“What’s in a name,” Mused Shakespeare’s Juliet. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Indeed, a flower’s delicate scent cannot be traced down to its name. And in roses and websites alike, a name – or a domain name, in this case – can never fully transform the actual content. But domain names, also known as URLs, do, however, play a crucial role in your site’s brand-ability and credibility, and can even affect its ranking on search results.
To fully understand what a domain name is, you must first realize that it has a direct impact in all areas of your online presence:
Be perceived as a professional:
Acting as your brand’s address online, a sharp and customized URL will contribute to your site’s professionalism and authoritativeness, making your company appear more polished.
Make your website easy to find:
By picking a good domain name for your website, you can make it more memorable and help potential visitors find it with greater ease. A domain that suits your business and is easy to remember means more eyes on your webpage.
Give your SEO a boost:
Lastly, your domain name can play a role from an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) perspective. While many factors go into your website’s SEO, your domain name is a crucial element that should not be ignored.
How to choose a domain name.
01. Use a domain name generator.
To make the brainstorming process much easier and more productive, start your journey toward picking a domain name for your site with a list of options, rather than a blank page. By using a domain name generator, you’ll be able to get a broad range of ideas based on keywords or phrases related to your brand.
02. Keep it short.
Technically speaking, domain names can stretch over an astounding 63 characters. Yet a domain this long would be ill-advised, making for a tedious name that’s hard to type and remember. Instead, be sure to keep your domain short.
A domain name should ideally be anywhere between 3 to 12 characters long, and the rule of thumb is to not exceed 2-3 words. If the name you had in mind happens to be longer than that, consider cutting it down or changing it altogether.
03. Make it easy to type.
You don’t want potential visitors lingering over details such as spelling before hitting your page. For that reason, look for a domain name that will easily roll off the tongue – and fingers. It’s best to avoid frequently misspelled words, or anything that requires a double-take before pronouncing.
Run your chosen domain name by a few friends and see if they can get it right on their first attempt. If they struggle a little, go for a different name.
In case you’re planning on using your name as the domain, but your last name isn’t intuitive in its spelling, use a combination of your first and middle names instead. Alternatively, combine your first name with your specialty—such as “bakingwithsam.”
Another good practice is to choose a domain name that is predictable, meaning your audience won’t have to second guess how to write it properly. With this in mind, refrain from shorthand and spell out your words. For example, go for “you” instead of “u” and be wary of words that can be spelled numerous ways (is it “ok” or “okay?”).
04. Avoid numbers and dashes.
Unlike a password, your domain name shouldn’t be a string of characters that makes sense solely to you. Therefore, refrain from using special characters such as hyphens and numbers. So “gr8cakes-4all,” for example, would be an especially bad domain name.
Numbers and hyphens are too often confusing and are harder to remember and type. Numbers leave people wondering whether to go for the numeral digit or to spell them out (is it a 10 or a ten?).
Hyphens, on the other hand, are easy to overlook or misplace when typing in the web address and are not immediately within reach on most mobile keyboards. Thus, it’s best to leave them out of your domain altogether.
05. Stay on brand.
A great branding strategy is made up of many different elements that come together to tell one cohesive story. Make sure you align your domain name with the rest of your marketing efforts, such as your business website, social media handles, and general tone and voice. Doing so will ensure that your online presence speaks the same language and gives off the right message cross-platform.
Your domain name can be either the same as your business name, a variation of it, or your business name with an added keyword (as described below). If you’ve yet to name your business, spend some time thinking of a name that’s catchy and encloses the spirit of your brand. You can invent new words that have a nice ring to them (such as Wix and Google), look up meaningful terms in the dictionary or thesaurus, or elicit the help of a business name generator to get your ideas flowing.
Furthermore, regardless of how similar to your business or personal name you want your domain to be, you’ll need to make sure the result is perceived as a brandable name. This will ensure that your online address is perceived as unique and is much easier to remember. For example, “bakingwithsam.com” makes a much stronger impression than “samteachesbaking.com,” despite following a very similar pattern and intent.
