Coming up with a good domain name…
It seems easy at first, right?
Only then you realize the amount of considerations you need to think of…
Choosing a domain name is one of your most important decisions!
Worry no more!
In this post, I’ll help you pick the right domain name for your niche website or online business.
Why Is Choosing the Right Domain Name So Important
Your domain name is probably one of the very first things most of your potential visitors / customers will see.
It needs to:
- Be perfect to instill confidence.
- Pass a clear message of what your site and brand is about.
- Make people click your link on the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).
Otherwise, you may end up losing visitors and you won’t be able to build your brand the way you want.
At the same time — and this is somewhat controversial amongst the SEO community — it could help to include keywords in it and getting the best domain extensions (TLDs — Top Level Domains) probably affects your rankings too.
More on this in just a second…
You have only ONE shot!
If you don’t get it right at first , it’ll be a tough job moving to a new domain and rebranding yourself.
Not to mention the obvious SEO losses…
Choosing a good domain name for SEO
«Should I pick a keyword-based domain name?»
Some people will advise you to get a keyword-based domain.
Others will tell you it doesn’t matter anymore.
Both perspectives are… RIGHT!!
It’s true that this tactic (getting keyword-based domains) did lose most of its potential, after the Google EMD update in 2012.
Google no longer gives so much importance (SEO value) to domains that include keywords in them (EMDs: Exact Match Domains or PMDs: Partial Match Domains).
It will simply ignore them on websites with poor content and that consequently do not deserve to be ranked high.
Owning a keyword-based domain does not mean you will get slapped with a Google penalty, though.
The thing is they no longer carry the same SEO power like they did back in 2010.
Nevertheless, this will not mean you should avoid keywords in your domain as a whole.
It’s still a good idea — dependant on you providing good quality content to your users!
This way you’ll give your potential visitors an idea of what your site is about and it will help you define your target market, at the same time.
My view on this is simple:
I usually look to include a market / niche related keyword in my domain names. I.e.: a broader term like “Sports”; not something too specific like “Best Golf Clubs Reviews”. Simultaneously, I try to make them to look more brandable. E.g.: “Sports Universe”.
With this I’ll have a brandable, clear and to the point, not too salesy domain name with an important keyword in it
Tips on How to Choose a Good Domain Name
1. Simple, short and memorable.
Don’t go for too long, hard-to-spell and complex words that are tough to remember.
Simple and shorter names are:
- Faster to type and less prone to typos.
- Easier to access from a mobile device.
- Harder for impostors or competitors to come up with very close variations of your domain / website / brand name.
- Easier to stick to visitor’s / customer’s minds.
Using one or two words, preferably with only one possible spelling, is advisable. (On average, the top websites use only nine characters in their domains.)
There are plenty of online businesses that managed to build a brand with short and brandable names like Moz, WordPress, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc.
2. Pick something brandable.
Picking a short and memorable name really helps build your brand. Google loves brands just above anything else and it likes to reward them by favoring blogs and sites that have built a good name and reputation.
Having a name that stands out as a brand can do a lot for you in the long run. It will help build your business, authority and recognition.
Despite of my view on keyword-based domains I’ve just told you above…
The eternal fight between Brandable and Exact / Partial domain names has a clear winner: Branding.
3. Clear and understandable.
Your domain name needs to be clear and make people understand what your website / online business is all about right off the bat.
- To maxime click-through rates on the SERPs.
- So there’s no need to explain what it means (and spend money doing so).
- So that it’s relevant to your content / business and makes sense to your visitor / customer.
4. Be Creative, unique and consider how it looks and sounds.
Google likes content that is unique, so it sure would like unique domain names that are linked to a brand, blog or product.
Even your name can be a good choice if you’re striving for uniqueness.
Most importantly, don’t copy someone else.
Be creative! That’s how you stand out from the crowd!
Also, make sure it’s visually appealing, that you’re comfortable saying it out loud to your friends or customers and that they can easily memorize it and repeat it with no mistakes.
5. Make it broader than your actual niche and not to salesy.
Chances are you’ll work on your new website for a quite a while.
Think long term, then:
Acknowledge the possibility of expanding into closely related niches or turning your niche site into a larger authority website at a later time.
So, instead of getting something like “Golf Clubs Reviews”, it’d be better to get “Golf Gear World”.
