Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone and now we’ll be facing weeks of analysis, review, speculation and assessments from experts across the country… no, not on the football game, but on the commercials!
GoDaddy maintained their annual appearance this year, pushing the “.co” domain extension. I was reminded how important it is to choose the right domain name for a business, and how frequently I see terrible domains. Let’s take a look at some important factors for selecting the right domain name.
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain name is the address of your website within the World Wide Web; it’s your www.whatever.com. Encoded and attached in the domain name are instructions that tell your internet service provider (such as Comcast or Qwest) where to find the special computer (called a web server) that houses the actual website.
It’s similar to putting a letter in the mailbox: You write an address on the envelope which the USPS interprets as a physical location and delivers your information. Domain names work the same way as the addressed envelope, except they do it at the speed of light!
Characteristics of a Successful Domain Name
Choosing the right domain name (e.g. www.JoesDomain.com) is one of the most important steps in creating a successful internet presence. Here is some basic information to help you make a sound decision for you business.
- Try to choose a name that is exactly the same as your company. (e.g. www.ElegantTechnologiesLimited.com)
- If the name of your business is unavailable or not preferred, try a memorable word (e.g. www.Match.com), or a memorable phrase that’s associated with your industry (e.g. www.PrivateScubaLessons.com).
- Be sure the name is clearly pronounceable.
- Use full words, unless you refer to your business publicly with an acronym, such as NPR or ABC. It’s better to have a long name that makes sense, than a short name that seems obscure.
- Once you choose a domain name, incorporate it into everything you publish. That should include your business card, letterhead, brochures, etc. Unless you are creating a business that will strictly operate on the internet, you will derive much of your website traffic from people typing your domain name into a browser directly.
- Some companies find great success with a catchy, memorable name, even when it has nothing to do with their business. Monster.com is a great example. They are a job placement company, but they have found great success because of their memorable name and aggressive marketing campaign.
Search Engine Considerations
A domain name is a very valuable factor in the search engine algorithm. (See Search Engine Optimization: The Basics.) If you’re counting on solid search engine ranking for much of your website traffic, it’s a good idea to utilize primary search keywords in your domain name.
While search engines have gotten quite good at discerning individual words in a long domain name, it’s still worth considering a hyphen between words, especially if combining the words can create other words with different meaning (think of the classic “nowhere” vs. “now here” phrase).
Choosing a Suffix
The suffix is the dot-something at the end of your domain name, like google-dot-com (google.com). While many different options now exist, most people pay little attention to the suffix, making it easy to end up at the wrong website. For that reason, the .com suffix is still the best and most sought after… but also the least available. Many companies struggle trying to decide whether to use a shorter name with a less common suffix, or a longer name with a .com.
This quagmire reminds us to revisit the consideration of where your traffic is coming from: If your traffic will primarily be from search engines, the extension doesn’t much matter; if your traffic will primarily be direct- someone typing your domain name into their browser- the extension is crucial!
With the advent of so many suffixes, it has become somewhat trendy to create clever branding by using the suffix as part of a word. www.GoWestTobac.co (tobacco) or www.DesertCact.us (cactus) are hypothetical examples. While it looks cute, it makes for a terrible domain name! They’re difficult to pronounce, they prohibit the full word from being understood by the search engine, and they often use unheard of extensions.
Shopping and Buying Domain Names
Most of the larger domain registrars (companies that sell domain names) offer a search function to let you explore what domain names are available, and will make suggestions for expanding your search. There are literally thousands of domain registrars, ranging in price from under $10 (such as GoDaddy.com) to over $30 per year (such as NetworkSolutions.com). While you’re buying the same product at either place, the user-friendliness of the websites and the quality of the customer service are often times worlds apart. In general, avoid all up-selling during the purchase process: Most add-ons are unnecessary and what you may need can be added later.
I hope this information helps you choose the right domain name for your company. Please comment below if you have questions!