Choosing Your Domain Name

Another in the "Basics" series, but not to be overlooked. Choosing a good domain name can greatly affect the amount of traffic your site will get. Check out this guideline before picking your site name.

The key to all of these guidelines are they are based on "normal usage".  As with any method of getting unreal web traffic, if you think about how people really use the Internet and gear your site accordingly, you'll get the double benefit of natural traffic usage, and the search engines which gear their rankings toward what looks natural so you'll get increased search engine traffic.

  1. Get your domain name before settling on your company name. I can't tell you how many people have come to me after they've incorporated, developed slogans, etc. To their surprise their company name is already taken as a domain name. Since they already have their heart set on the name and slogans they have developed they end up compromising and get a name that breaks some (if not all) of the following guidelines. Keep this in mind, every guideline you violate will reduce the success of your site. Don't back yourself into a corner by pre-developing your name before finding out what's available.
  2. Always always always get the .com. You can tell people your domain is .net all day long, and they will always type in ".com" instead. On one of my sites someone thought they'd get the .net version of the domain name and setup their own company selling laptops. I can't tell you how many complaints I get via my "contact us" page for their products. "My laptop battery won't charge," "The laptop you sent me has dead pixels," etc. I put a notice on my contact page that I wasn't selling laptops (if they couldn't tell from looking around on the site) and that I didn't sell anything on ebay under my website name - I still got the complaints. What's even funnier is their own employees enter ".com" for their coworkers email addresses and I end up getting all their office correspondence. You'd think the employees of the company would know their own domain name - and they did, it's just a force of habit even when you're told ".net" to type in ".com". Entering ".com" comes natural - if you can't get the .com name don't get that domain name. Don't help your competition by sending them traffic.
  3. Use your targeted keywords in your domain name. Search engines will use the words and phrases of your site domain towards ranking your site. The reasoning is simple - would you use "BuyCars.com" as a dating site? Of course not - people will be able to easily remember your site because it's content they are already interested in.
  4. Avoid abbreviations. When you abbreviate people won't be able to remember which words are spelled out and which words are abbreviated when typing in your site name.
  5. Don't use uncommon acronyms. TCSales.com - what's the T and the C for? No one will know, and they won't remember later. One of my first main sites had this problem. I was always having to tell people the letters over and over. And no matter what, they typed them in the wrong order all the time.
  6. Don't use hyphens. There is one advantage - search engines will easily distinguish your keywords, but by now the most popular search engines are smart enough to pick the words out of the domain name. Since most domains don't have hyphens everyone is used to typing in domain names without them and will commonly forget to put the hyphens in when they are typing yours.
  7. Chose something distinct enough to be distinguishing without being too distinct and easily forgotten. Most common names are already gone (unless your domain was super long: IHadToWriteASentenceToGetSomethingUnique.com). So to get a half-decent name you'll have to use non-common words, but if they are too unusual people won't remember what they were.
  8. Shorter is better. "Less is the new more" - corny saying, but true when it comes to domain names. People don't want to type a paragraph to go to a site, and if it's too long they'll likely get the words mixed up.
  9. Avoid using numbers, but if you insist - purchase every variation and forward all of them to your "primary" version - no joke. People won't be able to remember which part was numeric and which part was spelled out. Also, domains that end with numbers look like cheap sites that are thrown up just for a quick buck and will be gone tomorrow: QuickDeals49.com - you know the one's, you've seen them on cheap tv ads.
  10. Always type your domain name capitalizing the first letter of each word.  This is for readability, I've seen some websites that were really confusing, you could take the site name several different ways. Don't leave people confused - tell them exactly what your site name stands for.

So this is typically what I do for a site name: I brainstorm the site's keywords, coming up with as many phrases as possible. I then go see which ones are available. In this process I often come up with variations of the same words to generate the most complete list. But just because one of the phrases I come up with is available as a .com, I don't necessarily get it. I'm always in search of the phrase that is closest to the purpose of the site I'm working on and would be the easiest for people to remember.

Happy Hunting!

Filed under: Beginner, Online Business Practices

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