10 tips for choosing the perfect domain
When it comes to choosing a domain name for your business, you've got more choices than ever. Columnist Ryan Shelley provides suggestions for narrowing it down.
Your domain name and URL play a big role when it comes to search. Not only is this the destination where your visitors will find you and your content, but the domain you choose also can and does impact your search visibility. While there are more domain options than ever before, there are still some best practices you should adhere to if you want to see optimal results.
As of our publishing date in August 2017, ICANN recognizes 1,547 top-level domains (TLDs). While this means you have more choices than ever before, it doesn’t make choosing a domain any easier. To ensure you get the right domain for your business, consider these 10 tips.
1. Start with keywords
Before logging into to your favorite domain registrar, take some time to brainstorm a few ideas. It can be helpful to have three to five keywords in mind when doing this exercise. These words and phrases should clearly define what you do (or want to do). Mix and mash them together and see what looks right and makes sense. Don’t force the process — just let it flow.
For example, let’s say you are starting a local bakery. Some terms you want to include would be your city, fresh bread, baked goods, bakery and so on.
Here’s a pro tip: Use prefixes and suffixes to help you create a good domain that grabs attention. For this example, you may end up with a domain like superfreshbread.com.
2. Make it unique
Your domain is part of your brand. Making sure it stands out is extremely important for you and your users. Having a domain that closely resembles another popular brand is never a good idea, as it can lead to confusion.
Be careful that you’re not trying to be too unique, however. Forcing an alternative spelling of a common word can lead to big trouble. An example cited in the book, “The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization,” is that of the popular image site Flickr.
When the site founders established their domain, they did not use the standard spelling, flicker.com, and they may have lost traffic as a result. They ended up having to purchase the correctly spelled domain and have the additional domain redirect to Flickr.com.
3. Go for a .COM
If you are serious about building a long-term brand online, there is nothing better than a .com. Using a 301-redirect to drive traffic to a .net or .org is totally fine, but owning the .com or the equivalent TLD for your target market country is critical.
There are a number of reasons why this matters, but the most crucial one is for your users. While there are thousands of TLDs to choose from, .com still carries the most trust with it.
Many internet users are still unaware that the other TLDs exist and may hesitate to click when they see one. Make it easy for your users and choose a .com. You’ll thank me in the long run.
(Note for transparency: I am currently working on getting ownership of the .com for my site’s domain. When I rebranded a few years ago, I was unable to claim it and now have to bid to own it.)
4. Make it easy to type
If your URL is hard to type, people won’t. Difficult words to spell and long URL strings can be extremely frustrating to your end users.
Sure, you may be able to add a nice keyword with a long URL, but if the user experience is negatively impacted, you’ll ultimately suffer.
5. Make it memorable
Word-of-mouth marketing is still the best of all. If you want to help your brand spread faster, make your domain easy to remember. Having a great website won’t matter if no one can remember your domain name.
6. Keep it short
Shorter URLs are easier to type and remember. They also allow more of the URL to show up in the SERPs, they fit on business cards better and they look better in other offline media.
7. Create and meet expectations
What is the expectation you want to set when someone hears your URL for the first time? If they can’t instantly grasp what you do or who you are, you have a problem.
While sites like Amazon, Trulia, Google and Trivago sound cool, it takes a lot more marketing and branding to make them work. Domains like NYtimes.com, Homes.com, and Overstock.com all let you know what to expect up front.
8. Build your brand
If you can’t find a good domain that meets the previous rule, use branding to distinguish yourself.
Using a unique moniker is a great way to build additional value. Take note that, because of this need for brand-building, you’ll likely be slower to gain traction than if you used a more simple and straightforward domain. But, if done correctly, the effort can pay off in the long run.
9. Don’t fall for trends
Just because something is trending now, it doesn’t mean it always will. Copying what someone else is doing can lead you down the wrong path. Stay away from odd spellings and lots of hyphens or numbers. Keep it simple, focused and easy to remember.
10. Try a domain selection tool
If you are having a hard time brainstorming for an idea, no worries, the internet has your back.
Try using a domain selection tool to help you find the perfect domain. Tools like DomainsBot or NameMesh can help you find that perfect domain. But remember to adhere to the advice above when using these tools.
Your domain is where you do business online. Just as in real estate, location matters. Having a domain that clearly tells your user and the search engines who you are and what you do can help you establish your brand online. Don’t just pick a domain; take some time and choose the right domain for your business.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
New on Search Engine Land