Choosing the Right Domain Name
In today’s Tools of the Trade Tuesday, I talk about an often missed topic of discussion that directly relates to websites and blogs – getting the right domain name.
In the past the main focus was always on two things;
- picking out the domain name based on your top or main keyword,
- making sure to get the dot com extension.
Even though each has some importance, it is no longer the driving factor. In fact, it has become more of a branding and public relations issue than just using a main keyword.
Additional issues that you will want to consider when choosing a domain name include: your customer’s perception, possible trademark infringement, and avoiding basic stupidity. Actually I cover 5 things you should answer before buying a domain name.
Perform Basic Research.
How difficult is it to do a Google search? You might also want to check the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. You want to ensure that you are not about to fall in deep water with your desired domain name.
Take the example of Microsoft vs. MikeRoweSoft. This was a legal dispute between Microsoft and a Canadian Belmont High School student named Mike Rowe over the domain name “MikeRoweSoft.com”. The 2004 case received global attention following Microsoft’s battling a 12th grade student’s part-time web design business.
Obviously, Mike Rowe didn’t have the legal firepower that Bill Gates company could muster, but eventually a settlement was reached. The point is – do your research first.
Domain Name = Brand Name.
Both names should be something that is close to a mirror image. Why? Because if your brand name is to mean something in the marketplace, your domain name is how people will get to know you. And if you try to be too clever with your domain name, you may confuse – even alienate – your customers.
This has become a chicken-or-egg concept because before a brand is squared away, the URL needs to be considered. Another reason is that your selected brand name could make a terrible domain name.
If you would like some examples, take a look at this article 30 Unintentionally Inappropriate Domain Names. As you can plainly see from those examples, your domain name selection to fit your brand or business name could become a laughing stock within moments of pressing enter.
Save Creativity for the Web-copy.
Just like being too clever, this also applies for being too cutesy. A domain name is not the place to do it. By adding “4″ instead of the word “for” is senseless because you always have to explain it and few people will even care to remember it.
It is also a good idea if you choose words with only one possible spelling. Words pronounced the same as another but have a different meaning usually suck in a domain name because it creates a lot of guessing to what is intended.
It’s no surprise that .COM is still top dog because most people were conditioned to associate it with websites since the beginning. In fact, there’s over 113 million .COMs in existence, with its closest competitor being .NET at 15.5 million (as of January 2014).
Although .NET (for NETwork) was originally created for technology companies, people didn’t pay attention to convention. It became an excuse for, “Well, my domain name isn’t available on .COM, so whatever.”
One extension that has remained true to form is .ORG because most people still equate it to non-profit ORGanizations. Another one is .EDU for EDUcation including colleges and universities.
If you can brand your URL with the . COM extension, good for you. If not, find an extension that closely matches your brand by considering .NET, .INFO, .BIZ, or your country’s extension like .US, .CO.UK, .CA. The main hurtle you will have is getting your customers to think about it in that way.
Be Committed to It.
Conventional ‘online wisdom’ tells you to buy a domain name for just one year. The logic goes something like this; if you are new and make a mistake with either the niche selection or domain name not matching your niche, you won’t be stuck with it.
However, if you want to protect your brand and online properties, show that you are committed. How? Buy the URL for a minimum of three years.
Why would you want to do that? Unfortunately, common spam sites owners will buy batches of one-year domains, spamdex the crap out of them, and ultimately end up landing on page 32 of Google.
Google and other website search engine services are highly aware of how long a domain is purchased. While you might get a top ranking and a traffic bonanza for a few weeks, it won’t matter for long because you’ll have already given search engines a red flag that they need to ignore your website.
Another element to consider is if your domain name isn’t available, don’t buy a stop-gap URL name thinking you will change your brand later on. Not only is this bad business, it makes even worse Web sense!
There’s more to consider with a domain name than just keywords and a .COM extension. As the Internet continues to mature and more domains are added to it, one must do more research to make sure your selected name is not an infringement that will put you into hot water later.
Also domain names have become more synonymous with brand names and branding. URLs have become more of a business matter and identifier than just a web address. That is another reason to take some time to decide on a solid domain name without being too clever or cutesy with it.
Whatever name you settle on, make sure you are committed to it. Don’t bother (I’m reminding myself here as well) buying it for just a year. If it is worth the effort and time, then get it for at least 3 years.
And if you are wondering where I buy my domain names, it’s simple – at NameCheap. I have been using NameCheap since 2009 with no issues. And even though they are not the cheapest, their prices are competitive and include Whois guard protection for the first year for free!
What are your thoughts about domain names? What advice have you been given or horror stories you would like to share? Let me know by leaving a comment below, thanks! 🙂