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13 Tips to Choose the Right Domain Name

Choosing the right domain name is very important. These 13 guidelines will lend advice to consider while choosing the perfect domain name for you niche market website. Consider these 13 tips to guide you to pick a great domain name while steering clear of the less than perfect.
This is Part 2 of 4.
Go to part 1 of 4: What is a Domain? (How to Choose the Perfect Name)

 Use These Guidelines When You Choose a Domain Name

First, I’m going to take you through some things that you need to keep with you during the process of sifting through the information and picking your domain name.

If you just want to get on with it then you can skip to the actual task of picking your domain name, but I urge you to take a moment, read what follows and then consider this advice as you think about, and decide on your domain.

Create a Brand!

Thoughts of branding should be always on your mind.

As you go through the advice in this guide, I want you to be thinking about the words that you came up with while you were choosing the niche you are going to be focusing on.

Keep in mind that while many will advise you to use your primary keywords in your domain, I don’t necessarily subscribe to this idea.

The reason for this is simple.

Keywords in your domain are going to help you rank for search engines, but only in the early stages, and likely only for what they call “long tail keywords”.

The phrase "long tail keywords" is really nothing more than a fancy way of saying that people often type in fairly long keyword phrases when searching and refining their results.

For example, if someone wanted to find junior softball coaches in the state of Georgia in the USA that are left handed with special needs experience, they would likely type something like “junior softball coach Georgia us left handed special needs” (without the quotes).

That is definitely a long-tailed keyword search phrase that would match a pretty narrow subset of information out there.

When people target long tailed keywords, the title of their post might be something like “John Doe – GA USA – Special Needs Left Handed Softball Coach”.

So, having a domain like johndoesoftballcoach.com might help you get ranked for a search early on, but I need you thinking long term.

Mozcast.com has actually tracked this trend which you can see at MozCast Metrics, just click on the tab labeled PMD (partial match domains) Influence when you get there.

The partial match, in this case, means the opposite of exact match.  If you need a primer on these topics you can find more information at “10 Powerful Search Engine Tips, Tricks and Hacks”.

partial match of keyword in domains
– Data from MozCast.com/metrics

As you can see from the graph above, according to MozCast when people are typing in keywords, the number of results with those keywords in the domain name are trending down.

Short term gains can be achieved with a brandable domain that either do or do not contain your keywords.

At some point, you will hit a tipping point and the keywords being in the domain aren’t going to help you at all anymore.

In fact, that’s one indicator that tells you that you've arrived as an authority on your subject. When you can put up a new page and rank well for the keywords without a bunch of working going into it.

If your keywords naturally fit your branding strategy then by all means use them, just don’t be tempted by the short term, supposedly easy gains of loading your domain with keywords.

I could have just as easily registered a domain like seo-smm-traffic-marketing-awesomeness.com, but BuzzyMarketing.com is way more brandable… not to mention memorable, but we’ll get to that later.

You might argue that BuzzyMarketing.com does indeed have two relevant keywords, and you’d be right.  But it’s also descriptive (it conveys what I’m about). Oh, and did I mention that it’s brandable.

Okay, I’m off my soapbox now.  Let’s get busy.

Should I Buy a Domain Name that Ends with “.com”?

This is a point of heated debate by many.  Today it’s not as necessary to have a domain name that ends in “.com” as it once was.

However, I will advise you that if you can get a “.com” domain name you should, and here’s why.

There is still quite a bit of technical consideration when choosing a domain name, and all suffixes are not supported universally.

Today there are hundreds of possible suffixes.  Once, that was not always true.

If you can, get one of the tried and true suffixes in the following order:

  1. .com
  2. .org
  3. Country codes (like .uk for United Kingdom) – Look up your country’s top level domain
  4. .net
  5. Any of the generic top-level domains

One important exception to this should be if an extension will lend itself to your branding.  For example, watch.tv would be an awesome domain (if it weren’t already taken) for some kind of television based entertainment service.

From a recognition standpoint people understand what a .com domain name is and so do systems, that’s why that is most preferred.

All systems support the domains suffixed with items 1 – 4 in the list above, most of item 5 are supported well.

Google explains how they handle top level domains, the short version of what is at the end of that link is that all top-level domains are treated equal except geographically localized domains.

Google says, “By default, most ccTLDs (with exceptions) result in Google using these to geotarget the website; it tells us that the website is probably more relevant in the appropriate country [or region].”

What that means to you is that if you are only interested in supporting a specific region, that you may want to move bullet 3 to position 1 in the above list.

In fact, once you decide on a domain name if you want to focus on several regions, you could register a domain for each one.

Personally, if I had several regions I wanted to target, I’d still prefer a .com domain, and then I’d set up my site to target those regions either using sub-directories or sub-domains (these are advanced topics that I'll cover at some future date).

Note: In the prior section I told you that Google’s tendency to favor keyword rich domains would only help you during the early stages, remember?  Take a look at what they say about them: “Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search” – check it out yourself.

What is Your Website About?  Make it Intuitive!

Being able to get some idea from your domain name what the website is a about is going to make your job that much easier.

