10 Tips for Choosing a Domain Name

From time to time you might need to set up a new website, perhaps for a one-off promotion, or for a spinoff marketing activity such as a blog. You’ll need to dream up a domain name for the new site, and as you’ll be stuck with that, do make sure you think about it carefully. Here are a few considerations.

Keep it fairly brief. You’re probably going to quote the website address (“URL”) in printed material, in the expectation that people will type it into their browsers. Obviously, the longer the name, the more people will get it wrong, or simply be put off entering it in the first place.

Get some useful search words in if you want to be found through search engines. The domain “cheap-blue-widgets.com” for your stock clearance site will probably pick up Google searches for “cheap blue widgets”, which is good. But you needn’t worry about this so much if the site is just some sort of landing page for a teaser campaign in offline media.

Make it easy to type and remember. Hyphens are good here: “cheap-blue-widgets.com” can be understood and remembered at a glance, whereas “cheapbluewidgets.com” needs a bit more thinking about. Mind you, I’d always register both and redirect the unwanted one, just in case people forget to add the hyphens.

Avoid frequently-misspelled words because, obviously, people will mis-spell them. Words like “misspelling”, for example, which is just as often written as “mis-spelling” or even “mispelling”.

Make it a natural phrase with words in the right order. Don’t use “blue-widgets-cheap.com” if “cheap-blue-widgets.com” isn’t available. It has to be something which doesn’t feel contrived if you’re to stand any chance of being trusted online.

Ensure it can’t be read in unwanted ways. I’m sure the promotional pens site Pen Island (“penisland.net”) always knew that its domain name would provoke much amusement (and get links!), but it’s a risky strategy and not one I’d recommend.

Avoid silly abbreviations. A “2” or a “4” in the middle of your domain just looks tacky.

Make sure the website name is the same as the domain name. It can get really confusing if the domain name for “The Blue Widget Store” turns out not to be “the-blue-widget-store.com” but something completely different (such as “cheap-blue-widgets.com”).

Be careful with the alternatives. If your preferred domain name isn’t available, alternatives include going for other extensions such as “.net”, adding “the” on the front, or changing to a plural. That’s fine (although ensure the site name is changed to match) but do explore who’s got the domain name you really wanted. If that’s an established site which could even be competition to you, then avoid the “second best” option.

Choose the appropriate “top level domain” extension. For a worldwide site, “.com” makes sense, but if you’re focusing on one area, such as the UK or the EU, go for a “.co.uk” or a “.eu”. Prospects in those areas will always click on a web address they know is relevant to their country in preference to one they’re not sure about. But register the “.com” too while you’re at it.

Discussion

  1. Nikki

    Hi Chris,

    In “10 things search engine ‘experts’ argue about”, you link to “Some Opinions on the SEO Myths & Realities Fight”. It’s a really interesting article and I’ve been working through it every time I get a few moments over the last couple of days.

    One of the things it discusses is whether hyphens in domain names really suck for SEO. Despite including comments from others to the contrary, the author’s conclusion is that they do: for SEO and “lots of other stuff”, such as branding.

    For this reason, would you agree that your “www.the-blue-widget-store.com” example would work better if it were called, “www.BlueWidgetStore.com”, or what’s your opinion?

  2. Chris Rand Post author

    There’s definitely no consensus, Nikki. Check out the recent arguments here, here or here for example!

    Choose the multi-word domain name you want first. Then, if both hyphenated and non-hyphenated versions are available, use the one which looks best to you, and reads best. In other words, I really don’t think it matters. Just don’t let it look like spam.

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