Choosing a domain name for your website is not an easy task. It seems that all the “good” domain names are taken, and it can seem hopeless to find one that is acceptable. However, there are some guidelines you can follow that will make your domain name memorable. What principles should you follow in order to choose a great domain name for your website?
When I come up with a new business idea, one of the first things I do is to try to come up with the perfect domain name. I follow the 8 principles outlined below, and if followed, you too, can find a domain name that will increase traffic to your website while defining your brand.
1) When it Comes to Domain Names, Less is More
The limit for which you can register a domain name is 63 characters. That means, 63 characters between the “www” and the “.com”, or “.uk”, or whatever domain name extension you choose.
Some, however, have tried the opposite approach and have proudly endeavored to hold the worlds longest domain name.
There is a Welsh Village named, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. They pride themselves in having the longest name for a village in Britain. In English, it translates, “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio of the red cave.” I know, I’ve actually been there. I literally stood where this photo was taken.
Of course, with the advent of the internet, they secured the domain name, http://www.llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk/. In 2002, the Guinness Book of World Records awarded it the longest domain name in the world.
Do you really want to type that domain name to get to their website? No doubt, the owner of this site got traffic, but it was negative traffic. In other words, people only visited it to laugh at it. I did.
If you visit the site right now, you’ll notice that they are trying to sell the domain name. Why? Because no-one can say it, let alone type it accurately.
Suffice it to say, it is a good idea to keep your domain name limited to 2-3 words at most. This way, people won’t have a problem remembering it, let alone typing it out.
2) Simplicity is Better
Don’t complicate things. Think Simple. Use common vocabulary, words that are memorable and easy to spell.
For example, note the simplicity of the domain name, basiccomputertips.com. It has 3 words that are easy to spell. Granted, it is 17 characters long, but the domain name defines what the site is all about, and it is memorable.
When you think of a domain name, try to use two words if possible. If you find that you can’t come up with a domain name using two words, then go to three words, but try to make the words short, more on this later.
3) Your Domain Should Reflect Your Brand
Branding is very important. Branding is all about the identity of your company or what you represent. To drive the point home, without visiting this site, let’s look at DollarShaveClub.com.
Can you guess what the products for this domain name are?
Can you guess how much it costs? Actually, it should really be called FiveDollarShaveClub.com, but that’s too long and it sounds funny. They have, however, been able to brand themselves as a very inexpensive Shave Club, by simply adding the word, “dollar” in front.
When you first hear of this domain name, the first thought one has is, “this is inexpensive, I can afford a dollar”. After visiting the site, you will find that all fo their products are relatively inexpensive.
If you find that you can’t think of a domain name that reflects your branding, come back to it later. Sleep on it. Wake up the next day and try again. I spent a couple of days coming up with the domain, basiccomputertips.com.
Fortunately, this domain communicates exactly what this site is all about. I cover basic computer tips and everything related to computers. When you see this domain name in the search results of Google, you immediately know that this site is about computers.
4) What if I Can’t Find a Domain Name That Reflects My Brand?
I have a lot to say on this matter, so if you will, give me a minute or two to address this very important question. Choosing a domain name that is short and memorable is very important, and though it is better to choose one that reflects your brand, (what you do), that may not be possible.
Let me just say this, It’s not easy! In the year, 2000, I was trying to find a great domain name for a company that I wanted to start as a web designer.
I spent three days doing nothing but pouring over domain name possibilities, but everything that I had tried, had already been taken. I get it. Sometimes, you just can’t find a domain name that reflects your brand.
If you have done everything that you can to associate your brand with a domain name, and keep falling short, there are some principles that you can follow that may help. Let me share the thought process I used when coming up with that company domain name back in 2000.
I had already come to the conclusion that my domain name was going to be at least 2 words, and all the words that described my brand had already been taken. So, I started thinking about the sound of words. Consonants are memorable. So, I eventually came up with the domain, SkyDart.com. This domain name starts with the “SK”, has a consonant in the middle “D”, and ends with a hard “T”. Because of the use of consonants, it helped make the domain very memorable.
The business I was starting had nothing to do with the sky, and nothing to do with darts, but the domain name was very short and memorable. I figured that I could live with that, so I bought it. Unfortunately, I let the domain name that I purchased for only 9.99 at the time expire. Now HugeDomains.com is offering it for $2,795 as a “Premium Domain”. I know. Don’t ask. I don’t want to talk about it.
When you come up with your domain name, it’s OK to choose a domain name that is short, and memorable, even if it does not reflect your brand, but keep in mind, if it does not reflect your brand, you will have to work hard to associate your domain name with your brand.
There are, of course, those who have successfully done this. Apple.com has absolutely nothing to do with fruit. Amazon.com has absolutely nothing to do with the rain forest. Both of these companies have spent millions of dollars branding themselves, and obviously, they were successful in branding themselves.
