There are many factors that should be considered before committing to a domain name. Each factor can positively or negatively impact the site’s ability to be found by humans and search engines.
When considering the techniques below remember it is important that the domain chosen makes sense in relation to the content on the site and is ethically sound. Search engines are sensitive to abusive tactics and they can, and have, banned many domains for spam-like application of search engine optimization techniques.
First Approach to Selecting a Domain Name
Is there a large marketing campaign planned to get the word out about the business and the new website? If so, the techniques listed in this section are ideal.
Even if this is not true, these concepts still apply when thinking about a domain name. However, when resources are limited for creating site awareness additional tactics are available and should be considered. You will find them listed in the “second approach to selecting a domain name,” that follows later in this article.
The domain name should be relevant and memorable
A memorable domain name that does not make sense in relation to what the business does can work if there is a large marketing campaign connected to the launch of the business. Google certainly made no sense and neither did Yahoo in their infancy, but they had a strategy to get the word out and used a unique, memorable name.
There is very little time to capture attention and insert the business’ site address into the memory banks of those who give a few seconds of their day to watch or read an advertisement. Consequently a business or domain name needs to make sense in relation to the product or service offered while being emotionally interesting and thus memorable.
The domain name should be easy to type
If a domain name is hard to spell or uses an improper spelling, it will frustrate and lose site visitors. Using an “x” instead of “ex”, “ph” instead of “f” and “z” instead of “s” is trendy and examples of ways to confuse visitors. If the misspelling must be used, buy the properly spelled domain as well and have it automatically forward to the more creative spelling.
Double letters connecting words are also challenging, such as “beinggood,” it reads funny and is harder to type and spelling it to someone will always go like this, “That’s right, “B E I N G G O O D. Yes, that is two Gs.”
Avoid using numerals in domain names. Humans do not know if they are being spelled out or if there are literally numerals in the name. Likewise search engines do not know if the numeral is referencing a quantity or replacing a similar-sounding word, such as using “8″ for “ate.
Choose .com for a domain name extension.
There are many domain name extensions, such as .org, .edu, .biz, .net, and .me. An educational institution should choose .edu. A non-profit, a non-commercially related project, typically should choose .org. While there are exceptions, most businesses should use .com. since most people assume .com is the extension. There is something out there in .com format that will work. It just might require a little extra brainstorming. This is a very good reason for a domain name to be thought out simultaneously with the branding and naming of the company.
Make sure the domain name is legible to humans and machines.
To help the search engines, the domain should read clearly to a machine.If words are put together in the domain that can read as other words, it may confuse search engines “Who Represents” has the domain of “whorepresents.com,” and can easily be interpreted as “whorepresents.com”. “Therapist Finder” has the domain “therapistfinder.com” and also reads as “therapist finder.com”. Test the name by giving it in writing to people who do not know anything about the project and have them read it out loud.
Shorter domain names are better.
Two or three words in a domain name are ideal. They are easier to type and remember. A search engine might benefit from four keywords over two or three, but then the humans start to have problems typing and remembering the name. It’s also more difficult to put a long url on business cards, web banners, and print ads.
Do the research.
Do some research before selecting a business name. Is there another business out there with the same one? If so this can cause problems with copyright and marketing efforts. Plus, chances are both business owners will want the same or similar domain name and you certainly don’t want to send your customers to a different business’ website, or even worse that of a tawdry service.
Hyphenated domain names are clumsy.
Telling a person that the domain is “super hyphen data hyphen processing” (super-data-processing.com) is very difficult to say, and from a usability standpoint, hyphens are harder to type than just letters.
In years past, it was believed hyphens in a domain name helped search engines read words because they read hyphens as spaces. Today search engine algorithms have become sophisticated enough to sort through most words, hyphenated or not.
Second Approach to Selecting a Domain Name
It is important to maximize every part of the web site so visiting search engines are crystal clear about the site’s intention. Search engines do not know anything about a new site’s content, publishing patterns, or validity. No one has linked to the site and it has not made it into the social media buzz. Having a domain name that tells search engines about the content can be a very successful approach to giving it a boost in rankings. If the marketing investment is to be a small one, the techniques for selecting a domain name listed in the previous section should be considered in addition to those listed here.
A strong domain name should have strong keywords in it.
What? Shouldn’t the domain be the business’ domain name? It can be, but if the businesses’ name doesn’t have keywords in it, there are probably a lot of missed opportunities, especially if there is a limited amount of resources available to promote the new business and website.
Should the domain used on marketing materials be keyword-rich? It makes the most sense to send a consistent message to the consumer. If the business has a non-keyword name that coordinates with the business’ name, use that for all marketing and then set the name to automatically redirect to the keyword-rich domain name, which is where the site actually resides and what the search engines look at in order to understand how to rank a site. If the domain is superzoom.com and the business, Super Zoom, provides a service that increases the speed of processing data, the search engines have no idea that the site has anything to do with the speed of data processing by the domain name superzoom.com. A more effective domain name might be superzoomdataprocessing.com or fastdataprocessing.com.
Additionally, the content at the web site has to be legitimate and relevant for users and search engines to find the site equally valuable, so if there is a site that uses the domain fastdataprocessing.com but the site only talks about data processing on one page out of a hundred, the search engines and the human visitors will find the domain name irrelevant. In this case, a strong domain name will not help the site rankings. But if the site addresses data processing throughout the site, the site will be useful to visitors and the domain name will only add to the search engine’s confidence in ranking the site for the topic of processing data quickly.
Put geography in the domain name if possible.
Search engines want to help local results. They know that a human is typically not going to use a roofing company that is in a different state. If the business makes sense to target locally, put the state abbreviation in the domain name. Sammysdogtrainingaz is appropriate, but if Sammy has a pet food business, it is probably better to stay with sammysdogfood rather than sammysdogfoodaz.
Domain names are important, but content is the most important factor in high rankings.
Asserting opinion and expertise through involved, up-to-date, meaningful content is critical to driving traffic to the site, encouraging respect from clients and clients-to-be, and from industry contemporaries. The business can have an outstanding domain name, but without solid content throughout the site, the search engines will not rank the site for what was hoped, and visitors will not stay. Continue adding content to the site after it is initially launched. This requires discipline and will force the authors of the content to grow in the understanding of the product and how others relate to it, which makes the business stronger on all levels.
A site’s domain name should be relevant to the content, easy to remember, easy to type, and well, just easy. Creating a domain name that no one can say or remember will defeat the purpose and if it looks like spam, it probably is. If the domain name is crafted with relevance, ease of use, and memorability in mind, it will be a name that serves the human visitors as well as it does the search engine algorithms.