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How to Choose a Domain Name
The question of how to choose a domain name is so essential, that I need to dedicate a whole article about it. Here’s why. Above all, your domain name is a branding opportunity! Similar to regular people, it serves as the first impression to flirt with potential, first-time customers. How much would you trust a guy whose name is Scar? No wonder he became the villain of The Lion King. The same applies to websites. Nobody even bothers to visit one with a bad name. Trust me.
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Well, when coming back to the initial topic, choose a slick and suitable domain name and customers will enjoy a good and lasting impression of you.
From search results and social media to brand-ability, offline advertising, referring links and traffic, domain names have a huge impact all over the web in terms regarding click-through rate. It affects deeply your marketing strategies, as the right domain name can increase brand recognition and SEO ranking. See what I’m talking about?
Okay cool, I get it now, but how do I choose the proper domain name? Do I mash up my parents’ names? I heard once Spotify was named after Scott and Tiffany, but they changed some letters.
I hope that’s true, but no. Let’s find out together how to choose the best domain name, that fits your project. Carefully consider following the next key-points and you’ll be successful by the end of this article. Your domain should be:
- Pronounceable (please!)
- Aimed towards .com
- Without hyphens and numbers
- With keywords
- Globally usable
Let’s briefly go through each key-point.
How to Choose a Well-Branded Domain Name
What is a brandable name? Any word or combination of words you see or hear that you can associate with a product or service and sounds like a brand is brandable. Some are catchy words like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. They are short, memorable and sticky, like gummy bears or Tyrion Lannister.
You can still create a brandable name using some strange words that already exist. You can use thesaurus.com to find out some synonyms and expand your vocabulary choices, so that stands out from the competition. Also, ads.google.com will help you to determine which domain name will gather the most traffic for your website.
Take a look at the examples provided by brandpa.com to understand how a brandable name may look like. Look at the names, not prices. Those are scary. Got an idea? Good!
One more thing. Brandable names don’t have to mean or explain anything at all. They don’t have to be rational, just credible. Tinder, technically, means nothing (though I know it means the world for some people). If a certain name gives you a good feeling, then it’s the right name. Just remember to think carefully before you pick one since your domain name is the foundation of your brand.
How to Choose a Pronounceable Domain Name
I’m gonna tell you about a game to play with your friends when they come over to visit. Write down your domain name and ask them to read it out loud. If more than a couple of them have a hard time pronouncing it, you were on the wrong path. You should change or at least simplify the name.
Why is it so important that it must be pronounceable? Biology. It matters because humans have a cognitive bias: we have more positive associations with things that we can easily say and think about. That includes pronounceability in our own minds. Humans are easily impressed by the things they like and love, even by domain names.
Remember! If the name is not easy to pronounce, you’re going to lose the benefits of brand-ability that you’ve created.
How to Choose a Concise Domain Name
The shorter the domain, the easier it is to write, type, say and memorize. When it’s long, you take the risk of customers misspelling it. Google „Most popular websites” and you’ll find names like youtube.com, facebook.com, wikipedia.org, google.com (duh!) and many more, all of which have around 8 characters in their domain name.
Scroll down through the list and you’ll find a correlation between the length of the domain name and its popularity. I know, choosing a domain name is hard, even more since there are already over a hundred million out there. But you can make it! Just try to keep it short and brandable.
Remember! Fewer letters to keep in mind is always a good thing. The same applies if you’re somehow creating a new alphabet.
Always Prefer .com
Believe me, using .com gTLD (Generic Top Level Domain) is like choosing Real Madrid as your Champions League winner: love it or hate it, it’s simply the safest bet. Though we live in the 21-st century and it’s mostly a free world, prefer always .com, unless you have a specific motive to choose another one.
In case that is taken, try .net, .org. or ccTLDs (Country Code Top Level Domain). They are also a good way to go. Still no luck? Oh boy! Hang in there, it’s gonna be found. You could try a different name and you should definitely avoid „extended“ generic TLDs like .adult, .sex, .shop, etc. Customers despise those because they mean an extra bit of information to keep in mind and it’s already hard enough remembering to buy milk.
Remember! If you want to build up a very brandable domain that can do well, you want a .com. Prefer it always, except when there is a reason not to.
Make It Without Hyphens and Numbers
Neither hyphens nor numbers are bad for SEO, but they’re for bad other reasons: childhood trauma. Just kidding. Still, I’m wondering whether this domain name was best-top-10-songs.com or best-top-ten-songs.com or even besttoptensongs.com? Come on man it was best-top-10-songs.top and not .com! I see.
