In the digital age, your domain name has become one of the more important attributes of your online and offline brand persona. Often the domain will be the brand associated to your endeavor, thus it must compel the user to understand the qualities, products and services you are looking to provide. As each day passes, it becomes more difficult to locate an easy to remember, simply spelled and relevant domain, thus you must arm yourself with the secrets of selecting the perfect domain name. Remember, words have meaning and names have power so don’t take this exercise lightly, regardless of your project.
Top Secrets to Selecting the Perfect Domain Name
All too often we are called in to help someone repair what could have been avoided by just taking the time and effort to select the right domain name. In fact, we often get friends and family asking for help in creating a personal blog or small business website, where they feel they are over thinking the domain name. In retrospect, most of the time, they haven’t thought enough about the domain selection, which is understood once we walk through the process of selecting the perfect domain name. Since this is such a common conversation, we have compiled a comprehensive look at the top secrets in finding the right domain to help you get started on your web adventure.
Keep it Simple: While you can technically have just over 60 characters in your domain name, that doesn’t mean you should. A short, easy to remember and simple to spell domain can help drive direct traffic to your site. A short domain will also fit better on business cards and other offline media.
Dot-Com Rules: In most instances, choosing a domain that ends in .com is far more effective than other options. The few exceptions are those that are in education with the .edu extension, organizations that utilize the .org or those not concerned with hand typed traffic or brand recognition. See our advanced secrets below for some additional options.
Don’t Get Sued: Companies are serious about brand protection, we don’t blame them since it is a costly effort to maintain large brands and site. Therefore, keep clear of copyrights and trademarks. You can check out further details at copyright.gov on how to avoid this, but common sense rules. Grabbing amazon-daily-deals.us or the-best-buy.net is likely going to cause some concern.
Keyword Research: Prior to delving into domain selection, you should be aware of the top keywords you are looking to focus on and rank high with in the search results. There is debate on whether you should utilize a exact match domain vs. a branded experience, but the answer really depends on your circumstances. A company looking to make a name for itself should opt for something more memorable, rather than exact match keywords. However, bloggers and sites looking to focus on organic traffic should consider exact match domains. While Google has updated the algorithms to lower the value of exact match domains, they still have significant value. Regardless of your decision, you should look to utilize keywords in the domain where possible.
Don’t Be a Character: Avoid special characters such as dashes and numbers, this makes the domain difficult to share verbally and may lead to mistypes, causing a poor user experience.
Distinguish Yourself: When someone hears or reads your web address, it should easily convey what type of content they will find. Consider the websites HowStuffWorks.com or Cars.com vs. Amazon.com or GoDaddy.com. The first two immediately make it clear on what the sites are for, the others are only recognized because of extensive brand management and advertising.
Know Your Competition: A very simple step, but yet so important. Make certain you are searching on the keywords and domain name that you are considering. Are there a lot of sites that have content similar to what you are entering the market with? Is there heavy advertising meaning high value click traffic? Understanding the competitive landscape is critical to understanding what success can look like once you enter the market.
Commitment Counts: When registering your domains, register for longest period available that you can afford. Industry insiders agree that the search engines add a level of trust to domains registered for long periods of time, and on the inverse, have a level of distrust for short term registrations. This would potentially directly impact your rankings in the search results.
Advanced Tips and Tricks on Domain Setup
It is possible to have the best of both worlds, where your main domain utilizes exact match keywords, though your brand elements are also covered. This can be accomplished by utilizing domain forwarding and redirects. This requires the purchase of more than one domain and setting up the name servers properly, a task that should be completed by professional. An example of this is where someone may purchase CompanyX.com and easy to remember branded domain and forward it to the domain BuyCheapWidgets.com, where the keyword phrase “buy cheap widgets” is an exact match to their top keywords.
With the prevalence and importance of social media campaigns, the ability for click tracking and shortened URLs go hand in hand. Shortened URLs add a level of trust and brand awareness. For example, LinkedIn.com utilized the shortened URL linkd.in throughout the social media circle. This is simply another domain that is forwarded to the primary domain using services such as Bit.ly.
An Arranged Marriage
Whatever your goal may be, your website will be an extension of you, your company, service or product. Selecting the perfect domain name is much like an arranged marriage. Careful thought and planning must be taken to ensure the most beneficial match can be found. Just remember, you will be married to this domain for a long time, and just as in real life, a divorce can be messy, expensive and quite time consuming.