Whether for business or personal use, before there can be a website, there must be a domain name, and one of the most important steps of a search engine optimization plan is to pick the right one.
So what IS a domain name? A domain name is that thing that people give you when you ask for their website. anything.com, for example, is a domain name.
Some things to consider in choosing a domain name are:
- Keep it short and simple.
If your website is for your business, a short domain name has its advantages. Whether you want to print it on business cards or display it on a billboard, making the domain too long or too complicated may make it too hard for potential customers to catch in one reading or recall later, if they did not have a chance to write it down. An exception to this is if you can get a phrase which will be remembered into the domain name (Example: buytwogetonefree.com) …which leads us to point number two.
- Make it easy to remember.
Your customer won’t always have a pen with them, or maybe they won’t even think about your domain name or website until later. Short, simple, and easy to remember can be important, but you normally shouldn’t just opt for something like qdipe.com, and we are about to tell you why.
- Relate it to your business or organization.
If you sell bicycle parts, try to put “bicycle parts” in the domain name. This is not only for the eyes of internet surfers, but for the search engines as well. They use various factors to rank the pages they visit, and sometimes the words used in the domain can increase the rank of the page. This brings up another point.
- Think about keywords.
Although we are not going to get into Meta tags in this article, keywords are important. Even if hardly any search engines look at the “keyword” Meta tag any more, they are still searching the content of your site for keywords found within the text of the body, “alt” tags on the images, and “title” tags on anchor text and other links. Taking number 3 and number 4 together, the best of both worlds is to have a business name that is a keyword or phrase relevant to the business and use that as the domain name.
- Cute’s nice, but…!
Some people try to make their domain name memorable by using puns, jokes, wordplay, or number combinations. Just be careful. A few years ago I needed a domain name for a weight loss product. I went through all the “short” and “easy to remember” names I could think of, but they all were taken! I then came up with the domain name NoDiet4Me. It made perfect sense to me! I went to have a magnetic sign made for my car, and the lady read it this way…”No ‘die’ t 4 me” with a lot of stress on the word “die” and shook her head with a worried and confused look on her face! The site worked fine and got a lot of traffic and made me a lot of money, but now I wonder if I lost any traffic because of my domain name.
- To dash or not to dash.
There have been a lot of discussions about whether to put a hyphen in the domain name. I can’t honestly answer based on my own experiences, as I use both, but the consensus seems to be from my research that it is easier for a search engine to categorize and rank a site that has a hyphen than one where the words are run together. Example: chickensoup vs. chicken-soup.
There is one danger to be recognized if you choose to use the hyphen. You must make sure it is clearly shown in any printed advertising or representations, and if giving the domain name verbally, go to great lengths to make sure that your listener understands the hyphens MUST be inserted. Many people are not that internet savvy and will hear “bobs dash bicycles” and still type in “bobsbicycles”.
- Alphabet soup.
Ever wonder what’s best? Should you get a .com or .net? Will it be okay to get a .biz or .us? What the heck do those things mean anyways and does it matter? Well, in today’s world, most people entering the internet world are familiar with .com and .net. After that, they tend to get confused. I will not get into country specific top level domains at the moment, as this article is primarily directed at those either doing business in the U.S. or those doing business worldwide with a generic type product where a country-specific domain name would not matter. So, in most cases, .tv, .ws, or .org will not matter one way or another. By the way, .tv is the top level domain for the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu and .ws is the top level domain for Samoa.
Just to continue this discussion on extensions for a moment. When passing someone your domain name whether verbally or in writing, make sure they see or hear the extension. To use my earlier example, simply saying, “My website is bobsbicycles”, will probably cause people just to type in the .com on the end as that is what they are most used to hearing.
In some cases, a domain name may be associated with an easily recognized, or branded, product. Wal-Mart and Ford do not have to worry THAT much about such niceties as keyword density or “easy to remember” names. However, if you are working with a product or company which has or is in the process of branding itself, some of the information given above about selecting domain names might not be relevant.
I am going to assume that most people who read this little article are probably trying to do some SEO (search engine optimization) themselves, and one of the best places to start is with the domain name itself.