Technically speaking, hyphenation does not add any complications to search engines, but they hurt your branding because they can turn off some potential visitors. Hyphens are like grandma’s “funny” emails: they look spammy and people tend to forget them. Oh, the horror!
The latter can cause a loss of traffic and weaken your online brand. People could type the non-hyphenated version and end up on someone else’s domain.
Remember! Stick to the letters only!
How to Choose a Unique Domain Name
Let’s take a look at domains like facebook.com, google.com, twitter.com, bbc.com, nytimes.com. There are millions more, but let’s stick to those examples. All the sites above have something in common: they are unique, like you (awww!).
Imagine you have a brilliant business plan to launch a new social media website called facelook.com and let’s say that your website becomes popular rather quickly. I’ll tell you what happens next: Mark definitely is not a joyful guy and he’ll gently ask his legal department to sue facelook.com domain owner. As simple as that and it sucks. This would not be your only problem. The name could create some brand confusion, which damages your brand-ability.
So, when you have a distinctive domain name you can be sure that your potential visitors can find the page without trouble. Even your own name as a domain name can be a good strategy. Bloggers tend to do that because it works! If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to talk with an attorney or someone who’s a legal professional.
Hey, what about domain name generators like DomainHole or Wordoid? Alright… you can try them, but I personally do not recommend them. It’s the easy path and you may end up disappointed with the results. I suggest you rather try to be more creative and ask around for help from friends, family or business partners. Sometimes other people’s ideas are worth a gold bar.
Remember! Uniqueness increases brand-ability and generates fewer legitimacy problems.
How to Choose an Intuitive Domain Name
It’s rather good when the domain name gives people an idea of what’s the website about. Like bestcloudtools.com, it probably provides summary information about various online tools, developed by third parties, available on the internet. Right? I’m wondering what google.com is about? And twitter.com might have first being conceived as a microblogging site for bird lovers. Do not bother. What I’m trying to say is that there are exceptions to the rule where the domain name is not intuitive, but in most cases, your preference should be an intuitive name.
Marketing is smoother when you have an intuitive domain name as the name itself carries the important message.
Remember! The less explanation people need, the better they get it!
Long-Term Perspective is Essential
You are going to run your website for more than 5 years, right? How about more than 10?
Have you imagined for a brief moment, how your child, a 5-year-old, might evolve by that time? Still, selling socks or writing lifestyle blogs? It may be a million-dollar question, perhaps even a billion, but this doesn’t mean you can’t give it a thought before starting your journey. You may come with a great domain name with few limitations of what can be behind it.
I always encourage people to think big and be positive. If you believe in your child, it deserves the best possible name to carry him or her (#feminism) proudly till the end.
In terms of branding, it is definitely way more affordable to keep on with your journey without having to change the name every 5 years. In that time lapses, you have devoted colossal efforts on branding and SEO… and now you suddenly have to change the domain name and course? I hope not.
SEO rankings would go down and it’s so painful to watch your child lose traffic. I’m not being a drama queen, that happens often and it sends people to livelong therapy.
Remember! Always think big and long-term.
Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
When you use mostly keywords in your domain name, it’s obvious that you want users to make sure what your website is about and that’s totally okay. If you’re trying to simply create a keyword targeted domain, then my honest suggestion to you is… don’t.
Google has been changing its algorithms and these exact and partial match domains don’t rank well anymore. You should rather concentrate on the anchor texts from other people linking to your domain.
With this knowledge, you’re probably thinking the branded name is the only way to go. You’re not quite right (not wrong either). In case you choose to use keywords in your domain name, put the keywords at the beginning. That alignment turns the keywords more powerful in SEO World, which sounds like marketing geeks’ favorite theme park.
Need some help with this? You can use tools like Google Keyword Planner.
Remember! Do not simply stuff keywords into your domain name.
How to Choose a Globally Usable Domain Name
When your ambitions are big enough then you should probably avoid any impediments and legal issues within your journey. To build your brand, you know it’s better to use the same name across the web and social media sites. Otherwise, customers would be very confused.
OMG, I don’t even know all the social media channels! Where I should start, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace? Is that even still alive? Don’t worry about it, there are plenty of tools for this purpose, one of them called KnowEm. And yes, surprisingly Myspace is very much alive.
KnowEm will show you whether there are any trademarks already registered with your name. If it’s taken in the most popular social networks, consider changing the name and start over. That’s the reason why the name should be unique.
Remember! Check out registered trademarks to the name.
Not as easy as you may have thought, isn’t it?
Always remember that picking the right domain name is crucial for your website and its SEO ranking. Be aware of each one of these 10 tips and, I’m very confident, your website success is more than guaranteed. Happy brainstorming and lots of pizzas!