The domain, BuzzyMarketing.com gives you an idea that this site is about marketing.

There’s obviously quite a bit on this site that is not about marketing, like the post you are reading right now for example, at least not directly.

I would argue that point though. Because putting effort into the foundation, before any direct marketing has been done, makes your direct marketing efforts much easier and results in a magnification of everything else, somtimes profoundly.

Think about it.  The work you did when you were deciding which niche to focus on resulted in a lot of intelligence. As a result, you’ve actually been thinking about your marketing efforts all along.

You see, if you've been following along with the other posts leading up to this one, I’m subtly getting you into the mindset of marketing. Because once you start thinking a certain way, everything becomes about marketing.

The word “buzzy” in the domain is a "cute" word.  Buzz marketing is an actual type of marketing, and if you know that, it helps to target those that understand that.

If you don’t know it, then it becomes just a “cute” word that might pique your curiosity.

By making your domain at least a little intuitive, you are setting yourself up for targeting certain types of people right from the beginning.

How Long Should My Domain Be?

That’s a great question.  I’ll answer that directly and generally by saying; as short as possible.

Shorter domain names are easier to remember, they are also easier to paste into places and keep things looking good.

For example, the URL:

shortDomain.com/cool-info

…looks way better than:

someReallyLongDomainName.com/really-really-cool-information-that-you-must-read-right-now/

Doesn’t it?

Aesthetics are not the only consideration, but they should be a consideration.

Your Domain Should be Easy to Spell and Type

No matter how simple and intuitive the domain is, people are going to mistype it.

However, there are some things that just make life harder all the way around.

Names that contain “ie” like field and “ou” famous and other combinations that historically cause humans to mentally recite things like, “i” before “e” except after “c” are going to be frustrating to both you and those trying to write down or type your domain. Especially if the word you choose doesn't follow the rule of "i" before "e".

If you can, steer clear of those headaches right from the start.

Also avoid dashes (“-“) if you can.  Nothing breaks the flow by saying something like, “my domain is; better dash homes dash and dash puppies dot com” (better-homes-and-puppies.com).

I’m not saying you can’t use dashes, or even that you shouldn’t.  If it makes sense then it makes sense.  Just avoid unnecessary dashes.

One last thing to avoid, again if you can, are numbers.

If someone says to you, “my domain name is, five a day catalog dot com”, are they saying that their domain is FiveADayCatalog.com or 5ADayCatalog.com?

See my point?

Avoid Trademark Infringement at All Costs!

Do not use domain names with trademarked words or phrases.

My name is James Kelly.  Maybe I have a book that targets the color blue, how it’s used.  Where the color should be used for different feelings within rooms, the colors historical value, and all things blue.

The title could very logically end up being something like “James Kelly’s Blue Book”.

Perhaps I then decide to go out and register JamesKellyBlueBook dot com.

That could land me in hot water because of the publication Kelly Blue Book.  A publication that is authoritative on the value of automobiles.

Perhaps it’s different enough that they won’t mind the similarity, especially if I’m in no way competing with them.

But are you willing to bet your business on a “perhaps”?

Just better to rethink my book title and not go down the path of choosing that domain. Maybe something like, "The Irish Book of Blue".

Availability Across the Majority of Channels

Chances are that if you find a domain name that is available today, then if you use your domain name (minus the top-level domain like .com) that it’s going to be available across social media channels.

However, as you get closer to making a decision it’s worth a look.

For example, BuzzyMarketing is an account that I either actively use, or have at least reserved at just about every social media channel and forum I’d reasonably every be interested in.

My Twitter account is @BuzzyMarketing, as is my Facebook (@BuzzyMarketing) account.

Taking some time to make sure that a reasonably close username is available at the major social networks is part of your due diligence.

Use KnowEm.com to Check Everything at Once

check all social media usernames at onceA tool that you can use to quickly check the major networks is at KnowEm.com.

Using their free service will check the top social networks and tell you about any usernames that are (or aren't) available all with one search.  If you scroll toward the bottom you’ll also notice that it searches the USPTO Trademark database.  Talk about covering your bases!

They have a paid service that will take it even further and will allow you to search 500 different networks and let you know more information than you could likely use.

It’s all about saving time, but at a minimum you should at least make sure the username is available at:

Think About Domain Longevity

You obviously want a domain name that is going to serve your purposes right now, but what about the future?

In 5 years, you may have branched out to other areas, likely still in the same general niche, but broadening the scope of your topics. And that is perfectly natural and expected.

Using our imagination and going back to the color blue, if I got my hands on the domain BlueIsAColorOfTheRainbow.com then I would start out focusing on the color blue.

Later, once I’ve established my authority on the color blue, I could branch out and talk about yellow because it’s a color of the rainbow as well.

Then I could talk about the combinative power of mixing yellow with blue to get green.

I could then branch out to rainbows as some kind of overarching theme.

The point is that once you’ve got authority in one area, you can naturally progress to other similar points and more easily gain authority there.

Speak Your Domain Choices Out Loud

You want the sound of your domain to roll off your tongue.

Does it sound cool?

Is it easy to say, and not hard to pronounce?

