Finding The Right Domain Name For Your Business

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Domain namesSelecting a domain name is the first step in getting your business online. And because of the way domain names are treated by search engines, it’s a very important first move. You want to take your time selecting your domain name so you don’t have to go back and choose an alternative down the road and go through the lengthy process of redirecting website pages that search engines have already indexed.

The Keys To A Good Domain Name

The keys to a good domain name include the following:

  • Short and/or easy to remember
  • Easy to spell (and difficult to misspell)
  • No hyphens (unless it’s absolutely necessary)
  • Dot COM TLD or country specific domain extension
  • Reflects your business, or the products or services you are selling
  • Keyword focus for smaller businesses that don’t have large branding budgets

Let’s go through each of these elements in turn.

Short And Easy To Remember

You want your domain name to be short, so it doesn’t take users forever to type it into their browser’s address bar. And you want it to be easy to remember so they don’t accidentally land on the wrong site.

Easy To Spell

One of the banes of domain name selection is a catchy name that no one can spell. It might sound great and have an obvious spelling to you, because you’re familiar with the name or concept. There’s a couple ways of testing the “spell-ability” of your domain name:

  • Open a spread sheet and type the name a couple dozen times as fast as you can. See if there’s a common misspelling that repeats itself. If so, and you’re stuck on getting this domain name, make sure you buy the misspelling and redirect it to your main site.
  • Tell the domain name to a dozen or so people (without writing it down) and see how they end up spelling it

No Hyphens

This one depends on how you’re going to market your website. If you’re telling people about your domain name primarily via traditional marketing methods (phone, print, in person, etc.), you’ll want to avoid a hyphen in your domain name. Why? Because people don’t remember to add it. If you have to use a hyphen, make sure to emphasize the hyphen in all your marketing materials. And when you’re telling someone about your domain name, always emphasize the hyphen (ie. on a phone call for Fashion-Hound.com, you would say “Fashion HYPHEN Hound dot com.”)

If, on the other hand, you’re anticipating to do your marketing/ traffic gathering primarily via search, the hyphen isn’t as important. Why? Because most of your traffic will arrive via click-throughs, so people won’t have to actually type in the hyphen. The same goes for long domain names – if the primary traffic driver is search, the exact nature of your domain name becomes less of an issue. Still – if your site grows big enough, these factors will eventually come into play as you visitors are driven from a variety of traffic channels.

If you want to dive deeper into the “hyphen vs. no hyphen” discussion on domain names, feel free to check out our article dedicated to this topic: is my domain name better with or without hyphens?

.COM Or Country Specific Domain Name Extension

This is primarily important if you’re website or business is based in the United States. Why? Because most country specific domain names prefer their own country code (as do local searchers) to dot com. The only country coded domain extension that plays a lesser role to .com is .us (for the U.S.). That being said, .com is ubiquitous and accepted around the world as an authoritative, world-wide domain extension.

This also comes into play with the search engines. Google, for example, will give a “local” preference to domains with a particular country extension. That means if your domain name ends in .co.uk (for England), you’ll see targeted searches from visitors on that continent. If your domain name ends in .com, the nature of your website content will be more prevalent.

Lastly, with a .com (and with country coded extensions), you are more likely to get type-in traffic (traffic from users that simply type your domain name directly into their address bar). This type of traffic is most common for generic, dictionary-based words, which are becoming far less common and more difficult to get. Nevertheless, there are some keyword phrases out there receiving a good amount of type-in traffic to this day.

Let Your Domain Name Speak To Your Customer

It’s vital that your domain name be obvious to the customer. It should either contain keywords relevant to your business, or reflect your company name. Only if you have a large branding budget can you come up with a strange, quirky name and have people remember it. Of course, if you come up with a catchy keyword phrase (such as “Elephant in the Room”), people are more likely to remember that as well. Just to be sure, run a small focus group and see what people think. Mention the name over the course of a few days and then ask them again a few weeks later and see if they remember it.

Keyword Focus

We touched on this a bit in the last section, but we’ll say it again: for most small business startups, it’s not a bad idea to include keywords in your domain name that reflect what your business is all about. True, your domain name may be a bit boring and not as “fun” as a quirky, catchy name a creative agency may come up with. But to your customers – it won’t matter. If the name is easy to remember and makes it obvious as to what your business is about, that’s what counts. Learn more in our article Should You Have Keywords in Your Domain Name?

Choosing The Perfect Domain Name

Any luck choosing your domain name? Not sure if it’s still available? Visit Godaddy to search for a domain name for free.

Get Noticed with a $7.99 .COM or .CO Domain Name from Godaddy

Share Your Domain Name Experience

Please comment below with your experiences/ thoughts in the process of choosing your own domain name (or a domain name for your business), and include some of the domain names you’ve come up with (if they’re not confidential and assuming you’ve registered them if they’re important to you so someone else doesn’t grab them from in front of your nose!).

