As you start planning and creating a website, it can be difficult to settle on the best domain name. It’s important not to rush into a name. By taking a few minutes to assess your best website name, you can get the edge over your small business competition. Below are key factors you need to consider:
Your Domain Name Must Be Memorable
Your website name should not be too long, simply because it’s going to be harder to remember and harder to enter without making a mistake. It should also be reflective of your small business name. Opting to name your website waterleak.com when your business is named ‘Harry’s Plumbing’ doesn’t do anything for your brand.
Also, as a general rule it’s also best to stay away from acronyms. So if your business is ‘Pauls Gymnastic Sports Supplies’, naming your website pgss.com is neither memorable nor relevant.
Know What Your Customers are Searching For
Although the exact Google algorithm is a secret, its well known that Google strive to return the most relevant search results based on a users entry. As an example, let’s pretend there are three dentists with the websites: baysidedental.com, drcollins.com and baydentist.com
The Google Keyword Tool tells us that 1.5 million people search for ‘dentist’ each month and 135,000 people search for ‘dental’.
This means that the website baysidedentist.com has an edge over the other two website, as it contains a more popular keyword.
It’s important to know what your customer’s search behaviour. The best domain name will capitalise on this search behaviour. At a basic level, you can research the online market with the Google Keywords tool. Alternatively, you can get even more tailored industry information with Market Samurai (which has free traffic hunting software). I use the professional version and recommend it.
Should I Just Use my Brand Name?
My view is no. Ideally your brand name already contains your category (such as Bayside Dentist), however if that’s not the case it is worth adding your business category to your website name.
So, if you’re a plumber with the business name ‘Simpson & Son’, consider naming your website simpsonplumber.com or if you’re a florist named ‘Tall Poppy’, naming your website tallpoppyflorist.com should be considered.
Should I Register a .com or .net?
If you can, it is best to select a .com extension, simply because it’s the default option that customers assume. By adhering to familiarity, your customers are less likely to encounter errors when entering or finding your website. And who wants to construct another roadblock? As a small business owner your aim is to make the whole process as simple as possible.
Your Domain Country of Origin
In addition to registering a .com extention, you also have the option of identifying with a country such as .au for Australia, .uk for the United Kingdom or even .de for Germany. If you have a small business that primarily services customers in a particular country, it’s worth selecting a country identifier. This is a trust factor. Customers in that country see that you’re a local operator – which gives you an edge over other providers that aren’t.
It’s also generally thought that Google gives preference to website’s that are local in local search results.
Tip: If your website includes more than one word, make it easier to read by using a capital letter for the first letters of each word. It’s a lot easier to read sbp.strongerbranch.com than sbp.strongerbranch.com. Plus either can be entered into an address bar without error.
Should I use Hyphens and Numbers?
You need to be careful with hyphens and numbers, simply because they can be difficult to explain in all mediums. The best domain name will offer no confusion. It wouldn’t matter if it’s written down or called out loud.
Problems arise when a website contains non-alphabetic characters or references to non-alphabetic characters. Suppose a business was named: Great 4 Lunch
If I heard a friend quote this name, I’d likely think it’s website address was: GreatForLunch.com, when the owner could have registered Great4Lunch.com
Hyphens are also dangerous. As a default, users know to run the words of business together to form a website addresses. People know not to use hyphens. So why complicate the issue and start introducing them? Again, it’s a case of removing road blocks and working in harmony with standard user behaviour – not against it.
Avoid Common Misspellings
Do you have a name that’s commonly misspelt? It can get a bit tiresome having to correct the spelling each time, but at least you’re there in person to set the record straight. In the online environment you get no such luxury. If your website’s name features a misspelling of a common word, it can make it more difficult for users to find your website. Imagine users trying to search for ‘Fred’s Fast Flowers’, but failing to find it because the site name was actually ‘Fred’s Phast Flowers’. Again, reduce the road blocks and apply common sense.
Alternatively if your small business name intentionally playful spelling, think about also purchasing the domain with the correct spelling. By implementing a simple redirect, you get the best of both worlds.
