10 tips for choosing a domain name

Whether you’re in the midst of launching a new company, introducing your existing offline business to the internet, or simply rebranding, a good website always starts with a solid domain name.

Understanding how to name your up-and-coming website can be a daunting task.

Keep it short

Google, Uber, Twitter, Jotform — do you notice a pattern here? Short or concise domain names are easier to remember, easier to type, and not as likely to get lost in translation.

Imagine you’re on a sales call, and the client asks for your website. Do you want to spend the next 10 minutes spelling out a 30-character domain name and risk the client writing it down incorrectly? Or would you prefer to save yourself (and your customers) the time and aggravation by simplifying your domain name?

Stick to domain names that are easy to spell

Your domain name is the perfect area to let your creativity run wild — within reason, that is. While your domain should be catchy, this isn’t necessarily the time to reinvent how to spell a well-known word (think “kats” instead of “cats”).

Unnecessarily difficult spelling or pronunciation can create a barrier to others visiting your site.

In addition, using hyphens and underscores can be very tempting, especially if a domain name you want is taken but a similar version with a hyphen isn’t. There’s a slew of reasons why you’ll want to avoid this.

For one, if a visitor forgets to type in the hyphen, they’ll end up on your competitor’s site instead.

Second, you’re inviting a lot more typos. Plus, sites with hyphens are often spam sites. If you’re a legitimate business, you should avoid that.

Third, domain names with hyphens and underscores aren’t mobile-friendly. Mobile users make up nearly half of all internet traffic. This means that at any given time, you have a 50/50 chance of a web visitor coming in from a computer or their smartphone. To ensure your domain name is optimized for mobile, stick with common spellings and avoid hyphens and other special characters, which require users to toggle their keyboards to access those symbols.

Use your domain as a branding opportunity

With the internet so saturated in websites — 1,518,207,412 to be exact — your domain name is the perfect branding opportunity. Using your domain name, you can do all kinds of  play-on-words titles for your blog, an online store, or even verbiage you use within your brand. For example, consider how Buzzfeed also became Buzzfeed Daily and Buzzfeed News.

In fact, some brands have been known to go to great lengths to solidify their brand. Sumo.com famously rebranded from sumome.com to Sumo.com. The domain name alone cost them $1.5 million.

Consider your niche

One of the biggest domain name faux pas is failing to consider the influence your niche has on your brand. The perfect domain name should give users a strong idea what your website is about. A potential visitor should read your domain name and be able to quickly identify what services you offer or what niche you fall into.

One example is the Whiskers brand. Despite sounding cat-friendly at first glance, Whiskers is actually a men’s shoelace brand. To make that clear on their website, the company chose the domain “WhiskersLaces.”

By adding a keyword referencing their niche market, their messaging is automatically clearer.

Use keywords sensibly

Speaking of keywords, this brings us to our next tip: Use keywords to signal to search engines (and web visitors) what your website is about. By using keywords in your domain name, you automatically help explain what your website does and why someone might visit it. When combined with high-quality content and an optimized user experience, this can help you begin ranking on search engines.

However, you shouldn’t mash up your top three keywords to form a domain name. In fact, attempting to shove in as many keywords as possible is a great way to end up with a super long domain name that may get penalized by Google.

Be wary of repeated letters

We’ve all accidentally typed in one too many o’s when trying to get on Google. Luckily, Google will typically redirect you if you add an extra letter.

Repeated letters are prone to typos, which can ultimately result in lost traffic for your site.

Stick with the .com

We’ll be the first to admit that choosing niche domain name extensions like .clothing or .design is tempting, especially when considering that new .com and .net domain name registrations have totaled nearly 11 million this year alone. But the reason why the .com extension is still so popular is simple: It’s trusted.

The .com extension is the most commonly recognized and acknowledged available extension. In fact, it’s safe to say that most people will assume your site is a .com and will type that in. Even if you choose a relatively tamer extension, like a .co, you run the risk of a visitor adding in an unnecessary ‘m’ that will take traffic away from your site.

Scope out the competition

Before getting your heart set on any specific domain, thoroughly research the name first. Begin by running a trademark search to see if the phrase has been legally claimed. Not only will this save you from getting into legal trouble, but it also makes branding your business a whole lot easier.

The fewer competitors with a similar domain to yours, the more yours will stand out. In addition to doing a trademark search, search social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You’ll want your domain name to go hand in hand with your social handles.

Leave room for growth

While your business plan might seem concrete at the moment, who’s to say what your brand will offer in the next five years? Do yourself a favor and don’t pigeonhole yourself with an overly specific domain name.

For example, if you run a PPC agency in Austin, Texas, you might want to avoid the domain name, AustinPPCAgency.com. If you decide to add additional services — like web design — in the future or perhaps relocate to a new city, you’ll have to do a full rebrand.

Visit domain generators for inspiration

Are you still stuck for domain inspiration? Check out a domain generator for creative ideas. Simply plug in a keyword related to your brand, and a generator will create related domains for you. Some online domain generators to consider include

Your domain name will act as your digital address for years to come. These 10 tips can help you choose the perfect one.

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