06. Include keywords.
Through the practice of SEO, you can improve your chances of showing up on Google when people search for businesses such as yours. One of the best SEO tips to keep in mind is to include a relevant keyword in your domain name. This can help both site visitors and search engine bots associate your website with your main field of expertise, hence helping it rank better for that topic.
While beneficial, it’s also important to use keywords in moderation and only when they fit naturally into your domain name. If not, don’t force it, as an overly optimized domain name can come across as spammy. In other words, this strategy for SEO in domain names is valuable but not a must.
When including a keyword does work out naturally and memorably, then go for it. If you own a poke place called Aloha, for example, the domain for your restaurant website could be “aloahpokeshop.com.”Whereas if you’re creating a photography portfolio, adding the word “photography” or the location where you’re based to your name can be a plus—such as “jimsmithphotography.com” or “nycweddingphos.com.”
07. Pick the right domain extension
A domain extension, also known as TLD (top-level domain), is the suffix at the end of your domain name. This rightmost segment of your site’s address serves to identify some of its key elements, such as its purpose, location, or owner.
While the most common extensions are .com, .org, and .net, many other options can serve different needs and offer alternatives in case your first domain name choice is already taken. Let’s take a look at what some of these domain extensions are used for:
.com: Stands for “commercial,” this widespread domain extension is almost synonymous with the web. It is the most trusted and well-known TLD, and when in doubt, it’s usually the best option. The “.com” extension is associated with for-profit businesses. For example wix.com.
.net: Referring to networks, this is the second most common extension and is generally used by service providers such as website hosting, databases, and collaboration tools.
.org: Short for “organization,” this domain extension is most often used for non-profit and charitable organizations. For example wikipedia.org.
.info: This extension is an abbreviation for “information” and is primarily reserved for informative or educational sites.
.me: An extension that’s highly fitting for an online resume, blog, portfolio website, or personal brand.
ccTLD: Country code top-level domains are domain extensions that show off your physical whereabouts and might give your local SEO a boost. A few examples include “.de” for Germany, “.fr” for France, “.co.Uk” for the United Kingdom, and more.
08. Do your research.
Before purchasing your domain name, ensure that you’re not infringing on the competition. Research trademark and copyright databases, as well as competitor brands. Going with a domain name that has been adopted by other brands even indirectly (meaning in uses other than a domain name), could result in customer confusion and possible legal issues. It’s therefore worth spending time making an informed and well-researched decision.
09. Think long-term.
If you expect growth in your brand’s future, you might want to plan accordingly starting from early on. Purchase a few variants of your domain name to protect them from competitors, ensuring they remain in your hands.
These variants might mean different domain extensions (both the “.com” and the “.net”, for example), or similar options of the same name that can be confusing for users (such as with or without “the” at the beginning). This is especially useful as it’s possible to connect multiple domains to the same website.
Additionally, make sure that the domain name you choose won’t limit your business from expanding further down the line. For example, if your beauty parlor currently provides nail services, but you dream of one day branching out into hairdressing and spa treatments – make sure that your domain name is broad enough to encompass your future endeavors as well.
10. Act fast.
Once you have made up your mind, you should register your domain name as soon as possible to ensure no one beats you to it. To do this, simply find an accredited domain registrar that will deal with the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) on your behalf. They’ll protect your domain name and ensure that it remains yours and only yours for the entire duration of your purchase.
If you’re curious as to how much a domain name costs, note that prices vary based on different factors like the domain extension and the terms you select (such as securing a domain for a longer period). However, many websites hosting platforms include the first year of domain registration for free.
By combining both a website host and a domain registration, these plans allow for an all-in-one business solution, where you can seamlessly build your website, purchase your domain, and enjoy professional online tools, all under one roof.