On travelling to Cardiff on Tuesday I drove past what seemed like a typical white van with its business name and details on the sides and back of the vehicle. What made it stand out from the crowd however was the company’s website address posted alongside the other information. It really caught my attention! You might be expecting me to reveal a super awesome domain name that will make you think, “Wow, wish I thought of that,” but … it was terrible! The domain name went something like this:
Get the picture?
The truth is that I simply cannot remember the domain name. It was waaaay too long! In fact, on driving past I didn’t even get the chance to read it all, never mind memorise it. In my mind it was pretty much pointless having on the van at all. This has led me to thinking and brainstorming some great rules to helping you choose the right domain name for your business or organisation.
Rule number 1 – Keep it Short
A simple rule that I’m sure you’ve already picked up on now. Short names are easy to type and easy to remember. They also fit better on business cards and other offline media.
Rule number 2 – Use your brand name
This might seem like an obvious one however there are many websites out there that only use keywords in their domain name. Keywords in the domain name are nice but the primarily result of good ranking in search results is the content of the website, not the name of it. Remember that you will likely display your website domain name on other offline media such as business cards and letter heads so make sure it makes sense and gives a professional representation of your brand.
Rule number 3 – Avoid using Existing Brand Trademarks
Unless you wish to defend your idea in court when a big brand name comes knocking on your door asking for huge sums of money due to suppressing their business I think it would be a good idea to avoid using actual trademarked brand names or even mis-spellings or abbreviations of big names.
Rule number 4 – Think Radio
What I mean when I say “Think Radio” is imagine your domain name being announced on a popular radio show or radio advertisement. Where there is no visual representation of your domain name you need to rely on a short, simple, easily remembered and easily spelt domain name.
Image you hear this closing call to action on a radio advert: “Visit WEAR TWO DOT COM!” Which website would you visit:
‘Wear2.com’ or ‘WearTwo.com’ or ‘WhereTo.com’ or ‘WereToo.com’ etc. ?
What sounds and looks very simple can be very misleading. Make sure your domain name can be said or interpreted in one way only. This includes the use of numbers which should also be avoided where unnecessary.
Another important factor to consider is the use of hyphens. It’s hard to give your domain name verbally when you have to say ‘hyphen’ or ‘dash’ or ‘stroke’ in the middle of every advert or phone call.
Rule number 5 – Make sure it can only be read in one way
Similar to rule 4, make sure it can only be read in one way. Where more than one word is present it is not untypical to see a domain name written with each word capitalised (e.g. www.MyDomainName.com) however you cannot guarantee that everyone else will replicate your domain name like this. A different publishing author might write it all in capital letters or all in lowercase. Test your potential domain name all in capitals or lowercase and make sure that it can only be read one way.
Here are two examples that can be read wrongly:
Example: WIDESIGN.com as W I DESIGN or WIDE SIGN
Example: GODISNOWHERE.com as GOD IS NO WHERE or GOD IS NOW HERE or GOD I SNOW HERE
Rule number 6 – Check the available extensions
Normally I’d say, never go for a domain that you can’t get all the popular extensions for (.com, .net, .org, .co.uk etc.) however if you happen to stumble across a super short domain that says what it needs to … then pounce on it. My website domain (danielp.co.uk) for example says everything I needed it to; it is short, memorable, states my name and as I primarily aim to do work for UK based businesses, the .co.uk was ample. I knew in this instance that having only a single domain name extension was going to be much more valuable to me than say danielpgraphicdesigner.com.
According to Huffington Post, as of June 2013 there are 110 million .COM, 15 million .NET and 10 million .ORG domains on the web. Most people still consider the .COM domain extension as the default ‘go-to’ choice when typing a URL into the address bar of an internet browser. Therefore where you do find the opportunity to purchase a domain with a .com extension, go for it. Consider buying other extensions to prevent others from infringing on your business.
Rule number 7 – Make sure the domain is available before investing in branding
Perhaps rule 7 should be promoted to rule 1, a very important factor to consider particularly for start-ups. It is very common practice for businesses to have a website and to communicate through email (both of which need a domain name). It is worth investing some time seeing the availability of domain names before your register your overall business or brand name. It could be that all the popular extensions are taken or in the case that someone is willing to sell their domain name you might find yourself reaching into the depths of your pocket trying to find the huge sum of money the owner is asking for. Save yourself a real headache and potentially a lot of money and get domain name surfing before you solidify your brand name.
Rule number 8 – If it’s too good to be true … it probably is!
I’ve been there before jumping out of my seat when a super short, super relative domain name shows up as available … when actually it’s not. There are probably lots of scenarios that could be listed under this rule but here are two scenarios that I have found myself being seduced by:
a) The spelling is wrong!
It is easy to misspell or mistyped a domain name in your search. Double check the spelling before you go ahead and buy it.
b) The registrar is not up-to-date
There have also been times when I have searched for domain names on my mobile device and then quickly checked it on a desktop computer to find that actually the domain name I have discovered was registered years ago and is still in use today.
Observe other domain names that you remember and are impressed by. Think about the elements that make them successful and spend time replicating the above effective principles in your domain name choice.
Moz’s ‘How to choose the right domain name’
Some great places to search for and register your next domain name:
Domain Typer (An excellent tool for generating ideas using the extension in the name)
I’d love to hear what other tips you might have for choosing the right domain? How did you go about choosing the perfect domain for your business, organisation or project? Let me know by commenting below.