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What’s In A Name? Choosing the Right Domain Name for Your Website

Written by Taylor Hawes

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Domain names and internet concept

In many ways, choosing a domain name for your new website is the hardest part of the site creation process.  Given how difficult it can be to transfer websites to new URLs – and given the potential SEO losses that could occur by doing so – it’s vital that you get things right from the start.

But staring down endless lists of available and already-registered domains doesn’t make the process seem any easier.  If you’re struggling to choose the right domain for your new website, consider the following tips:

 

Tip #1 – Look for “.com”

When it comes to domain names, you have the option to register everything from a standard “.com” URL to a country-specific extension like “.tv” (Tuvalu) or “.ly” (Libya).

That said, registering a “.com” is the best choice for nearly all businesses, for two specific reasons:

  • “.com” domains have better name recognition.  If you want readers to be able to enter your URL directly into their browsers, they’re far more likely to remember your address if it ends in “.com.”

  • There’s a small SEO benefit to registering a “.com” domain, as the search engines tend to view these web URLs as belonging to stable, legitimate businesses.

Unless you have a truly compelling reason to register an alternative domain extension, stick with “.com” for best results.

 

Tip #2 – Consider registering multiple domain extensions

Keep in mind that the right URL might not just be one web address – it might be multiple versions of the same domain name!

As the number of domain names registered continues to increase, good names are becoming more and more competitive.  For this reason, it’s possible to have a competitor snatch up the “.net” or “.biz” version of your URL – even if you’ve secured the “.com” version.

Because this can lead to lost traffic – especially if your competitors wind up outranking you in the search engine results pages – consider buying up popular TLDs (Top Level Domains) for your chosen domain, if they’re available.

 

Tip #3 – Aim for no more than three words

Another issue that arises due to this increased competition is the availability of desired domains.  If your company has a truly unique name (for example, “Kaczmarek Consulting”), you likely won’t have an issue securing your “.com” domain.

But if your business name is even the slightest bit more generic, expect to encounter some difficulties when it comes to finding a “.com” domain.

If you find yourself in this situation, your first instinct might be to register a longer domain name (as in, “www.johnsontaxlawattorneyssanfrancisco.com” rather than “www.johnsontaxlaw.com”).  Again, though, keep in mind how important domain memorability is.

When your domain name is too long – typically, more than three words in length – your customers won’t be able to remember your website’s URL.  And while they’ll still be able to find your business using the search engines, you risk sending traffic to your competition if these visitors enter their “best guess” URL into their browsers instead of doing their due diligence.

For best results, keep things short, sweet and easy to remember!

 

Tip #4 – Avoid “cutesy” names and abbreviations

On that same note, another domain name choice that’ll kill your memorability is to include “cutesy” names, abbreviations or numbers in your URL.

Take, for example, the sample domain name, “www.realtors4u.com.”

While this might initially look like a good way to skirt around availability issues while still maintaining your company’s branding, there’s a big issue here.  Whenever you try to tell somebody your domain name, you’ll have to explain that your URL uses the number “4” – rather than the spelled-out word – and the letter “u,” not the full word “you.”

If you think people might have trouble remembering long URLs, know that they’ll have a field day trying to remember your text-speak domain name!  Steer clear and look for alternative domain names that convey your company’s brand messaging without resorting to tricks like these.

 

Tip #5 – Avoid unintentional domain hilarity

One final caveat when it comes to choosing a domain name is to carefully review your final selection before hitting the “Register” button for any inadvertently inappropriate language that might pop up.

To see what I mean, consider the real-life URLs for the following legitimate company names:

  • Pen Island – “www.penisland.net”

  • IT Scrap – “www.itscrap.com”

  • Who Represents – “www.whorepresents.com”

  • Experts Exchange – “www.expertsexchange.com”

  • Speed of Art – “www.speedofart.com”

 

Clearly, one final check will go a long way towards maintaining your business’s dignity online!

As you go about the domain name selection process, remember that moving your site from one URL to another is a complicated process.  Not only do you risk losing visitors as the result of your rebranding process, your site could potentially lose SEO value as well – damaging your ability to drive traffic from the search engines.  Take the time to think through all of your available domain name options to make sure that your ultimate selection represents the best long-term fit for your business needs.

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