Be Careful Not to Step on a Trademark
So you’ve just developed a great iPhone application or a time saving addition to Microsoft Word. Your excitement knows no bounds as you dream of cashing in on your idea. If you register a domain name which includes a registered trademark (such as iPhone or Microsoft) your dreams of endless customers will soon be replaced with legal letters. Do not register domain names that contain trademarked names. Trademarks are protected intellectual property.
Save Money With Your Domain Name Provider
Just as you can save money with the best website hosting you can also save money by buying your domain name from the right provider. Buying a domain name is not expensive. The heated competition keeps prices to a minium. Once you’re certain of your best domain name I recommend you checkout Godaddy. They offer a great deal on purchasing your domain name.
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Great post David. I’m currently trying to come up with a domain name for my new blog so a lot of this information was relevant. An interesting thing I read recently is; once you’ve found the right domain name, it’s worth paying for the maximum period allowed by the domain provider, as this apparently helps with your ranking.
.-= Colin´s last blog ..Gratitude =-.
Very timely as I’ve had my head into the Samurai all day, and if not totally confused, a bit brain fried. Great post with lots of very useful info for where I’m at tonight. Thanks for the info. Clicked some of your buttons.
Extraordinarily comprehensive post, David. When I select a domain name, I usually start with all the key words I would like and then cut it down to a human friendly – google friendly length that hasn’t been thought of by someone else before. For instance if you had a site about multicolored widgets, it would be nice to call it redorangeyellowgreenblueindigovioletwidgets.com, but I thing Google would not like it.
.-= Wal Heinrich´s last blog ..Joys And Benefits Of Transportable Homes =-.
Some really good information here. I have a question about buying aged domains. There is a school of thought that the older the domain name the more trusted you are by the major search engines and therefore improves your chances for ranking highly. Is there also the possibility that the domain was used for something which was not liked by the Search engines and may have a less than perfect history? Would you agree with buying an aged domain, colored history or not, or is it best to start fresh with a new domain name?
I look forward to your responses to some of the questions above. A very informative blog which really clarifies a lot of questions that I had also. Sometimes it is not possible to get a .com. Would a .net or .org be the next best choice?
Thanks for these tips on choosing the best domain name. I am looking at starting another self hosted blog in the very near future so this has really helped me.
.-= Jackie Stenhouse´s last blog ..What to Look For in a Child With Anxiety =-.
I’ve just read your article David and found it very interesting. I have one question. The domain name I use on one site ie ETSY is spelt the English/Australian way but in some countries it’s spelt the American way and as I’m English/Australian I want to keep the the E/A spelling. Can this affect my traffic/searches?
Hi Colin. Yes, it’s generally viewed that Google views domains that have been purchased for a long period of time will rank higher (as they’re less likely to be fly by night operations)
Cheers Harry. I think our brains can all get a bit fried sometimes. May be I should turn my screen brightness down
Thanks Wal. You may be trying to stuff a few too many keywords in there (making the url less memorable). Google doesn’t miss a trick.
Bev, Yes there’s thought to be a relationship between domain age and ranking, which seems logical. I wouldn’t have thought that a domain would be tarnished by its previous content history, as this would be constantly evolving anyway. There may be a chance that Google has ‘banned’ a domain from search results through. I would recommend choosing a domain that is fit for your purpose. If a great domain is available at an agreeable price, then go for it.
Thanks Cathy. I prefer .com addresses simply because users are more likely to assume the url will have a .com extension. .net or .org aren’t at all penalised because of their extensions, it’s just that they are less likely to be top of mind when entering an address. Plus .com looks a bit more professional.
Good luck Jackie.
Thanks Jude, it comes down to the market you are targeting and what they will search for (and how they will spell it). Google is pretty smart by nature and will look to correct or localise spelling through the localised search engine users use (google.com.au for instance). Having said that, if dozens of sites are optimising for specific spelling, they are likely to grab a share of that search traffic.
You’ve made some great points here on choosing a domain name. I like your tips on choosing for “Brand Name” Domain Names.
