A domain name is an alphanumeric string of characters that identifies individual websites and e-mail addresses on the Internet. It must be less than 63 characters in length, not including the characters in the TLD (Top Level Domain) suffix (.com, .net, etc.). A TLD suffix is a part of all domain names and indicates the type of organization for a given domain. Following is a list of common TLDs:
- com: commercial businesses
- net: organizations involved with Internet infrastructure (ISPs and hosting companies)
- org: non-profit or not-for-profit organizations
- edu: educational institutions
- gov: United States government agencies
- biz: commercial organizations and/or personal sites
- info: can be used for commercial and/or personal sites
Country specific domains:
- ca: Canada
- uk: United Kingdom
- de: Germany
- jp: Japan
Choosing a domain name is arguably one of the most important decisions that need to be made when developing a website. Not only will it enable you to easily let people know how to get to your website via word-of-mouth, but the keywords in your domain will help determine how well your site ranks in search engines. Moreover, the domain name will help brand your product or service and can aid in developing buzz for your new site.
At this point there are so many different domain names already registered that it is unlikely that your first choice will be available. As a result it will require a little creativity as well as following a few guidelines to help you get the best domain for you and your organization.
- Have Your Domain Say Something About Your Business: When your domain name says something about what you do for whom this helps to build your brand, tell people about your products or services, and inform visitors about the type of information that they might find on your website. Good examples are MotorcycleTrader.com, WebMD.com, and TropicalIceCreamCafe.com. Some poor examples are eBay.com and zillow.com.
- (Almost) Always .com: In general my suggestion is to always register the .com domain/ Even though there are additional top level domains (.com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, etc.) getting the .com ensures that you have the best of the possible permutations for that domain name. People are so conditioned to think and type “.com” that even if they read or hear “Go to www.mydomain.net“, they are likely to remember and enter mydomain.com and will likely end up at a competitors web site. In the case where you are running a local business in a country other than the USA and want to target a local market you may want to have sushibar.co.jp instead of sushibar.com which might indicate that you are a company in the USA or an international business. If you do end up going with a non .com domain you’ll need to make sure to promote it heavily and make sure that the non .com domain is prominent in all of your marketing materials.
- Keywords: A number of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) gurus suggest including one or more of the keywords that you hope to rank well with in your domain. Try to pick keywords that you believe prospects who are looking for your products or services will be entering in search engines and weave them into your domain name so that it flows well.
- Spelling: Depending on your domain and how it is spelled you will want to think about the possible, common misspelling possibilities. For example, we used to run a Domain E-mail business called FieldPost. It is not uncommon for people to transpose “ie” spelled words and as a result we also secured the feildpost.com spelling variation. Take a look at your domain and think about the most likely spelling errors that might occur when typing in your domain and see if you can also secure those domains. Do not use the number “2” for the word “to” or “4” for “for”. Also, avoid using text messaging abbreviations or other creative spelling as seen on vanity license plates. It will simply make it more difficult for people to type in and share your domain.
- Hyphens: Avoid hyphens. When people see that mydomain.com is taken but that my-domain.com is available, they might register the hyphenated version thinking that it is a good compromise. My suggestion is to avoid hyphens. The problem is similar to the “always use the .com” item described above; you will most likely send traffic to your competitor and make it difficult to tell people your domain both in-person and over the phone. The one caveat to this is that search engines can distinguish your keywords better when hyphenated but I suggest only doing so when you are setting up a special site specifically for search engine traffic.
- Double and Triple Consonants: Certain word combinations, when put together without spaces result in double or triple consonant combinations that are troubling to read and type. For example, the two words “business” and “specialists” are just fine when separated by a space but “businessspecialist.com” will just look funny and will likely cause people to stop and re-read what they have typed in more than once to make sure that it is spelled right. In general, I recommend trying to avoid stringing together words that result in double or triple consonant strings that just? “don’t look right”.
- Singular and Plural: Never register a domain that is the plural or singular of an existing domain/website. Additionally, if you are going to use a domain name such as powerfulwebsite.com, make sure to secure powerfulwebsites.com as well.
- Length: In general the shorter domain names are better. However, it is becoming more and more difficult to find relevant, short domain names that are not yet taken. Always try a short option, but if you can’t find one that is short, try to find one that meets the aforementioned criteria.
Taking these guidelines into consideration should help you find a domain name that both fits with your business or organization and helps drive relevant traffic to your site.
Remember, if you register multiple domains make sure to Redirect 301 each of them to your primary domain.
If you have any questions or need some ideas for your specific business situation, feel free to give me a call at 301-956-5400, post your question to the NBI Forum, or send me an e-mail.
— Ryan Chapin
President, Nuts & Bolts Interactive, Inc.