Or… instead of that, it’d even better to own something like “Sports Gear World”.
Be careful with opting for too salesy domain names; those that include buyer keywords and expose you as an affiliate website.
- It will make your outreach efforts an easier job. I.e.: When trying to guest post on another blog or site in the same niche or in a related broader market.
- It will be easier to get natural links.
- It will be simpler to promote and gather a following.
This way you’ll be seen as a blogger rather than someone trying to promote affiliate products.
6. Tie your brand to the domain name.
Whether you’re building a niche website or launching an online business per se, your domain name must match your site / brand name.
You should decide what you’re about and pick a name that fits your business and that’s iconic at the same time.
Most of the times, you’ll end up choosing your site / brand name based on the still available domain names.
7. Go with the .COM extension
«What extension should I pick for my domain name?»
Opt for the .COM TLD (Top Level Domain).
People and search engines alike seem to trust sites with .COM extension domain names more compared to others.
If you can’t, either buy the .NET or .ORG version of that domain or try looking for another .COM option.
8. Buy it for a long period and have your WHOIS privacy off.
For SEO reasons it is better to purchase a domain for longer periods (more than the minimum of one year) and have your WHOIS privacy turned off.
Google sees it as your site being a legit, long-lasting and with-nothing-to-hide business.
And it’ll reward you with higher rankings.
Some people don’t like to have their personal details (like their address, email, phone number) displayed publicly and add the “private WHOIS information” option when they’re getting a new domain. So I guess it’s up to you to decide in the end.
Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Domain Name
Before proceeding with your domain name purchase, you really need to confirm you’re forgetting about something or doing anything wrong.
These are the most common mistakes that you ought to avoid:
1. Do your “domain name” due diligence.
After finding your perfect choice, you have to run a few tests on your domain to learn if it is okay to go. Not rarely, available domains are not exactly brand new and that can mean something is wrong with them.
- Use the Wayback Machine to see your domain’s history — if it has one — and learn what sort of side it was in the past.
- Google for “link: www.yourdomainname.extension” (without quotes; replace yourdomain.extension with your domain name and its extension) to check if there are still any indexed pages.
- Go to Adsense Banned Checker to confirm if your domain name was not banned from the Google AdSense service. Obviously important, if you plan to monetize your website with AdSense ads. This site also checks if your domain name was banned from the Google index.
- Enter your domain name into Moz’s Open Site Explorer search bar and see if it was a negative SPAM score.
If your domain has a history, it might be good for you due to the “Domain Age” factor for ranking in Google. But, at times, coming up with a totally different website (i.e., different topic) from the past might not help with, especially if it still has indexed pages.
Simultaneously, having indexed pages means your domain name wasn’t banned from Google index; which is, by its own, a good sign. If there aren’t any indexed pages for an old domain, it doesn’t necessarily means it was banned from Google.
If the last two checks are unsuccessful, I recommend you to ditch that domain name.
2. Be aware of copyright infringement.
When you’re picking out your domain name, make sure you don’t get something copyrighted like a product name, a trademark or anything that resembles it.
The last thing you’d want is to be forced to drop your domain name after your site / brand gets established online to prevent a legal mess.
3. Forget the cutesy names: don’t try being cleverer than the rest.
Don’t make the same mistake some folks do when they decide to include trending words in their domain names. It might look cool right now, but it surely won’t later in the (near) future.
Be careful with double letters and check your words in all lower case letters to prevent you from some embarassement.
Avoid using different spelling variations or slang in your domain name (e.g.: “express” — “xpress”; “you” — “u”) just because it looks cute and clever.
If people need to figure out how to spell your domain name, chances are you’ll lose another visitor. Always prefer easy-to-type, clear and simple names; preferably a name with only one possible spelling.
4. Don’t use numbers or hyphens.
Although there are not bad on their own, as a general rule, I advise you to stay away from numbers and hyphens (dashes) in your domain name.
- They are hard to remember and / or misundertstood by people who are referred to your website in a conversation.
- Dashes and numbers are usually used incorrectly. People won’t be sure whether to type the numeric or the spelled-out form of a number. They’ll probably forget or misplace the dashes too.
- They make your domain name less memorable, less reputable and are used in ways that lower your domain name quality which will go against help building your brand and autorithy.
- They are prone to people making mistakes and get redirected to other sites.
