How do you go about selecting the best Domain Name?
Choosing the best domain name for your website is easier then you may think – if you follow a proven strategy.
You want the best name for your website, but all the good names are taken. Right?
Well, maybe not.
It's no longer the dawn of the Internet era, and there are a ton of websites with really great names which are already taken. Names like Audio.com, AudioAdvisor.com, Music.com, MusicDirect.com, Cooking.com, and CooksIllustrated.com.
To make matters worse, there are companies whose business model is to buy domain names in bulk and resell them.
So what are you supposed to do?
Some basic guidelines
Generally speaking, your best domain name should conform to the following:
- Short and easy to remember.
- A dot com.
- Show visitors they're in the right place.
- Contain your keyword(s.)
- Available on the social networks you intend to use.
Don't do this
Now, I shouldn't have to state all the things you don't want to do. If the name needs to be short, easy to remember and a dot com, that means don't use a dot net or use hyphens, or misspellings etc. And, unless you've got the bank accounts of Jeff Bezos, don't create a name like Amazon which will require a significant investment to establish brand recognization.
Obviously, if you already have a business established, you're limited to what name to use. If the name is somewhat common, let's say “Smith's Wedding Photography” you may have to modify to add a location like “SmithSeattleWeddingPhotography”. But, you get the picture.
Where am I?
So what's the big deal about using keywords and showing visitors they're in the right place?
Using your keyword in your domain does help with Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”.) Now, it's not the end of the world, but more importantly, it helps visitors identify the nature of the website.
Visitors have a short attention span – less than that of a goldfish. So anything you can do to let them know they're at the right place will only help. If they land on “JeffsPlace.com” they need to figure out, who's Jeff and what is this site about. If something doesn't grab their attention quickly, they're gone.
Conversely, if they land on “LearnWordPress.com” or “PhotographySchool.com,” they instantly know what the content of the website should be about. You'll still have to interest them with great content, but at least you got them in the door without being confused.
Part of your marketing strategy will involve the use of social media networks – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etcetera.
You want a domain that's also available on the social media network you intend to use in your marketing campaigns.
So, why is it not available?
A lot of people will grab a YouTube or Twitter name and not have a website. Just because the website is available, doesn't mean all the social accounts for that name are available. You need to check (I'll show you how below) or be willing to accept a modified version of your web name, or…choose another domain name.
One exception to this is using your name (Bob Smith) on the social media networks and using a keyword branded name on your website. This is a good branding concept where you are the business persona. Photographers, for example, may brand their site – “DenverWeddingPhotoStudio,” and use their real name “JanDowd” on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Either way, you need to ensure the name you want to use is available (before you get too far down the road.)
A domain name selection strategy
Ready for this?
This actually works, and here's how.
First, the tools
You'll need to use a domain registrar, and I use and recommend NameCheap.
You can use whomever you want but the reason I use NameCheap is the price is right, the chat support is always available and competent, and it gives me a place to manage my domain names outside of any hosting relationships.
I recognize that it may, at least the first year, be cheaper to get a domain name with your hosting service, but when you grow and want to change hosts, it is much easier to manage from an unrelated company to which you have total control. You have that ability with NameCheap, and you can easily manage your Google Analytics verification, and even your email forwarding.
Next, you'll need an application that will help generate names. There are a number of free services available and I currently use NameStation. Namestation actually links you to GoDaddy if you click on their register button but just take the possible names and enter them in NameCheap.
Finally, you need an application that lets you know if you selected domain name is available on social media accounts. Here, I use KnowEm. Now, there are a number of free social media checkers, and you can use whichever one you want but KnowEm even provides registration services, if you want to go that route. Some of this may be overkill but only you can decide.
Now the methodology.
It's really easy to use this system.
First, open a number of tabs on your browser for NameCheap, NameStation, VisualThesaurus, and KnowEm.
I like to split the screen into two browsers using a small app called Moom. I'll keep NameCheap on the left half and all the other tabs on the rights half of the screen.
Sign into your NameCheap account and go to “Domains” and “Domain Name Search” in the top menu bar.
You can also sign up for free in NameStation which will automatically eliminate domain suggestions which are already taken.
The VisualThesaurus and KnowEm are just available for checking when you might need some additional inspiration.
Let's say you want to develop a website which reviews and recommends photographic lens.
In NameStation, you enter “lens” as your primary keyword and “photography,” guide,” and “reviews,” as your secondary words. You select the .com extension and click on “generate names.”
Looking through the recommendations you see 6404 names have been generated and 2277 already taken, have been discarded. Interesting.
You see that the following suggestions might make sense – LensGuide.com, TheLensLady.com, and LensSurveys.com. Enter each name in NameCheap and check if available and add to cart. Now, you're not going to buy all of them but it's helpful to have them saved until you do all your research and determine which name to buy. At that time, you can easily delete the unwanted domain names.
Change up the primary and secondary keywords to see what other names may be recommended and even use the Thesaurus to come up with synonyms which may work for you.
Once you've narrowed your selections, use KnowEm to make sure they're available on the social media channels that you may want to use for your marketing campaign.
Finally, really think about your final selections.
I would recommend the following:
- Ask your friends and associates what image they get from your name. Is it what you want to convey?
- Make sure the name doesn't say something you don't intend. For example “Choose Spain” get's translated to “chooses pain” as a one-word domain name. For some of the most embarrassing examples, check out this web post.
- Think about your name from a marketing perspective. Again, is it memorable and easy to spell? Make sure you cover the basics discussed above. Also, can you leverage it? For example, the name PhotoSchool.com can be leveraged to PhotoSchoolVideos.com, PhotoSchoolSeminars.com, etc. Ensure you can leverage your name for things you may want to add down the road.
You're ready to go
Okay, you've done all your research, followed the basics, checked with friends and you're sure the name conveys what you want it to convey, you're all set. Purchase the domain name and start working on your website.
Well, hopefully, easier then you've been led to believe.