How many syllables are there?  Fewer is generally better.

Being a little careful while both viewing and saying your domain name in different ways can keep you from away from some unfortunate potentially inappropriate domain word combination interpretations.

For example, one once very popular domain name is ExpertsExchange.com.

Perhaps you already see it? Looked at from a different light, it could be viewed as ExpertSexChange.com. Funny huh? Maybe not so funny if it's yours.

What Letter Does the Domain Begin With?

This is the least important thing to concern yourself with.  That said, if your domain name that you’re leaning toward begins with the letter “A” then all the better.

In lists and directories when your domain is listed (and the name of your site assuming the brand leverages the domain name), you will end up being among the first.

Again, do not fret about this particular topic much at all.  It’s just a bonus if your domain begins with letters closer to the beginning of the alphabet.

Check to Make Sure the Domain is not Blacklisted

Even if you are buying a “new” domain name, there is a chance that it has been registered and then dropped.

This often happens because spammers and other “black hat” characters use a technique called “churn and burn”.

They often use domains to get ranked in Google using inappropriate techniques and then when Google catches them, they drop the domain so that when it expires it goes back into the pool.

Just because the domain expired doesn’t mean that Google has forgotten about it though.

You can use the “site:” operator, the WayBack machine and domain WhoIs history to research whether the domain has existed before and if there’s a possibility that Google doesn’t like it.

Use the WayBack machine by going to archive.org and enter the primary phrase (for example I would enter “buzzymarketing”).

When you do this, it will bring up any domains that match completely, or partially with the keyword searched.  It will also tell you when it was first and last captured.

By going to google and using the site operator, like this “site:yourNewDomain.com” (without the quotes and using your actual domain), Google will bring up all pages that are in its index for that site.

Even if you found the domain in the WayBack machine, if the site operator brings back no results then you are probably safe.

However, if the site brings back results then it’s possible that you could have a harder time getting ranked in Google.

Another tool you can use: Is My Website Penalized.  Just enter the domain in the text field and submit. It'll come back and tell you that it either is or is not penalized.

None of these methods work 100% of the time, but chances are pretty good your site isn't going to start out blacklisted.

That’s not necessarily the end of the world, it just means that you’ll be starting the game in “hard mode” instead of “normal mode”.

Like Many Rules, the Short Domain Name Rule Should Be Broken

It’s rare that a rule (or guideline) is completely inviolate.  So, goes the rule of short domain names, at least in one case.

If you already have a company name and you are trying to use that as a domain name, then do not abbreviate it.

If your company name is Bagels, Buns, Burgers and Bowls of Soup then put them all in the domain name: BagelsBunsBurgersAndBowlsOfSoup.com.

That way you don’t leave your customers questioning if they’ve found the right site or not.  You don’t want your domain to be a mystery.

Don’t Get Clever with the Spelling

Clever spellings might be funny, but what won’t be funny are the frustrated people trying to find your site.

Using a clever spelling means that you have to explain yourself… all the time!

Not everyone is going to “get” your cleverness.  They aren’t going to understand what you are trying to say with your clever little domain name.

They definitely aren’t going to find you if they hear about your domain from a podcast or other audio-only source because they’ll be using the proper spelling.

Something like gr8Gravey.com is not, in fact, great.  It violates using a number in the domain, and it violates the cleverness test.  If you indeed want to use that cleverness, then register greatGravey.com and then get clever with your logos and text on your site.

In Conclusion of the 13 Tips for Choosing a Domain

To put it simply, use common sense when choosing a domain.

The 13 tips are:

  1. Create a brand - your brand is a state of mind, whenever you can, promote your brand
  2. Use a .com - generally, you want to stick to .com's whenever possible, but if you can get creative naturally do it
  3. Make it intuitive - try to convey what your website is about
  4. Keep it short - try to keep your domain name as short as possible
  5. Keep it easy to spell - nothing gets older than constantly spelling your domain for people, make it easy on yourself (and your visitors)
  6. Avoid trademarks - legal battles take the joy out of everything, keep it clean and safe
  7. Check the social channels - check to see if your domain (your brand) is available as a username on social channels. Use knowem.com and make your life easier
  8. Think about the future - will your domain stand the test of time? Remember you will broaden your niche topic, and your domain should fit
  9. Sound your domain out - does it roll off your lips? Does it sound good? Is it free from double entendre's?
  10. Alphabet test - where will your domain fall within the alphabet? If you can't make up your mind between domains, choose the one that starts with a letter as close to the letter "A" as possible
  11. Avoid the Google blacklist - do some checks to see if your domain was registered before and if so if it's free from blemishes
  12. Use your business name - you can have a domain name that doesn't match your business name, but if you already have a business name, consider using it to take advantage of it
  13. Keep it simple, seriously - don't get clever with the spelling, keeping it simple means that your visitors don't have to guess

If you stick to these rules, you'll be in great shape. Don't get too stuck on them though. Choose the domain name that seems right for your situation.

Next in the Series: Tools for Inspiration: Domain Name Generators

Engage! Do You Have Others?

Do you have any other tips? If you do, comment using the form below and let me know so I can add them!

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