Choosing a domain name can be a fun but tiring process. Don’t close yourself in to a few days, but take your time, sleep on it, and don’t rush this part of bringing your business online. The more time you spend now choosing a good name, the less time you’ll waste down the road changing it and having to redirect all your indexed content (notifying the search engines that you’ve moved to another domain name, and putting the right commands in place to redirect your search traffic).

About The Author:

Alex bring a series of in-depth articles on search marketing and content management systems as well as troubleshooting tips to We Rock Your Web's collection. He is an avid tennis player, nature enthusiast, and hiker, and enjoys spending time with his wife, friends, and dogs, Bella and Lily.

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Guest
I think that it is hard enough to choose a domain name on your own, but to try and explain to someone the importance of the domain name so they can understand how to choose their own is a whole other ballgame. It can be outright exhausting. Most people want to see their own name in a domain name, but they don’t understand that Google does not care about your personal name. They care about your content and the theme of your site. If you can’t make those things clear to Google then you may as well not even have a domain at all.

So look, if you are going to try and get information about choosing a domain name, at least listen to the people who are trying to give you that information. They are not trying to waste their breath and if you are asking them, then you must think they know what they are talking about. If that is the case, then you need to actually pay attention to what those people are saying. Sorry, I guess I have just had one too many people ask me for this information only to argue with me to the end that they really just want to see their name followed by a dot com.

Guest
In a way I almost hate domain names. I can’t count the number of times I’ve came up with a blog that I just loved only to have to scramble to find a domain name that wasn’t already taken. In some cases, I’ve given up completely on the idea. While many .com domain names are already taken, there are a number of .co, .org, etc domain names that are still available. If I had a website that truly took off, I would try to purchase all the available domain names so that someone couldn’t copy my site.

As someone who has been creating websites for years, I understand the need of a great domain name. In fact, a domain name can greatly affect the success of your business. The last thing you want is a domain name that doesn’t match the theme or idea of your business. That’s why a lot of thought needs to go into choosing the right domain name. However, that may require going back to the drawing board a number of times before you find a name that isn’t already taken. Personally, I like to start with searching out domain names before I setup my website so that I know the name is available.

Guest
One of the hardest things to do when you are creating a site or a blog is to choose your domain name. Some people makes sites or blogs that are purely business and centered about a particular product. For those people, the key is to capture the subject matter and sometimes the location within the domain name. For someone who can provide the service or product online, it is a bit easier because you do not have to worry about location. But, if you do something like daycare or automotive services, location can be important.

My first blog was a very personal blog. It was more a matter of just enjoying the writing than it was to make money, so I did the stupid thing and picked a title that Google would basically never pick up on. As a result, I had very little traffic.

I think before you choose a domain name, you need to decide what you are even building the domain for. Even sites that are focused on a local business can benefit from traffic that is not local. You have to remember that there are millions of blogs and sites and your goal is always to be the best of the best. But no matter how high your quality is, you have to let Google know you are out there.

guest
Just today I was on the phone with my brother helping him to get a site set up. It has been a few years since I set up my own site and I had almost forgotten what it was like to be in that situation. For him it was even more difficult because he does not know how to do things like add images or embed links. He just knows he has a business that he wants to get the word out about and the best way to do it is online.

I think it is vital to talk with someone who has some experience in this area before you actually buy a domain name. If you have set up a site, you might remember all the things you ended up changing after you learned the ins and outs. The domain name may just be the start of things, but it really is one of the most important things for you to worry about.

For instance, my brother wanted to name the site after his business, which makes sense until you consider that Google has no idea what that business name means. I had my brother include the area he works in as well as the product category in his domain name.

guest
I think a lot of companies make the mistake of using words that are easily misspelled. I think this might have been why Barnes and Noble switched to http://www.bn.com. I always try to make my domain names as easy to remember as possible. That’s why I just use the name of my blog as the domain name. It’s easy to remember, but it also incorporates keywords, which is always good for SEO.

One of the biggest problems faced by companies is finding a domain name that hasn’t been taken. It can be very frustrating to come up with the perfect domain name and find out that it’s already taken. That’s why I always check domain names before starting a new blog. This allows me to easily match the domain name to the name of the website. In other words, it’s best to start with the domain name when building a website.

Of course, choosing domain names isn’t just reserved for those in the website building business. It also pays to purchase domain names in hopes of selling them at a later date. For example, some companies invest in domain names that revolve around the latest trends in hopes of selling the domain name for a large profit.

guest
This is an area I have a lot of experience with. As the owner of several blogs, I have spent time trying to find the perfect domain names and sometimes the best names are taken, which means going back to the drawing board. However, finding the best domain name is essential for the success of your website for a variety of reasons.

