“Shoes or slippers?”
“McDonalds or Popeyes?”
“.com or .net?”
These are the questions I ask myself all the time. And if you’re reading this, that last question is probably something you’re asking yourself as well. You’re in luck though, because you’ve find the One, True Guide to Choosing Your Domain Name.
Choosing a domain name is not an easy task — it’s like choosing a tattoo design or choosing the name of your first child. Sure, you could pick a cool Chinese symbol for a tattoo or name your child after your favorite TV show characters (“Did you do all of your homework, Homer?”), but the best choices will always come after hours of thinking, research and consideration (and from a night out drinking with your buddies).
Here are 4 tips on choosing the right domain name.
1. If you’re a company, aim for an exact match or close match.
Domain names and websites are part of your company brand, so an important part to make the domain name reflect your business name.
Here’s an example: let’s say I own a business in Hawaii that teaches dogs how to surf. I name it “Doggy Dawn Patrol.” Although it would be nice to get something like SurfLessonsForDogs.com (for SEO/keywords reasons), it’s much better to have DoggyDawnPatrol.com because it directly reflects the brand. It makes sense right? Afterall, the domain name will be going on your business cards, your advertisements, your brochures, and everything else.
2. Is your brand name not available? Consider including your location.
The internet has been around since the 90s and domain names are being picked up steadily. By now, if you want an exact match domain name, you’ll probably run into one of these problems:
- another business in another state with a similar business name already owns the domain name for their site
- a guy owns the domain name and is willing to sell it, but only for an outrageous amount (this is known as cyber-squatting)
Either way, you don’t have an available exact-match. So what do you do? Consider adding a location to your domain name.
For example, let’s say you own an energy drink company called “Volcano Juice.” However, when you try to buy VolcanoJuice.com, you realize that someone in Japan already owns it. This is not surprising because .COMs are available to the entire world, so you should expect a limited selection. Instead of giving up though, you add a location to your domain and find VolcanoJuiceHawaii.com or HawaiiVolcanoJuice.com or VolcanoJuice808.com*.
*I don’t recommend numbers in domain names. See point #4.
3. Aim for .COM
.COM is the most popular, most accepted, and most legitimate in the eyes of internet users. So by all means, try to get a .COM.
If you try to snag a .ORG or .NET, because the .COM is not available, be careful! Part of the search results are affected by domain names. If someone owns a site at DogSurfLessons.com and you are trying to make a site at DogSurfLessons.org, you can imagine that you will have heavy competition in the search engine results pages with them, since you are both aiming the key phrase “dog surf lessons.”
Another thing to think about: some people may remember your brand or company name, but instead of typing in .ORG, they might forget and type in .COM instead, taking them to a possible competitor’s website.
4. No numbers, no dashes please.
You are only allowed to use letters, numbers, and dashes in your domain name. Also, capitalization doesn’t matter. Although you are allowed to use numbers and dashes, I advise against it, as it it an annoyance for your users.
Here’s something that running a web design business has taught me: you need to always think about the end user. Although my clients are businesses needing website development, the website itself is often going to be primarily used by customers and prospects of the business. Those are the end users and they always need to be kept in mind. Same thing with domain names.
For people that use homekey typing, typing in dashes and numbers can be little annoying because they are not as oftenly used as letters. That’s why I don’t recommend numbers and dashes in your domain name.
As for people on touch screens on their phones or tablets, it takes them longer to type numbers and dashes if a domain name has them. This is because they may have to switch to a different keypad. This is again, very annoying.
5. Make your domain name easy to type.
You know what would really make your site impossible to find? If you chose this as your domain name: TrulyBelieveTheirBehavior.com.
Why is this such a bad choice? Because it contains 4 of the 15 most commonly misspelled words according to a 2010 study by SpellChecker.net, who analyzed online spellcheck errors of 10,000,000 users (link).
Off the top of my head, here are some other made-up examples of domain names that are not easy to type and thus, would be AWFUL domain names:
- …anything with “Mississippi”
Now, keep in mind, misspelling is not the same as being dumb. Misspelling usually means it’s a tricky word to spell right or remember. Also, if you have domain name that is hard to spell, it’s also your fault for choosing such a hard name to type out.
.COM? .ORG? .US? Which domain extension should I use?
There are lots of domain extensions available and a whole bunch more to come later this year (2014). The main domains you should at are .COM, .NET, .ORG and maybe .US. .COM is the best, by a large margin, because it is the most reputable in many ways and the most scarce. .NET and .ORG are good too, just not as good as .COM. .US is a country extension. Other country extensions include Canada (.CA), China (.CN), and Sweden (.SE).
.COM stands for commerce and is the most legitimate domain suffix that is available to the public (.gov and .edu are more legitimate, but exclusively used by governments and qualified educational institutions, respectively). Although there are fewer .COMs available because they are the most popular, they still are the most acceptable domain extension and viewed as more legitimate by people in general.
.ORG stands for organization and was previously only available to non-profit organizations, but since has been made available to the public. They’re not bad and a decent alternative to .COM
.NET stands for network and was previously used for network providers, but is now available to the public. Decent alternative to .COM.
.US is a country extension that indicates the registrant or company is in the U.S.
.CO is a one alternative I’ve seen for .COM, but .CO actually stands for Columbia. Google search results are biased by location of the user, so can you see why this extension could be a bad idea.
.BIZ stands for business, an alternative to .COM for commercial, but because they were used heavily by Russian hackers, their reputation is poor.
.MOBI stands for mobile and is intended for mobile versions of regular websites. For example, Barclays bank has a regular website, barclays.com, and they supplement it with a mobile version at barclay.mobi. Most companies do not seem to follow this trend though.