The domain name of your website will influence the way people perceive your site. It creates an instant impression on the user so for that reason alone, choosing the right domain is pretty important. You can’t change a domain name later. Well, technically you can, but doing so would change all the URL’s and completely destroy any progress you have made in the search engines. In fact it, it would be disastrous, so definitely not recommended!
Firstly, for anyone who’s not certain, a domain name is that part of a website address that comes after the http://www.
For example, the domain name of this website is ‘theomcarthur.com’
The ‘.com’ part of the domain name is known as the domain extension and there are 100’s of possible extensions, such as ‘.co.uk’ or ‘.info’, or ‘.org’ and so on.
So here’s my guide for choosing the right domain:
Step 1 – Decide whether or not your website will be branding YOU, or branding a business/service/product. If you are branding you, then you want a domain that includes your name or part of it. This website’s domain is my own name ‘theomcarthur’. The downside of branding a site to you is that you can never sell it in the future (if you wanted to). I will never be able to sell this particular website, so when I decide to retire, the website retires along with me. However, I also have many websites that are not branded to me and this one was not created with the intention of ever selling it in the future. Some websites are more suited to being branded to you, the person behind the site, and traditionally most blogs were branded in that way. However, nowadays, many blogs are branded to the business, the service/products, or the subject of the blog.
So, you will need to decide which it will be before you proceed…
Step 2 – Head over to Godaddy.com or NameCheap.com, or any other well-known domain name registrar, and also open up thesaurus.com. Open up a text file on your device too.
Step 3 – Understanding the importance of using the right extension. All extensions are NOT equal and this is why it’s much harder to find a good domain with the dot com extension than it is to find one with say, dot net, or dot info. The best extension is dot com because it has credibility and it’s the one that every Internet user is familiar with. Country extensions, like co.uk, fr, ca, in, etc, are also good IF you want to operate mainly in one country. In fact, for users in some countries, the country extension will have more credibility than the dot com extension. The trade off is that you will lose some credibility with users from outside of that country.
A domain using the co.uk extension is better for your visitors from the UK. They feel more comfortable with co.uk websites and are more likely to click through to your site from the Google search results (or whichever search engine they are using). That’s great if your site is exclusively or primarily for UK users. However, if you wanted to also attract users from say, the US, a co.uk extension would have a negative effect on those users. They would associate the extension with a website that is not relevant to them.
Another important thing to understand is that some extensions have ‘meaning’ and this meaning may harm your website’s credibility. Dot biz, for example, is considered ‘spammy’ and dot net is considered inferior, maybe even less trustworthy, than dot com. Dot org is associated with information only websites. In other words, websites that do not sell or promote anything, but are there purely as a source of information.
To conclude, it’s better to go for either dot com, or the country extension of the country you plan to operate in
Step 4 – Understanding domain length and the use of hyphens and number. Shorter domains are better, but it’s not always possible to find a short domain related to the subject of your website. However, you should bare this in mind and if possible, try not to go over 15 characters (not including the domain extension).
Hyphens should be avoided. When you use hyphens, your domain not only looks less credible but when users type it into their browser, they will often miss out the hyphen.
Numbers should mostly be avoided unless they are part of your business name. Using the number ‘4’ in place of the word ‘for’, for example, is bad practice. As is using the number ‘2’ in place of the word ‘to’ or ‘too’.
Step 5 – On the text file that you opened earlier, start making a list of words related to the subject of your website. Use thesaurus.com to find synonyms. A word of warning when adding synonyms to your list. Only use synonyms that are popular words and that actually make sense for your domain name.
Example: I typed the word ‘beach’ into thesaurus.com and got all these synonyms. Let’s say that my website is about travel and more specifically about taking trips to beaches or lakes. I’ve underlined words that I might consider using in a domain name.
Step 6 – Start typing into the domain search box. Anything that comes into your head using the list of words from your text file. This is the way to start your creative juices flowing!
Click the ‘search domain’ button to find out if the domain you entered is available. Don’t be surprised if it’s not because normally you will need to try many times before finding a good domain that is not already taken!
It just so happened that ‘lakesideholiday.com’ was available, but only as a ‘premium domain’. These types of domains cost far more than a regular domain (regular price is around $10), so usually we would ignore these premium domains.
After a few tries, I came up with this one. It’s okay, but a little long at 17 characters. However, it’s still a reasonable domain because ‘Holiday by the Water’ sounds pretty good. It’s also quite broad, therefore my website would not need to be restricted to just beach holidays or just lakeside holidays.
Step 7 – Start making a list of all the available domains names that you have managed to come up with. Save it, and then leave it for 24 hours without looking at it. Come back to it a day later with fresh eyes, decide which one you like the best, then go ahead and purchase it!