How to Select a Quality Domain Name
As a web consultant, domain portfolio administrator, and internet based business owner I am often asked for advice on how to pick a quality domain name. There are lots of things to consider, and I will get into some of them in this article, but ultimately it all boils down to what I like to call “sticky factor”. The term sticky factor refers to how easily the domain name itself sticks in the minds of your target audience.
The stickier the domain the less time, money, and effort you will need to commit to brand marketing for people to remember your domain. I’m not saying that if you switch to a highly sticky domain you should cut your brand recognition budget. I am saying that the same budget and effort will result in more conversions by switching to a sticker domain name. The stickiest domains usually have these common characteristics; they are short, easy to spell, and contain highly searched descriptive keywords related to your industry.
Below are the general guidelines that professional domain portfolio administrators use when purchasing domains for their clients or for themselves.
Do NOT Register Trademarks
This guideline is straight forward and self-explanatory. If the domain name you are considering contains a trademark then don’t buy it. Even if the domain name is available and GoDaddy or some other registrar sells the domain name to you, it is not legal for you to own it. The domain registrar is not responsible for making sure that you do not buy a domain with a trademark infringement in it. Only you are responsible.
Before buying a domain I highly recommend that you search the United States Patent and Trademark Office for conflicting trademarks.
The Best Domains KISS
If you didn’t already know, KISS is an acronym for Keep It Short and Simple. The shorter and simpler your domain name, the less likely it will be typed incorrectly and the easier it will be for people to remember it.
Keywords DO Matter
The words in your domain name make a big difference in how the search engines view your website. If the word or phrase someone searches in Google is in your domain then you will rank higher for that search. Strong keywords and phrases also help people remember your domain.
Location DOES Matter
People often use local terms (i.e. state, city, etc) when searching Google for businesses. For example, someone in Los Angeles would probably search something like, “LA auto mechanic” or “auto mechanic in Los Angeles” rather than just “auto mechanic”. Having your service area, city, state, or county name in your domain name is one way to help boost your local search rank. Google favors local results when local search terms are used.
Avoid Hyphens and Numerals
Domains with symbols and numbers confuse people. As an example say these domain names out loud: house4rent.com, houseforrent.com, house-4-rent.com. They all sound exactly the same, so when someone tells your domain to someone else it is likely that the spelling of the domain name will be lost in translation. That inevitably will cause people to go to the wrong website, so avoid domain names with numbers or symbols in them. If you want a domain that has a hyphen or number in it then I highly recommend buying all the different versions of the domain.
A homonym is a word that sounds exactly the same as another word, but spelling differs and the words often have different meanings. Examples of homonyms include; waste and waist, right and write, accept and except, etc. Having a homonym in your domain name will increase the likelihood that people will end up at the wrong website when trying to find your business online.
In an ideal situation your domain name will be identical to your businesses name, but this is not always an option. For that reason many people often resort to using abbreviations. This can be problematic. The abbreviation might mean something to you, but to the majority of people it means nothing without context. Rather than abbreviating your company name (or in addition to purchasing the abbreviated version of your company name) consider buying a keyword rich domain name. Think of the word combinations that people will search when looking for a product or service like yours and use those words to make a custom domain name. Exceptions to this rule include any abbreviation that is universally recognizable such as USA or INC.
Domain Name Extensions
Dot COM is the most popular domain name extension, followed by dot NET, ORG, CO, and INFO. When buying a domain name I obviously recommend you buy the dot COM, and I also recommend you buy some of the other popular extensions. Here’s why…
Imagine that you own YourBusiness.COM and your competitor buys YourBusiness.NET. When your customers or potential customers do a Google search for your business name both websites will show up in the results. That means your competitor can use your marketing efforts to confuse your potential and existing customers and steal some of your business. And your competitors aren’t the only ones to worry about.
“Domain Squatters” are people who buy domain names and hold them for ransom. They have no intention of developing a business around the domain name. They are simply waiting for someone to come along and offer to buy the domain from them. Usually they will put up a very generic single page website while they wait for an offer. Unfortunately there is nothing illegal about this. Sometimes they will buy domains similar to yours, or identical domains with different extensions, just to skim off your web traffic.
Every day great domain names become available because someone forgot to renew them, or couldn’t afford them, or just decided they didn’t want them anymore. This is especially true in an economy like the one we have now. Great domain names get purchased quickly and finding the right domain is hard, so if you find a good one then act quickly and buy it or someone else will. If you find a better one then buy it too. In the end who cares if you purchase several domains you never use? If you ultimately get the one you are truly happy with then it will be worth it. It is more expensive to talk someone into selling you a domain name than it is to buy a dozen available domains, so act fast or you may loose your opportunity.
Stuck Between Domain Names
If you find yourself stuck between two or more domain names that abide by all of the rules above then this is what you do. Casually tell each domain name you are considering to a group of family and/or friends then change the topic of conversation. An hour later ask them to repeat the domains to you. The ones they can remember have the most sticky factor. Try this with several different groups of people and be sure to change the order in which you say the domain names. You want to make sure they remember it because it’s sticky, not just because you said it first each time.
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