With so many options, how to choose a domain name that is right for your website? Read this comprehensive guide to find out!
So How Important Is Your Domain Name Really?
And how much time should you spend choosing one?
The answer depends on the objective of your website.
As you are on my website, it’s likely you are interested in building an online business with a niche topic website. If you follow a structured method to get organic traffic, the majority of your visitors will find your site via Google or social media and will simply click a link to get there.
This means that some of the accepted ‘rules’ about domain names, such as keeping it short so that it's easy to spell and pronounce do not necessarily apply to us.
That said you don’t want to pick any old name. It is still the ‘face’ of your site and can leave a positive or negative impression depending on what you choose.
Choosing the right name can have a significantly positive affect on your search engine (SEO) rankings and it’s also an opportunity to build a solid brand name so getting it right is important!
Once you've chosen your ideal niche how do you go about choosing the best domain name? Keep reading and you’ll find out!
Top 6 Points To Consider When Choosing a Domain Name
- Domain name extension
- Hyphens & Numbers
- Keywords vs Brand Names
- Usage in Trademarks & Social Media
- Tools to find awesome domain names
Domain Name Extension
There are so many extensions these days. According to the Root Zone Database of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA.org), there are over 1200 generic top level domains to choose from. With this many, which one should you choose?
Dot com vs Dot Net
Even though many people will tell you that .com domains rank higher in search engines than .net (the next biggest in terms of registrations), there is actually no credible evidence to support this.
Google or other search engines do not use these extensions as a factor in determining search rankings.
This seems to be the same for other extensions as well. So .info, .us, .tech etc should all be capable of ranking for keywords and really have no disadvantages from a pure SEO standpoint.
The truth is however, that even with over 1200 domain extensions, many people still think that all websites have a .com on the end. It’s understandable really when you consider that .com domains account for more than 50% of all registrations (actually 51.4% as of Sept 2020 according to W3Techs)
Because of this, many businesses will stick with .com just to avoid confusion and to ensure they have an easy to remember domain name.
A quirky little fact, but one that illustrates the point well, is that most mobile phone keyboards now have a .com button, but none of them have a .net or any other kind of domain extension button!
My advice - if you want to create a brand name and avoid hassle with people typing in your domain name incorrectly then choose a .com domain. If you really can’t find what you want, then you can consider .net or maybe even .org but avoid any of the weird extensions like .blackfriday or .fit etc.
Domain Name Length
Shorter domain names generally have a few advantages over longer ones. Primarily, they are easier to read and remember.
The problem nowadays is that most good, short domain names (especially .com domains) are already taken.
Whilst it’s good practice to keep your domain name as short as possible, having a longer name is no longer as much of a negative as it used to be.
If you are looking at starting niche marketing sites, sometimes it’s actually beneficial to go a bit longer to get a name that represents what your site does or what it offers.
A more traditional business would be well advised to keep their name as short as possible so that it’s punchy and memorable. With niche marketing sites however, people generally don’t need to remember your domain name as most visitors to your site will come from google or social media links.
You also don’t really need to worry about the name looking too long, as sharing longer links is much easier these days thanks to link shortening services like bit.ly.
My advice – If you can’t find a short name that fits what you are doing, it’s fine to go for a longer one but try to keep it to no longer than 3-4 words.
Hyphens and Numbers
A common question I get asked a lot is whether it’s ok to have hyphens (dashes) in your domain name.
Although it’s difficult to know exactly what Google likes and doesn’t, I found the following quote from Google’s Matt Cutts (a well know Google engineer).
“Google doesn’t algorithmically penalize for dashes in the url. Of course I can only speak for Google, not other search engines.”
If this is still true (and I can't find any evidence to the contrary), then from a pure SEO perspective, my-domain-name.com should be treated in the same way as mydomainname.com by Google.
That said, there are several reasons you may want to avoid hyphens.
Many people will choose a hyphenated domain name because the non-hyphenated name is already taken. Taking a longer-term perspective however, this is not good practice as it leaves you and your brand open to being blackmailed in the future for the original name.
Most people are used to website names that don’t have hyphens which means it can easily be mistyped sending your customers or leads to a competitor.
Even though hyphens can make your domain name easier to read they are often associated with spammy sites, keyword stuffing and generally shady goings on!
My advice – simple, don’t use hyphens.
Brand Names vs Keywords
You could choose to base your domain name around a brand (think Amazon.com) or around keywords related to what your site is about. Any guesses as to what kind of content VeganCooking.com has?
Having a domain name containing keywords is great… if you can find one without having to resort to hyphens. This can be difficult with .com extensions which leads people to choose longer names. As mentioned above, this is fine as long as you don’t go over 4 words.
In recent years Google has tweaked things to try to stop keyword stuffing in domain names, but this seems to mainly affect lower quality sites. As long as you are publishing quality content that people like, having keywords in your domain name should still help you with you search ranking efforts.
My advice – try to include keywords where possible but don’t go overboard and stick to 3-4 words max with a .com domain.
Before you commit to buying a domain name check trademarks, social media and do a google search to check to see if anyone is using that name.
For trademarks you can use the global brand database:
A useful resource to check social media is “KnowEm"
And a very simple way is to just plug the name into Google and see if anything shows up!
Tools To Find Awesome Domain Names
By now you probably have some ideas for words that you want to use in your domain name.
General domain registration sites will tell you if specific names are available and may offer some alternatives if they are already taken, but in my experience when you want to get suggestions you are better off using a domain name generator tool.
These are my top 5:
- Lean Domain Search - my favourite tool. Just plugin a couple of words and it will give you suggestions for available names. Really useful!
- Name Boy – another suggestion tool that offers suggestions based on keywords
- Domain Hole – a good resource to help you to find expired domain names as well as regular ones
- Wordoid – a cool little tool that generates new words that start with the keyword that you enter.
- Namemesh another good tool for bulk name suggestions based on keyword entry
Where to Register your Domain Name
I use and recommend A2Hosting.com to register your domain names and for all your web hosting. Check out the next article in this series that explains what web hosting is how to setup web hosting and how to your get your website online.
Your choice of domain name can have a big impact on how well your website performs and ultimately how much money you can make. Follow the points above on how to choose a domain name to make sure you give yourself a solid foundation for your niche site. A little time invested upfront will pay dividends for you down the road! Happy Hunting 🙂
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