1. Match website name with domain name
Choose a domain name that will be the title of your website. Many people make the mistake of having different website title and domain name. For example, one might register the domain name as “TheGPSGuide.com” and name the website as “GPS Buyer Review”.
Having inconsistent website and domain name will confuse the average user. In the above example there is a good chance the user might refer the website as “GPS Buyer Review” to a friend. The friend can mistakenly visit the website “GPSBuyerReview.com” which can be a competitor’s website!
2. Generic vs. Brand name
Your domain name can be either a generic name (e.g. “cars.com”) or a brand name (e.g. “Toyota.com”).
If you already own a business with a very reputable brand name then choose your brand name as your domain name. Brand name is not limited to a business. A brand name can be successfully developed for any website, building a community of loyal readers around the brand.
On the flip side brand based domain names might rank slightly lower on search engine results especially when searches are performed using common keywords (e.g. searching for the word “car” instead of “Toyota”). During an Internet search, a search engine like Google will consider hundreds of factors to determine the most relevant search results. The presence of a keyword in the domain name is only one of those factors. Therefore the impact of not having a common keyword in your domain name is minimal.
Generic names have the advantage of instantly letting the user know what your website is all about. For example, if your domain name is called “CarCareTips.com” it is very obvious that your website is about tips on maintaining your car. In addition, generic domain names rank better when internet searches are performed with common keywords.
3. Keep it short
Domain names can be up to 67 characters long. But that does not mean you take the liberty of using as many characters as you want for your domain name. To make the domain name memorable and easier to type, try to keep it as short as practically possible.
Short domain names reduce the possibility of typing errors and reduce the risk of sending the user to a type squatting website (a website that is intentionally created to benefit from misspellings in your domain name).
At the same time do not over short your domain name. For example, if the name of your organization is “Snowy Mountain Skiing and Snowboarding Club”, do NOT shorten it to “SMSASC.com”. This abbreviation is very hard to remember!
4. Avoid hyphens (i.e. dash signs “-“ )
Avoid the use of hyphens in your domain name. Using hyphens can be confusing when the name of the domain is told verbally. For example, consider the domain name “in-car-gps-navigation.com”. When you say this name verbally it will be something like “in hyphen car hyphen gps hyphen …” get my point?
I also find domain names with hyphens lack credibility because there are so many doubtful marketing and money milking websites on the internet that use hyphens in the domain name. Credible sites tend to avoid using hyphens in domain name.
Hyphen based domain names do have some advantages. They include the ability to rank well in Internet searches, because search engines can easily identify the keywords using the hyphen as a separator.
Hyphen based domain names can easily stand out in print. Non-hyphen domain names can be harder to read in print. But you can over come this problem by using capital letters for the first character in each keyword so that they will stand out when printed. For example, “car-care-tips.com” is more readable than “carcaretips.com”. But “CarCareTips.com” is equally readable as “car-care-tips.com”.
5. Avoid numbers
Having numbers in a domain name is not a good idea unless the number is part of the business name. For example, “1800Flowers.com” is good domain name because the number 1800 is actually part of the business name. In this example the phone number and domain name are the same!
6. Try your best to get .com
Try to get a .com TLD (Top Level Domain) for your domain name. It has more credibility than .org or .net. The only exception to this if you are involved in a non-profit operation where the .org TLD can be used to reinforce the non-profit nature of your operation. For example, .org is very popular among charity groups.
But if you really want a domain name and the .com version is already taken, you can still consider .net and .org. But considering other TLDs such as .biz is not a great idea (at least in my own opinion) because hardly anyone knows about them.
If your website is targeted for region or country you can consider country specific TLDs. For example, the .ca TLD (Top Level Domain for Canada) has got very good recognition within North America. Having a country based TLD might rank you better when searches are performed with in the country.
7. Consider prefixes or suffixes
In many instances you will find that the domain name you want is already registered. In this case you should consider adding a prefix or suffix to your domain name. For example, if “GPSGuide.com” is already registered, you can consider “theGPSGuide.com”.
8. Keep your domain name legal
Make sure that the domain name you want to register does not violate any copyrights or trademarks. If your domain name contains common descriptive words then you do not have to worry too much about any legal issues.
