What’s in a domain name? Quite a bit, actually. Choose well, and the online world will beat a path to your website. Choose poorly, and you’ll find yourself languishing in a forgotten corner of the internet along with all those creepy dancing hamsters and babies.
Just what constitutes a “good” domain name is a matter of debate, and there are probably as many opinions on the matter as there are experts. However, despite the controversy, there are some best practices on which most folks agree.
- Choose a domain name that’s relevant to your site. You want your domain name to make sense to your customers and properly reflect what your business does. Given enough time and money, you could probably build a memorable brand around a domain like schmulkus.com. But if your goal is to grab traffic right out of the gate, you need a name that makes sense.
- Make sure your domain name is memorable. You don’t want your customers to have to look up your website every time they want to visit it, so give them a domain name that’s simple and catchy. You should also make it easy to spell so you won’t be losing visitors to typos.
- Grab a dot-com domain if you can. For many folks, the .com extension is synonymous with the internet. Even if you manage to build a successful brand with a .net or .org domain, you’ll still be losing a lot of traffic to people who default to .com when typing in a web address.
- Avoid keyword stuffing your domain name. The use of keywords in your domain name is one of those hot-button topics that’s guaranteed to start a brawl in any crowd of search marketers. However, slightly more than 100 percent of them agree that cramming your name full of keywords like “hvacrepair-plumbingcontractors-homeremodeling.com” is a bad idea (and a surefire way to end up on Google’s naughty list). If you want to incorporate keywords into your domain name, limit yourself to one phrase like “dallasplumbers.com”.
- Use hyphens judiciously, if at all. A hyphenated domain name is harder to remember (and to type), so try to use a non-hyphenated version if you can. The exception to this rule would be domain names that are ambiguous or open to multiple interpretations. In the interest of keeping this article family-friendly, I won’t go into details on the problems experienced by companies like Pen Island or Who Represents. Suffice to say, their domain names would have benefited from a strategically placed hyphen.
- Don’t rush into a decision. Ponder your choices, solicit the opinions of others, and give yourself time to consider the ramifications. Sleep on it, if necessary. Changing a domain name for an established website is no trivial matter, so make every effort to get it right on the first try.