When choosing a Domain name, I also like to compare the Keyword Traffic to the Keyword Competition. Higher KW traffic often bring more competition, so sometimes ranking highly for a group a medium traffic less competitive KW may be better option than not ranking highly for higher traffic high competition KW’s, especially when starting a new business domain.
Love the site, keep up the great work!
.-= Mr Limousine´s last blog ..Wedding Limousine Services- Tips for your special day =-.
A great overview of what to consider when choosing a domain – I totally agree with what you have said.
For those buying older domain names, one way to checkout how a domain name has been used in the past is the wayback machine at archive.org. It is also important to confirm that the page rank of an established site hasn’t been faked. Market Samurai offers some tools for this (via the Domain Samurai module).
.-= Tom McEwin´s last blog ..The Top 10 Article Directories – Part 3 – A Detailed Look =-.
This is great David! Gave me some useful tips and some stuff to think about when I’m setting up a new website. Although my new blog has nothing to do with witty things to say but will have a more serious side… so I am looking forward to that. And searching for the best domain name will be a little bit easier – thanks!!
.-= Samantha Banfield – Witty Sam´s last blog ..Going Bush =-.
Fantastic article, I really enjoyed it. This is exactly the thought process I went through selecting my own business name – I do marketing and web stuff, and webmarketing would have been taken years ago. I was quite pleased to actually find this one that fitted me perfectly when looking for a name, and my logo with the arrows going both ways hopefully portrays the fact it’s marketing, web and web marketing. And to be honest, I really named my business second – i found a great domain name first!
For my customers, the stuff you have said is exactly the sort of advice I provide when helping select a domain name. The ones where we do this effectively to provide the right combination of “keywords plus brand” work the best. On the other hand I sometimes get clients who have already purchased a domain name prior to getting me to do development (or it’s an SEO job on an existing site), and I shudder at some of the names people have – either abbreviations that are just letters or the useless for ranking part of their name, or in the worst case i’ve come across, has a keyword in the name that isn’t in their business name and would make the casual web surfer thing they do something different to what they actually do!
Anyway, enough from me, and thanks again for your post.
Very handy tips here David, I need to be choosing a domain name very soon and this info is useful.
I agree with you on the .com preference and why it’s best. Is .org regarded with more authority? I notice many government sites use .org rather than .com
Thanks Mr Limousine. Comparing keyword traffic to competition is the smart thing to do.
Tom, great link. This makes it easier to peak back in time to check the usage of a domain that’s for sale.
Good luck with the website Samantha, glad to be of some help.
Matt, I appreciate your kind words. Great to know it resonated with you – and mirrors the advice you give your own customers.
Hi Jill. .org domain extensions tend to be for organisations and groups that are less commercial. As a small business owner that’s looking to provide a commercial solution to a customer problem, I’d recommend using a .com domain extension.
Thanks for the tips. Really helpful.
Another tip I would add is to try to avoid double letters if possible – meaning, the last letter of one word being the same as the first letter of the next. Eg accountantssydney.com.au. For that matter, avoid any combination of end letters that, when merged with the letters of the next word, make it unreadable. Usually a mix of vowels are not good. It can look confusing.
Also, to clarify your helpful tip about using capital letters for first words, presumably you mean when you’re writing it out in a business card, email signature or your website heading. It doesn’t actually make a difference if you type in the capital letters in the URL address bar.
Great work, David.
.-= Lina Nguyen´s last blog ..7 Facebook etiquette tips – Is your G-string showing =-.
Hi David, I spent a little while looking at the issue of trademarked domain names a few months ago.
The conclusion I came to is that it may be possible to use a domain name which includes a registered trademark, but one would need to be very careful in doing so.
Really good content here. When I first started on my Internet Marketing Journey a few short years ago, people charged for information like this. I paid a hefty fee just to learn how to get a domain and set up a word press blog.
Great tips, nevertheless I might not completely agree about your comment of not choosing the brand name as the domain. In my opinion, I believe it is important using the brand name as the domain name. In terms of branding really helps, more over, if the big concern is the search traffic I think there is no need not to worry as long the website provides good content.