Whenever starting a website, a lot of thought should be given to the domain name. On top of selecting a domain name that is catchy with people, it is also important to consider SEO (search engine optimization) when deciding on the URL. From the length of the name to the domain extension, there are various factors that should be taken into account.
When starting a business in the past, by far the biggest factor for most when selecting the name was to come up with something that was catchy, inspired confidence or sounded good in people’s minds for some other reasons. While this is still important, and it is fine to base domain name selection totally on finding a catchy name, the internet has added new angles to consider.
Domain and website name
SEO is about optimizing a site with search engines for selected keywords directly related to the theme or product of the site. One way of attracting search engine attention to these keywords is by having a domain and matching site name that includes them (use keyword research tools to find these keywords).
Also, since the name of the business is often used in the site, a keyword rich name will give a further boost to those keywords in the ranking by increasing their density in the website. While it is not a good idea to put too much importance and faith into this, keep in mind that even a minor advantage can make a difference.
Exact match domains (EMD)
In the past, having a domain that exactly matched a keyword phrase (EMD) could provide a significant boost in the search engines. This led to a lot of micro niche sites, often put up very quickly and with poor content, ranking high in search results. In response, search engines have greatly devalued the power of EMDs. They can still provide some value, but they can also backfire if there is too much deliberate optimization on a site for an EMD.
Brandable domain names
With the decline of the importance of keywords in the domain name, it makes sense to consider going after a brandable domain name. Something that is short, catchy and memorable. This can be a name that has nothing to with the niche. An example of this is potpiegirl, which is a successful site on internet marketing. However, it is advisable to keep the name related to the niche, and a keyword or two certainly cannot hurt.
Never use a name that can easily be mistaken for a famous brand name as this could lead to legal problems. In addition, keep in mind that there is some evidence that registering the domain for more than a year shows commitment and can help with SEO.
Utilizing domain discovery tools
There are a number of tools that help find the best domains. For example, Dot-o-mator has various features to include the ability to search by criteria and offers suggestions based on prefixes of suffixes you enter. Others offer suggestions based on keywords or help locate the short, easy-to-type domains. Various tools and their features can be found here.
Length of the domain name
While it is good to have the keywords in the domain name, do not shoot for too many keywords. That would produce an URL that is unwieldy, hard to remember and likely turn off visitors. Also, having more than three or four keywords in the domain name is not going to help with SEO.
Finding out what is available
The internet is no longer new and many of the best .com domain names have already been taken. If it is necessary to add an extra word to the domain name to get the desired name (the domain name register will often suggest alternatives), pick a word that will be easy to remember and add something to the name.
One can also use hyphens. Even though most people prefer names without hyphens, having them does not appear to hurt with search engine rankings, and they can make the words stand out more in the URL.
Domain name extensions
Using other domain name extensions can open up a lot of potential domain names. While the use of other TLDs (top level domains) such as .net, .org or country-specific extensions are likely to increase as the internet grows, many people still prefer a .com. The prestige and potential for more direct traffic with a .com is nice, but it is not something to get too hung up over. Alternative TLDs are becoming increasingly accepted, and search engines claim they do not take them into consideration when deciding rankings. That being said, a .net or .org is usually second best and .info should generally be avoided. After beings used extensively by spammers, .info has a bad image in the eyes of many.
Where to get domains
There are a number of registries to search for and buy domain names. It is also possible to choose hosting for these domains from the same service, or it can be purchased separately. Two of the most popular services are Name Cheap and GoDaddy.
If you buy your domain from a different company than your hosting, you will need to change your DNS (domain name system) in your account with the domain registry so that it points to the new hosting. This is a simple procedure that only takes a minute. However, it can take up to 48 hours for this to propagate throughout the internet.
Selecting a pre-owned domain
By buying a domain that was recently used by someone else, it is possible to start out with some pre-existing ranking, links and traffic. However, these domains will usually cost more and there are no guarantees anything from the previous site will stick. Still, this can be a good strategy if the domain name is something you like and start working on right away. More details on buying pre-owned domains is covered in this guide.
The domain name does make a difference both as something the visitors should recognize and remember and for SEO purposes. While there is nothing wrong with choosing a name simply because it is catchy, it is a good idea to go for a name that includes keywords when practical.