- They are ugly, look scammy and certainly don’t go along with the unique factor.
5. Watch out for plurals and short prefixes.
I don’t like using the plural form of words in my domain names because it generally leads to visitors mistyping it and getting somewhere else. So I recommend you to stay from plurals too.
As far as short prefixes like “my” or “the” in your domain name, you also need to think carefully before you finally decide to get a something like that.
Unless you advertise — at all times — your website as “MyNicheSite.com” or “TheNicheSite.com”, people will probably also forget to type those prefixes when trying to visit your website.
6. Don’t wait until tomorrow, get it while you can.
If you’ve just found your “perfect” domain name available, don’t wait any longer. Buy it now before it’s too late.
Trust me, I’ve been there too.
Domain names sell impressively quick, so you’d better hurry up.
Other Considerations You Should Think Of
1. Protecting your brand.
In order to add some extra insurance to their brand, some people opt to purchase various domain extensions — i.e., the more known TLDs, like .NET, .ORG — along with their preferred primary extension — usually the .COM. They also get misspelled versions of their domain name.
All they need to do then is to redirect all the extra domain names (those with the different extensions or misspelled versions) to their primary one.
This strategy prevents competitors and / or impostors from registering other versions of your domain name and ensures that visitors are redirected to your website even if they type the wrong TLD or mistype the URL.
2. Setting “auto renewal” on your domain name.
Enabling the “auto renewal” service on your domain dashboard could save you from the trouble of losing your domain name in case you forget to renew it. This is a good measure, especially if you own lots of domain names.
3. Adding “domain privacy”.
I’ve already referred the “domain privacy” subject above, but I think I should further explain it:
When you buy a domain name, your private information (such as your name, phone number, address and email address) will be publicly available to anyone online. You can choose to have this information hidden, if you add “domain privacy” to your purchase.
In terms of SEO, it is good to have it publicly displayed. Google will see your website as legit organization with nothing to hide. If this sort of information is already available on your website, then it is certainly not worth it.
If you prefer to keep things private (and also avoid getting SPAM in the email address you provide), you should probably switch on your “domain privacy” setting. Besides, some domain registrars — such as Name Cheap — offer one year of domain privacy for free.
4. Pay close attention to your domain price.
Domain names are generally not expensive, costing around $10-12 per year; with some less common TLDs being more expensive in some cases and cheaper in other cases.
There are also the Premium domains — which include hugely sought-after keywords in them. These are sold at very high prices, because of the huge demand there is for them.
Although their renewal price is at the normal rate, you should think twice before paying that amount for their initial price.
Whatever the case may be, do your math and take the eventual additional costs into consideration.
5. Your domain name is available “For Sale” in a secondary market.
There at times you’ll find your chosen domain available but featuring a “For Sale” tag. This means someone — probably a domaineer — has bought it to sell it at a much higher price and get the profit.
You’ll need to make an offer just to get things rolling and they will usually end up asking a lot of money to sell it. Which is not worth it, most of the times, unless you have lots of funds and really want that domain name.
For a not-so rich person / company, I think a reasonable price for a really great domain would be something in the $150-$200 range.
Best Domain Name Registrars
«What is a domain name registrar?»
A domain name registrar is an ICANN-accredited company that sells domain names.
There are tons of registrars out there, but these are, for me, the best places to get a domain name:
One of the best-known places to get a domain.
- They often run discount offers that allow you to save a ton of money.
- They also have domain auctions where you can find some great opportunities.
- Their domain search tool suggests closely related domain names if your choice is not available.
- They are more expensive than other registrars on some of the TLDs.
- They charge more for renewals in some cases.
- WHOIS privacy is not free.
- They have a ton of upsells.
- Average cost for a 2 year purchase is around $50 (domain purchase + WHOIS privacy).
- Almost always cheaper.
- .COM extensions are around $10 with no discounts.
- You get discount coupons on purchases, transfers and renewals on a monthly basis. (You can get Namecheap discount coupons here).
- It comes with free WHOIS protection which saves you about $10 compared to GoDaddy.
Best site to purchase a domain name, for me.
I personally recommend Namecheap.
Your Hosting Service
Some people prefer to keep domains and hosting separated, but there might be some conveniences in keeping them together (less hassle and places to go to concerning your site’s management).
Check with your hosting service. Sometimes they offer you a free domain registration when you first sign up.