caution and stick with TLDs, like .com and .org.
"It's tempting to try to grab a good, keyword-rich domain in one of those extensions. Don’t. Search engines routinely watch spammers try to exploit the newest variants in the hope of gaming rankings, so sometimes entire top level domains are draped with the spam flag. Buying a new domain to learn, after fruitless hours and dollars invested, that it’ll never really rank well is a real kick in the teeth," said Forrester.
11. Know the Domain's History
Buying a slightly used domain name may be the easiest way to get many useful .com domains these days. But be sure to research the domain’s history before buying it. Many sites have struggled after buying what they thought were thoroughbred domains, only to then learn — after months of frustration — that the history for the domain is littered with download spam issues, low quality content issues or even malware association issues. A few minutes at http://www.archive.org could save you from a costly mistake!
12. Own the .com Even if You're Not Based in the United States
Even if you're based in another country, own the .com for your domain in addition to your country code top level domain (ccTLD). In addition to providing international access, the TLD '.com' has established itself throughout the world and can signal trust to a user — therefore it's still useful for branding even if you're doing local business in a foreign country.