To illustrate the above point let me take the following 2 examples:
Example 1: Assume that the domain name “microsoft.com” is available and you were able to secure it before Microsoft Corporation. You can be sued by Microsoft for registering their trademark and most probably Microsoft will win the law suit.
Example 2: Assume that you register the domain name “sun.com” before Sun Micro Systems was able to secure it. If Sun Micro Systems sues you, most likely they will lose and you will keep the domain name, because the word “Sun” is a generic word.
If you were to end up with any domain name dispute the domain administrator (such as ICANN and CIRA) will look into the following factors:
- Is your domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark?
- Do you have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain?
- Was the domain name registered in bad faith?
9. Consider registering multiple TLDs (Top Level Domains)
Just to make sure you do not lose traffic to any type squatters, register other popular TLDs as well. For example, if your register a charity called “SickKids.org”, consider registering “SickKids.net” and “SickKids.com” so that no one else can try to profit from users who might mistakenly go to the wrong TLD.
10. Consult with friends and colleagues
Once you have decided on your domain name, before registering it, ask your friends or colleagues on their opinion about the name. For example, look at the domain name “ExpertsExchange.com”, at first glance the name looks fine, but one can also read this domain as “ExpertSexChange.com”!
11. Previous history of the domain name, abuse by spammers
If the domain name you are about to register had a past history of being owned by spammers and type squatters, it is possible that popular search engines such as Google might have penalized them by lowering the page rank. Once you own the domain name you can experience a slow start in term of search engine ranking. You can eventually come out from this black list by adding good quality content to your website and make sure you do not offend the search engines by engaging in any bad practices to increase more traffic to your website.
12. Future plans for your website
When selecting a domain name keep in mind any expansion plans that you might have for your website or business. For example, assume that you are in the business of selling roses and you want to register the domain name “RosesOnly.com”. You also have plans to sell a variety of flowers in the future. “RosesOnly.com” would be a great name for the start but as you expand your business this domain name becomes less applicable to your business. In this example you might me better off with a domain name like “FlowersOnly.com”.
13. Location and user base
If your website users are from a specific region or country, then you should consider country TLDs. For example, .ca for Canada and .com.au for Australia are two TLDs that have very high credibility with in the respective countries.
Country specific TLD can rank well when searches are performed with the country.
14. Avoid confusion
At all cost try to avoid any confusing domain names.
Follow these simple rules:
- Do not pick the wrong spelling (unless you already have established brand name with that spelling).
Example: “KoolKars.com” is a bad choice. “CoolCars.com” is a better choice.
- Numbers can confuse people.
Example: “Cash4You.com” can be interpreted as “CashForYou.com” or “Cash4U.com”.
- Names that spell differently but pronounced the same.
Example: The domain name “WebSpear.com” can be confused with “WebSphere.com”.
15. Easy to memorize
Domain names should be easy to remember and memorize. The name should be easy to type as well.
A domain name such “AutoBodyShopCare.com” is a confusing name since the keywords do not have a logical sequence. The user can easily forget a keyword or mix the order of the keywords when referring the website to a friend. For example, the user might refer the domain name as “AutoBodyCare.com” or might refer it as “AutoCareBodyShop.com”. The possibility of not remembering all the keywords and their order paves way to endless mistakes.
16. Use plural form
In many instances a plural form of a domain name is more valuable and preferred over the singular form. For example “CoolGadgets.com” is a more desirable name than “CoolGadget.com”. Most probably the website will deal with many gadgets not only one gadget! But to ensure you do not lose any traffic to type squatters, register and secure both the singular and plural version of a domain name if they are available.
17. Be creative and make it personal
Be creative in choosing a domain name. This is especially true when you want a brand name. Make the domain name reflect the nature of you website. Choose a domain name that can stand out, conveys a positive message. Choose a name that motivates you. At the end you should like the domain name you choose otherwise you’ll have second thoughts and may try to change it in the future.
18. Compromise – the key to success
So far I have given 17 tips for selecting a good domain name. But if you try to find a domain name that satisfies all the above 17 tips, you will be disappointed. In reality good quality domain names are already registered.
Therefore you have to compromise and choose the best possible domain name that is left unregistered.
As general rule of thumb make sure that your domain name satisfies at least half of the above mentioned tips.
Good luck with your domain name search!