How to choose a domain name to be proud of
Updated: January 24, 2019
Your domain name is your web identity and should make a first impression that resonates. It must be memorable, enticing and a proud representation of you and your brand. Back in the day you could pick a brand name, and promptly buy brandname.com. Nowadays with everyone and their grandma fighting for their own corner of the interweb, we must be more creative. Your domain name is a long-term commitment, and should not be purchased without due consideration.
The very first thing you should do is explore potential domain names, then choose your brand name accordingly. It is vital that your domain name directly relates to your brand name and identity.
Don’t ram your domain name with keywords. If your business name has a keyword in it like ‘Bob’s Construction’, then great, but don’t choose something totally obvious like ‘webdesignerglasgow.com’. It’s ugly and spammy, and it makes you sound like a robot. Plus, it’s totally generic and forgettable. This is your primary opportunity to make the right impression! Of course SEO is important, but you can add an enticing and SEO friendly title and description behind the scenes on your website. You can also use keywords in page URLs, which covers both branding and SEO needs.
Your domain name is how people will find, remember and share your brand, so get creative and stand out.
The shorter the better. Aim for no more than 14 characters or three words. Bear in mind the average number of characters in the names of the top 100,000 websites is 9. The top 5 websites have approximately 6 characters in their domain name.
When choosing a domain name, consider relevance, memorability, longevity, and availability.
One word domain names are ideal but nearly extinct. You might need to create your own word, or mix words up, or perhaps use a tagline, or a relevant phrase you often use. Just be sure to keep your brand name in the mix.
An acronym might be the answer, but they can be harder to remember if they’re not catchy enough. An acronym can be formed from either individual letters, as in BISTO (browns, seasons and thickens in one – bet you didn’t know that!), or from syllables, as in Durex (durable, reliable, excellent).
You could try small prefix words like ‘the’ or a suffix, like ‘…ify’ (Spotify), or incorporate your brand name within a phrase like ‘weare…’.
Make sure there’s nothing untoward hiding in word or letter combinations – I bet SpeedOfArt.com were kicking themselves! Google your business name ideas to check what sort of thing comes up in the results. You may have accidentally chosen a slang word or one that has associations you hadn’t considered. Check other prominent languages too – you don’t want any mishaps like the tree surgeon in France, LesBocages.com – you never know!
Easy to spell and pronounce, especially if you have been getting creative! Word of mouth is your most valuable marketing tool. Would you be able to spell the domain name if you heard it from a friend at a party? If you find yourself spelling out your domain name more than once for it to be understood, it’s no good. Test it on your friends before you commit.
You can tickle your visitors with a good euphemism, but don’t push it.
Ideally you want a name with only one possible spelling. Flickr.com, for example, had to acquire Flicker.com for a small fortune, four years after their launch so they could redirect the many visitors who misspelled their name.
Avoid hyphens and numbers. If the equivalent domain without hyphens or numbers is unavailable, your name is way too similar to another site. You would likely lose potential visitors due to the inevitable mix up. Domains with hyphens and numbers are also prone to typos.
Extensions are evolving. Whilst .com is more familiar and easier to remember, people are left using long, dashy, cumbersome names just so they can have a .com domain. Small businesses and niche markets are benefiting from the new, more specific extensions such as .photo .coffee .boutique. These quirky extensions can add branding value and make it clear what your brand offers, especially if your business name is not industry specific.
There are other more common extensions that provide indications, such as;
- .co.uk : one of many country specific extensions (can help Google ranking in that country, but hinders global ranking).
- .co : an abbreviation for company, commerce, and community.
- .info : informational sites.
- .net : technical, internet infrastructure sites.
- .org : non-commercial organizations and non-profits.
- .biz : business or commercial use, like e-commerce sites.
- .me : blogs, CVs or personal sites.
Whatever you choose, you should purchase various domain extensions to protect your brand. If your main business focus is in the UK you should ideally, buy .com and .co.uk, as well as any misspelled versions of your name, if that’s a potential issue. This also prevents domain squatters purchasing similar domains to yours, in an attempt to sell it back to you in the future for silly money. You can easily redirect visitors from your additional domains to your primary website.
Don’t pigeonhole yourself – avoid names that don’t allow for your business to evolve. You only sell bamboo toothbrushes now, but you may want to branch out in the future. It’s also best to avoid something on-trend. Trends fade and although your site design is flexible, a domain name is a big commitment. It’s a real pain to change it in future. It’s costly, and potentially damaging to rankings and to your brand, so make sure you LOVE it!
We recommend Namecheap for checking availability and acquiring domain names.
If your chosen name isn’t showing as available, it may be for sale in the secondary market. That means that someone has purchased it specifically for resale. This can be expensive and best avoided, unless it’s perfect for you and you’re willing to pay top dollar for it.
If the domain you have your heart set on isn’t available through these means, you could try to purchase the domain from the owner. You can find their contact info through who.is.
Once you have established availability, Google your business name to make sure nobody else is using a name that is too similar to yours. This includes plurals or alternative spellings, especially if being confused with their business is potentially brand damaging.
Also, search on all the predominant social media sites to make sure that your domain name is available across ALL of them. It is a branding must to keep all the names consistent so your profiles are easily found and to avoid any mix-ups.
It is also imperative that you check existing trademarks, so that you don’t tread on anyone’s toes and get in trouble.
Choosing your domain name is not to be taken lightly. It will represent you and your brand for the foreseeable future. So yes, it’s big deal, but as long as you remember the four key considerations – relevance, memorability, longevity, and availability, you will be well on your way.
I hope this post has given you pause for thought. What’s the inspiration behind your domain name?