One of the most important decisions in establishing an online presence is choosing a domain name. The right domain name for your website is important, for both your target audience and search engines. Ignore the trends and fads of the day and choose a name that makes sense for your business or subject matter now and will still make sense 10 years from now. Here are 10 tips to help you make a good domain name purchase.
1. Do your homework
A little bit of research can go a long way when buying a domain name. Find similar sites and check out your competitors’ domain names using a site like Compete.com. Browse available domains by keyword or domain name using Media Temple’s domain name search tool.
Use http://dnpric.es/ to see when a domain was last sold, for how much, and the web hosting broker. A popular domain may have more public resales. You can search by keyword, which helps provide the popularity of certain words in domain names.
2. Buy domains that are easy to type and remember
Even if you plan on optimizing the site for search engines, you still want a domain name that people can remember and type. Avoid odd spellings of words, multiple hyphens or other characters, numbers and so forth. Anyone hearing your name should know how to type it without you having to say things such as “the number 4” and “dash-dash.”
You should also avoid words that have more than one spelling if your visitors are likely to be confused and mistype the name. Alternately, you can buy both versions of the name and direct visitors from the one you like less to the preferred name. While you do want a short name (see below), don’t go for something so cryptic that people have a hard time remembering it. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and you want to make it easy for people to tell their friends about your site.
3. Avoid slang terms
Try to avoid slang terms and instead pick a name that will still be meaningful in 10 years. This will also help your name be understood and remembered by non-native speakers. Whether or not you intend to do business internationally, this can help with your local audience as well.
4. Buy a domain that’s shorter rather than longer
The longer your domain name is, the harder it is for people to remember it and the more chance you have of someone misspelling one of the words. Most good single word domain names are long gone, but you can still avoid long domain names by getting a little creative. If you have a single word you really like that is not available, try adding an adjective or verb in front of it and seeing if those variations are available. Think of your domain name as part of your brand, and make sure it matches how you want people to think of you.
5. Stick with .com if you can
Most people assume a domain name ends in .com so if you buy a domain name with one of the other extensions (.net, .info, .org, etc.), you’ll have some extra work to get people to remember that your site has a different extension. Don’t automatically assume you should only buy domains with .com, though. Many sites have done quite well with other extensions. (Look at us!)
6. Don’t buy trademarked domains
If your purpose in buying a trademarked term as a domain name is to try to confuse people, you’re opening yourself up to having a complaint filed against you and having to give up the domain name. Even if you’re not trying to create confusion, you’re likely to face some legal challenges by buying trademarked terms in your domain name. To be safe, you can search for U.S. trademarks at www.uspto.gov and make sure no one owns a trademark on the name you are considering.
7. Don’t buy a domain name that’s too similar to an existing site
Even if the term isn’t trademarked, don’t buy domains that are just a variation of another domain name. This means avoiding plurals if the singular is taken (mediatemple.net vs. mediatemples.net), hyphenating a phrase (media-temple.net), or adding “my” or some other preposition (mymediatemple.net). Alternately, you might consider buying these variations yourself and set them up so that if someone types one of the variations, they are redirected to your main site.
8. Hyphens are a mixed bag
Using hyphens to separate words in a domain name makes it easier to read and makes it somewhat easier for search engines to recognize the individual words. However, people often forget about the hyphens when they type domain names. If you do use hyphens in your name, don’t buy a domain with more than three hyphens. It’s just too messy.
9. Avoid numbers
Avoid having numbers in your domain name. People can get confused about whether the numbers is a digit (3) or a word (three). If you want a number in your domain name because there’s a number in your company name, buy both versions (digit and word) and redirect one to the other. Be especially wary about using the number “0” in a domain name as people may see it as the letter “O.”
10. Check availability on social media sites
When you have a name picked out, go see if that word or phrase is available on social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and Tumblr. Even if you don’t plan on using social media right away, you’ll want to have the option when you’re ready, and it’s easiest if you can use the same phrase on each site.