I, for one, can not spend millions of dollars to brand a domain name, and I bet that I am not alone in that. So, if possible, do your best to associate your domain name with your brand. Be careful, however, that you are not too quick to give up on finding a domain name that relates to your brand.
5) Keywords Will Only Help
When you place a keyword within the domain name, it will help drive traffic to your website. I have three keywords in the domain, basiccomputertips.com, which is why it’s a great domain name. Again, it’s short, memorable, uses three common words, and it defines the subject matter.
You can’t always place a keyword in your domain name, but you should try. Again, it will only help drive traffic to your site, but only if it actually is an integral part of what your product is about.
When thinking of a keyword for use in your domain name, you should be thinking about what defines what your site is all about, what unique service that your site will offer. An obvious example for a car dealership would be to place the word “car” or “cars” is in the domain name. A not so obvious example might be to place the word, “farm“ in the domain name of a website that is all about “cows”. Why? Because when people hear the word “farm”, they think about “cows”.
Using keywords as part of your domain name is not an exact science, but it certainly can help drive traffic to your site.
6) A Good Domain Name, Not a Perfect Domain Name
OK, this is where most people get hung up. They spend way too much time focussing on getting the perfect domain name, instead of settling for a good domain name.
Yes, I said it. “Settle”. Truth be told, it’s very difficult to find that “perfect” domain name, one that is 1 to 2 words, short, memorable, has keywords in it, and reflects your brand. You may need to “settle” on something that does not meet all of this criteria . . . . but that is OK. If you can get a domain name that meets the majority of the criteria mentioned in this article, go for it.
When you find a good domain name, the temptation is to buy it immediately, out of fear that someone else will snatch it up, taking your ingenious idea. There is an incredibly high probability that this will not happen. Instead, wait a day. Sleep on it. You may find that what you thought was the greatest domain name, would have been an embarrassing flop.
I speak from experience. I have purchased numerous domain names over the years, only to ask myself a day or two later, “What were you thinking?”
7) Type of Domain Names To Avoid
Do NOT Use Numbers or Hyphens
Please do NOT buy a domain name with a hyphen in it. You will regret it. It will frustrate your visitors as they type the domain. Chances are, you would only be looking at a hyphenated domain name because the real one you want is already taken. If you buy the hyphenated domain name, you are only sending traffic to the owner of the domain name that you really wanted anyway. Probably your competition.
Numbers in a domain name should be avoided. However, there are exceptions to this rule, though these exceptions are rare. For example, if your brand is “501 Jeans”, it’s a good idea to get the domain name, “501jeans.com”. If, however, your brand is music from the 80’s, don’t try to be cute by getting the domain name, 8675309.com, (a song called “8675309/Jenny” sung by Tommy Tutone in 1981). In this case, the song name really has nothing to with all music from the 1980’s.
Do NOT Use Words that can be Spelled Differently
Using words that can be spelled differently is a big no-no. For example, is it way.com or is it weigh.com? Color.com or colour.com? You also don’t want to use words like to, too, or two in the domain name, as you will miss visitors, who will be frustrated because they misspell the domain name, which brings me to my next point.
Do NOT Use Misspelled Wordz
People do this because the real spelling of the word is not available, so they try to be cute and misspell it, hoping that you will forgive their “cuteness”. In reality, they are driving traffic to the correctly spelled domain name. Horrible idea.
Additionally, it frustrates the visitor to no end, as they can’t figure out how to spell the domain name.
Finally, it communicates that you are cheap and could not think of a better domain name.
Trademarks by Other Companies
An example of this would be to try to register the domain name, justdoit.com. If you did, no doubt Nike would sue you big time because of copyright infringement. Don’t think that ignorance is an excuse. You will still be sued.
8) Run Your Decision by a Few Business Professionals
Before paying for the domain name that you have spent a lot of time trying to find, always, always, always, run the idea by someone you respect, (not your best friend), who is in industry that you are in.
Present the reasoning behind your choice. Just make sure that this person is someone who is not afraid to tell you that it’s not a good choice. Have the courage to listen to their counsel and if need be, go back to the drawing board. I have sought the counsel of at least one person that I respect, someone who is in the industry, for every domain name that I have ever purchased. It’s RARE that he will tell me, “Wow, now THAT is a good domain name”. Usually, he says, “No, that’s not good”, and I’ll then argue why I think it is. The fact that I have to argue why it’s a good domain name, should be reason enough as to why the domain name is not a good one.
Remember, the chances of finding the PERFECT domain name, is not realistic, but it does not need to be “perfect”.
Amazon.com is a great domain name, but has absolutely nothing to do with selling products. It is a great domain name because it is only 6 characters long, has 3 consonants, 3 syllables, and is easily memorable. Obviously, they are a successful business. Let that be an encouragement to you as come up with your own domain name.
If you follow the recommendations I have made, you will be well on your way to landing a great domain name for your next website.
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