First of all, a good domain name must be easy to remember so that readers/customers have an easier time finding your website. For many companies, this means that the best solution would be to use their business name. Of course, the length of the domain name can also be an issue. Choosing a name that is long and drawn out makes it harder to remember, but also makes it harder to fit on business cards and promotional items.

Second, you want a domain name that speaks volumes about what your website offers. For example, if you’re running a blog instead of a business, you want a domain name that relates to the topic of your blog. For example, if you write about a specific breed of dog, you would want to shoot for the breed name and if that is taken, you might choose something like, aboutchihuahuas(dot)com.

Guest
When I created my first site, I had no idea how to pick a domain name and no idea how search engines worked. I wanted something quirky and fun. Later, when I learned about SEO and LSI, I had to come up with a new domain name to match the subject matter I was dealing with.

Sometimes it is not your brand that you want to market by. Yes, you want people to become familiar with you and to remember you or your brand, but when it comes to search engines, you want the focus on the subject matter. For instance, I have a parenting blog about a single mother going to college. I wanted to convey that to the search engines as well as to the readers, so I called it Student of Motherhood. It looks like I mean I am learning from being a mom (which I am) to my readers, but the search engines can see it is about motherhood as well as being a mother.

If I were to do it over again, I would probably divide the two concepts for more accurate search engine results, but this Internet thing is an ever evolving work in progress.

Laura
This article just sums up and reaffirms everything I’ve been thinking when considering a website name. It seems like common sense but so many people don’t use it when buying a domain. They are forcing themselves into what is available. Don’t compromise your business or brand because of cheap domains. Be smart, strategic and stick with your gut. How will you consumers find you? Think about your customers ultimately and you will chose a winner!

Anonymous
When I first began doing SEO, I learned that my domain name was important because of the keywords. Though those things are still important these days, things have changed a bit. With Google Penguin and Panda, it is important to have your keyword in your domain name, but also, you want to make sure your domain name makes sense and is useful to visitors. If you have a ridiculous keyword stuffed domain name that makes no sense, I’m sure that Google has put up protections against this.

I think you should also consider the reader when you are choosing a domain name. Sometimes, you probably should not even worry about whether the keyword is in there. Like if you are trying to attract fashion conscious female customers between the ages of 20 and 35, because you design handmade knit clothing, then even though a name like knittedshirtsandskirts.com, might be good for the search engines (with a strong emphasis on the “MIGHT,”) a domain name like trendysassyknits.com might attract more customers, cause them to bookmark your site and there’s a good chance that the search engines will love you more. Think about serving your customers.

a web rocker
Great, succinct article on choosing a domain name. I agree with most of your points. The only question I have is regarding the hyphen. Our business name is only available if we add two hyphens between words. Is this unacceptable as far as search engines go?

Alex Schenker
The hyphen issue is one that will probably become more and more relevant as non-hyphenated .com domain names become more scarce. To answer your question, yes, two hyphens can be difficult to market. As far as search engines go, you should be fine. In fact, hyphens can help divide up your keywords (although most search engines are smart enough to figure it out).

A classic example is experts-exchange.com. If they had gone with the non-hyphenated version, they could potentially be mistaken as expertSEXchange.com. Oops! As far as offline marketing efforts go (word of mouth, telephone, etc.), hyphens are not ideal, because users are more likely to forget the hyphen when typing in your domain name.

So the question for you is – how important is it that your business name be in your domain name? Could you come up with an alternate name that is just as effective? It’s basically a judgment call in the end, but don’t forget to keep in mind where most of your traffic will be coming from (search engines vs. other marketing channels).

a web rocker
Always choose the unique and attractive domain name. Ask yourself if you and your friends will remember the name a week from now. A good way to test this is to drop a bunch of domain names from your short list at your next cocktail party, then bring it up a week later, without mentioning the names, and see which ones they remember.

Jennifer Collins
I want to set up a website for women that reflects being sexy with products like sexy clothing, lingerie and trendy fashion jewelry.

If I choose a name similar to something like glamnsexy.com, or trendynfab.com, is that ok considering the domain name doesn’t really explain what I’m selling?

Kimberly Alt
I think both of those suggestions are ok Jennifer. I think it would be worse if you had sexyclothinglingeriejewelry.com (or something long like that). The domain name doesn’t need to be a complete description of what you are selling, but it does need to explain it in a way, which I think trendynfab.com and glamnsexy.com both suggest. I suggest asking others what comes to mind when you say trendnfab.com and glamnsexy.com. When I hear them I think of sexy outfits, possibly even makeup, and trendy clothing. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Thanks for reading and commenting!

-Kimberly