If you have an excellent idea for a company, product or service, you need to choose a great domain name. Domain names are more than just your address on the internet: they support your branding and allow prospects and customers to find you, which gives your business a chance to grow.
Here are eight rules that will make it easier to choose the right domain name for your business.
Good domains have short names. Technically, a valid domain name can use up to 63 characters (excluding the domain extension, such as .com, .org or .net). But you want your clients to be able to find you as easily as possible. Shorter names help reduce the chance of errors in typing, remembering or sharing your name.
According to a study by Gaebler on domain name length, the average domain length for the top 10,000 most popular websites is just 8 characters. The average domain length for the top 1 million most popular websites is barely longer, at 10 characters.
Virtually all domain names under six characters are either no longer available or are wildly expensive. Focus on the shortest name that is available and affordable. If possible, keep your domain name below 20 characters. Better yet, try not to use more than three words in your domain name.
Of course, brevity is not the only characteristic of a great domain name. You must balance the length of the name with other factors to identify your best option.
Generally, you should avoid overly generic names. As with many things related to branding, you will want to differentiate your company and your offerings. Think about it: Google is a catchy name.
Consider the name 2bx-4.com: it’s only five characters and available as we’re posting this blog. But while it’s a short name, it’s difficult for people to remember or type correctly. Where did the hyphen go? Can you remember what this business does based on its name?
Now consider the name StrongEyeballs.com. It’s longer, at 14 characters, and it’s also currently available. Which name is more memorable? Which name could be readily differentiated by a potential customer? Which name is easier to share? You get the idea.
An effective domain name is easy to spell, pronounce and share. Your goal is to make finding your site as simple as possible.
Avoid any spelling choices that are awkward or non-standard variations of words. If possible, avoid spellings that replace an “s” with a “z,” such as “carz” instead of “cars.” Similarly, avoid replacing an “ex” with an “x,” such as “xtreme” instead of “extreme.” These awkward spelling choices could make it harder for someone to correctly remember or type your business name.
Steer clear from using slang in your domain name, such as “u” instead of “you” or “4” instead of “for.” Similarly, be cautious with words that have two or more spellings (e.g., sweet/suite, for/four, there/their, where/wear, etc.). Further, skip the abbreviations unless they’re easily understood and intrinsic to your brand.
Another potential spelling pitfall occurs when a domain name could be read differently than intended. Some examples are “AmigoneFuneralHome.com,” a site name that can also be read as “AmIGoneFuneralHome.com,” and “OldMansHaven.com,” which could be misread as “OldManShaven.com.” Review your name for different embedded word combinations to dodge this mistake.
While a domain name technically can include numbers and hyphens, they’re not advisable. Characters other than letters can be confusing (do you type “8” or “eight”?), are challenging to brand and may be perceived as generic.
The .com extension accounts for the overwhelming majority of the world’s top-level domains (TLDs). For most companies, .com is the safest and best choice. If possible, buy the other top extensions for your domain name (such as .net, .org or .guru) and have them redirect to your .com site.
While you should avoid extensions that are often perceived to be spam (e.g., .biz, .info and .review), many domain extensions besides .com can be good choices. When you are looking up available domain names (such as on our search tool), your results will include many extensions for consideration. If you follow sound search engine optimization (SEO) practices related to your website and invest in good, relevant content, these extensions will work fine.
There’s another consideration in choosing a domain extension: do you only sell in one country or have a website specific to a different country? If so, choose the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for your country. The .co.uk is a top ccTLD used in the UK. For Canada, choose the .ca ccTLD. If you sell in Mexico, use the .mx extension. To find your country’s ccTLD, review a list of country codes. By choosing a ccTLD for your primary market, you may rank better with search engine geotargeting.
An industry-specific domain is another option. Some domains are restricted for specific uses, such as .gov, .mil and .edu. But some industries have specific domain extensions that differentiate them, such as .film or .movie. For tech sites, the .tech domain gives confidence to users that the site has authority as a technology site. The .travel domain extension works well for the tourism industry. If you have a blogging or personal site, the .BLOG domain extension works well.
When choosing a domain name, you want people to be able to find you and remember you so that they can share your site and your brand with others. A good domain name reinforces your brand identity, builds your authority and ultimately promotes your business. Determine whether your domain supports your brand and marketing strategy by asking a series of questions, such as:
A good example of branding a real-world memorable name is DollarShaveClub.com. The name is on the longer side, at 15 characters and three words, but it is memorable and explains the company’s mission and products. It also describes the company’s value proposition: inexpensive men’s personal hygiene solutions. To keep their domain name shorter, they could have even registered dollarshave.club.
Always remember to register your product name if it something brandable, like Doritos or Swiffer, to ensure someone else doesn’t register it.
Avoid focusing too much on keywords for your domain name. At one time, you could improve your search engine ranking by including keywords in your domain, such as “playground-equipment-for-toddlers.com.”
More recently, though, Google has begun to discount or ignore rankings for keywords stuffed in domain names. In fact, it’s possible that search engines now view keyword-rich domain names negatively and may deprioritize them in search results. For example, Google scrutinizes sites with keyword-dense domain names to ensure they’re high quality and demotes those that don’t meet its standards.
You’ve found a short, memorable, on-brand domain name that’s available and that you can afford—but hold on, you’re not quite done. Before you commit to a site name, make sure it isn’t subject to trademark or copyright protections. A simple check can quickly eliminate a name from consideration. Go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website and search the trademark database, then go to the U.S. Copyright Office and search the copyright database.
To be safe, consult an attorney for any names that remain on your list to confirm that they aren’t subject to intellectual property issues before you invest too much time and money in your domain name, brand and website. Once you’ve settled on a domain name, consider starting the trademark process to prevent others from using that name.
Choosing a good domain name can be a challenge, but these tips will help you find a memorable, on-brand name that you can invest in over time.
Once you’ve chosen the perfect domain, learn how to register a domain name with our Domain Name Registration service.