How to choose a good domain name
A well thought-out domain name can offer numerous advantages over a hastily decided one. Therefore taking the time to actually come up with an attractive domain name is essential from both a search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing vantage point.
There is of course no tried and true approach to selecting the perfect domain name for every website. There are however certain helpful guidelines that should be adhered to when choosing each domain to maximize its efficacy in attracting your desired target audience.
Before you read on, please keep in mind that a good domain name is only part of the equation in attracting traffic to your website.
The fundamental consideration that Google and other major search engines emphasize in determining a website's ranking in their indices is original and useful content.
If a website has mainly copied material with little original content added, Google may still not rank it highly in its index despite having an attractive domain name.
Often the first domain name that you come up with for your website would have already been registered even if there is presently no website for it.
Choose keywords carefully and use a suffx or prefix if necessary.
This is because there are speculators who register and hold on to attractive domain names in hopes of extracting higher prices from the people who might want to register them at a later time.
There are however strategies that can be adopted despite your intended domain name not being available. Depending on the nature and subject matter of your website, some or all of the major related keywords should be included in your domain name in a meaningful way.
Adding a pertinent prefix or suffix might also be useful but only if it is congruent with the domain name. Common prefixes include my, your, the and by.
For example, the popular Pocket app uses the prefix "get" in its domain name: www.getpocket.com.
Do note that the average web user searches by subject and context (e.g. best wedding dresses) and not by specfic names.
For example, if you are building a website selling wedding dresses under the brand of Leonie, it is much better to use a domain name like "dresses byleonies.com" with a professional-looking website than to focus on finding the most relevant domain name e.g. thebestweddingdresseshere.com.
Domain Name Extension - Top Level and Second Level
A domain name extension should be selected based on a website's intended target audience. If you are only operating in specific geographical area, your domain name should contain the suitable country top-level domain names.
TLDs are important if your website's intended audience is specific to a geographic location.
Conversely, if you are targeting an international audience but operating from a local area (for example, if you have an online store in the UK selling your goods worldwide), having the a top-level domain extension like co.uk or co.ca may actually predispose your audience into thinking that your site will only service customers in the UK simply from the search engine results.
Where possible, use .com top-level domains as they are still considered the most valuable choice. Search engines often look for .com domains before moving on to other TLDs like .net and .org.
Other more recent offerings such as .biz and .info should be avoided as they have acquired a certain notoriety. There have been instances where Google has excluded .info sites from its index. You can goherefor read more.
A more recent development is the availability of unique TLDs like .vodka, .church, .nyc and many more interesting ones that you can check outhere.
Domain names should not be too long and only as short as necessary. This is because a succinct name is frequently more eloquent and persuasive than a lengthier alternative.
Domain names should be as short and meaningful as necessary.
Using the above analogy again, dressesbyleonie.com is surely a more attractive domain name than bestweddingdressesonlyatleonies.com. Besides that, it is also shorter to type and easier to remember - now was that bestweddingdressesatleonies.com or bestweddingdressesbyleonie.com again ?.
Acronyms such as WWF or KFC should also be avoided unless they are absolutely essential to the branding of your website. This applies equally with numbers as well.
Stay away from the gray areas
Many good domain names would normally have already been registered even if the registrants have no intention of making websites for them. This is because of the practice of domain name speculation where certain attractive domain names can be worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Don't fall for the questionable practices like domain name speculation and domain squatting.
For example, it is already no longer possible to register iphone7.com or iphone8.com even if there isn't an iPhone 7 or 8 in the pipeline yet for years to come.
This practice has sometimes been touted as an easy way to strike it rich on the Internet where many speculators are deemed dotcom moguls.
An interesting article was published by CNN in 2007 about an individual namedKevin Hamwith the article's preface reading : "Kevin Ham is the most powerful dotcom mogul you've never heard of. Here's how the master of Web domains built a $300 million empire."
Although the story above certain sounds remarkable, it isn't something that the average website owner should be caught up with. It may be exciting to register your first few domain names and establish a portfolio of domains.
But unless you know what you are doing, you are basically swimming with the sharks like Kevin Ham that have far greater resources at their disposal. These domain name speculators are armed with sophisticated computer programs to determine the profitablility of a domain name and a sizable wallet that most of us simply do not access to.
Something else to avoid is cybersquatting or domain squatting which is the practice of registering, trafficking or using a domain name which is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or personal name.
This is an illegal activity under theAnticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act(or ACPA) which states :
The ACPA is an American law enacted in 1999 that established a cause of action for registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name confusingly similar to, or dilutive of, a trademark or personal name.
The law was designed to thwart “cybersquatters” who register Internet domain names containing trademarks with no intention of creating a legitimate web site, but instead plan to sell the domain name to the trademark owner or a third party.
It may be a cool strategy to register and promote a website under sams-mcsandwich.com until you receive a letter from McDonald's lawyers one fine day. This includes sites which have trademarked names with the sole intention of selling them back to the owner of the trademarks for a higher price.
The following are a few more factors that have been promoted as good practices in domain name selection :
Avoid numbers in domain names : 123hostbot.com.
Avoid using hyphens in domains : the-host-bot.com.
Depending on the your intended domain name, have the first letter of your domain name closest to the letter a as possible.
Our only comment to the above is to pay attention to the needs of your website (and business) and not to SEO tricks (Google's search engine algorithms are smarter than that). Building a reputable website with original content is as important if not more than any SEO optimization.
You can check out many of Google Adsense success storieshere. The common theme has always useful original content. Remember that if you have constant original and high-quality content, Google's machines will find your website eventually.
Conversely, a first page ranking from a commonly-searched for domain name without useful content will no more get a glance from a web user before it is closed.
More Interesting Articles
Web Hosting Starter Guide Part 1
Read our article for beginners to all things web hosting - an introductory series on the basics of choosing a suitable web hosting company for your website including explanations on the various terms associated with web hosting in general.
Web Hosting Starter Guide Part 2
In the second part of our introductory series to web hosting, we explore some of the different types of web hosting solutions including free hosting and shared hosting plans.
How To Choose A Good Web Host
Choosing a good web host for a website is the most important decision to make in maintaining a solid online presence. In this article, we offer some guidelines on things that every website owner should keep in mind when choosing a web host.
The Truth About Unlimited Hosting
Many web hosting companies offer unlimited hosting these days but how accurate are these claims? In this article, we provide an honest look at unlimited hosting solutions so that you have a better understanding on what you are paying for when subscribing for these plans.