Choosing the right domain name could be one of the most important decisions you make for your business.
It sounds straightforward, but here are some things you should always take into consideration when choosing your domain name.
1. Does It Match Your Brand Name?
There’re a few reasons why this is important:
It’s bad branding to have a company name which doesn’t match the domain name.
Using the same name will help people find your website more easily when they hear about you and type your name into a search engine or the browser address bar.
Consistency is key and will help you grow a memorable and strong brand.
2. Is It ‘Well Branded’?
A good brand name is:
How it sounds.
What it looks like when written down.
How relatable it is.
If there is a hidden meaning or play on words you’re going for.
Put your options out to your network and get feedback.
3. What Appears When You Google Your Brand?
Do a Google search for your brand! You need to know what kind of resources are ranking for your chosen name.
If you’re going to be competing with many powerful domains, you might struggle to even rank for your own name. Make sure you pick something which is unique and easy to rank for.
Tip: Use Google AdWords’ Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool to see what ranks for your brand name in various different countries using various different versions of Google.
4. Is It Easy to Read/Spell?
This is a no-brainer for building a strong brand which people remember.
Not only that, but it will help people find you – a running theme here!
5. Don’t Go over the Top with Keywords
I would choose a good, creative brand name over a keyword-heavy domain name any day of the week.
That’s not to say you can’t have a domain name with a keyword in it if it makes sense.
For example, if I was building a city guide for London I might go for a domain like londonvibes.com over londoncityguide.com.
That way I am including a keyword in “London” but I’m prioritizing a good brand name over spammy SEO.
Also remember that Google “went after” low-quality exact match domains (EMD) in 2012 to ensure they do not rank well in the Google search results. That should tell you what Google thinks of spammy domain names.
Minor weather report: small upcoming Google algo change will reduce low-quality “exact-match” domains in search results.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) September 28, 2012
That said, I still see lots of spammy exact match domains with poor content ranking well in the SERPs, so I think Google needs to take another look at that part of the algorithm.
6. No Hyphens
In my opinion, using hyphens in your domain name is low quality for many reasons.
It looks spammy (e.g., london-city-guide.com).
If you tell someone your domain name you’d have to say “London, hyphen, city, hyphen, guide, dot com”. Rubbish, right?!
It’s just downright ugly.
Few of the world’s biggest and best brands use hyphens in their domain names. That should tell you something!
7. Is It Optimized Without Being Spammy?
Earlier, I mentioned that you shouldn’t go for a keyword heavy domain name. But that’s not to say you can’t optimize it without being spammy.
For example, if you’re a London-based business and you sell something in London. Then it makes sense to have “London” in the domain name. Just don’t be spammy with it.
Again, for me, londonvibes.com is a far better, more brandable and quality domain name compared to london-city-guide.com or even londoncityguide.com.
Choose good branding over SEO here, but try to get a keyword in there if you can. Don’t stress if you can’t.
It’s definitely not the end of the world and you should choose a creative name over a spammy one.
8. Is It Short?
Short and sweet to keep it neat.
Not only is a short domain name better looking, easier to remember and type into a browser, it’s also better for your email addresses and business cards.
So if your root domain (the main part – e.g., example.com) is short, that means all of your URLs will be short as long as you are clever with your URL structure and subpage architecture.
9. What TLD?
TLD stands for top-level-domain.
A top-level domain is the part which comes after your domain name and before your subpages.
The most common TLDs are:
In addition to these, you can have all sorts of different TLDs. With so much choice, how do you know which one to go for?
In my opinion, it’s easy if you follow this rule:
Is your target market global (as in do your potential customers live all over the world)?
Yes: Choose .com
No: Choose a TLD for the country you’re targeting (e.g., .co.uk if the United Kingdom is where your target audience is based)
Google doesn’t give any priority to keywords in your TLD (therefore no need for “.bike” if you’re a bike company for example).
Most potential customers would guess your domain ended in “.com”. The same goes for your email address.
If you have a global target, “.com” is a good option for a global TLD.
If you have a regional target, a country level TLD will help you rank well on that country’s search engine versions. For example, “.co.uk” domains should do better on google.co.uk.
A “.com” or a country TLD is more trustworthy and known than keyword TLDs (e.g., “.bike”).
All that said, there are always exceptions.
For example, if you’re an Internet or IT company, you could consider a “.net” TLD. Or, if you’re a nonprofit, “.org” could be a good option.
10. Is It Unique?
Check if anyone else is using the domain name you want to go for. You might find that although the one you want to go for is available, someone else is using the same domain with a different TLD.
Ideally, you want a domain name which is completely unique.
On that note, I recommend you also buy many other TLDs for your domain name to stop other people getting hold of them. You can always redirect the extra domains to your main domain.
You can buy your domain name from various domain name providers, but it’s best to pick it up from the same company you choose for hosting.
11. Are All the Social Handles Available Too?
It’s pretty annoying when you dream up the perfect brand name, get hold of the domain name, and then find out someone has taken that name on one of the social media platforms.
You can use this tool to see if the social channels for your chosen name are available.
Even if you don’t intend on using them all right away, get hold of the profiles to prevent others from taking them.
12. Check for Trademarks
Before you go steaming in with your credit card details to buy your dream domain, make sure the name is not already trademarked.
You should also look at trademarking the name yourself to avoid potential copyright problems in the future.
By trademarking your brand name, you can also stop competitors using that name on their AdWords campaigns, for example.
Every man, woman, and their dog is creating websites these days. Because of this explosive growth, the choice of domain names is becoming more and more limited.
With that in mind, it’s important to be creative, think outside the box, and come up with a domain name that will last a lifetime.
Now you have all the information you need to choose the right domain name. Go forth and create something amazing!
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