Choosing a domain name for your business or personal website is a crucial step when it comes to building a unique brand identity online, as well as choosing the best website builder to create a website and the best web hosting. Registering a domain name is simple and costs vary depending on the registrar and domain extension you choose.
Additionally, many of the best web hosting services include a free domain name as part of their subscription plans. If you check out many reputable hosting providers, be sure to check out their deals for new subscribers, as you might end up saving money.
However, if you are wondering how to choose a domain name for your website, this article will walk you through some of the key factors and help you come up with a top-level name idea and the right extension for your website.
Step 1: Learn about traditional TLDs, new TLDs, and ccTLDs
Traditional top-level domain (TLD) extensions such as .com, .net, and .org have long been considered the gold standard. Unfortunately, domain names that contain common dictionary words with traditional TLDs are often used. Sometimes you have the option to sign up for them at a premium, but that can cost hundreds of dollars.
However, it is easier to find traditional TLDs for domains based on unusual and unique brand names. Regardless, if the domain name you choose happens to have a .com or .net extension, you should consider snapping it up.
If your business and most of your customers are located in countries that use country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), such as .co.uk, .ca, or .com.au, it’s best to stick to these extensions when using local domains give them. Registration of ccTLDs is generally limited to people living in these specific countries and ensures that you are not competing for domain names with the rest of the world.
While old-school TLDs are still considered superior, you should also explore several newer and more descriptive extensions such as .tattoo, .studio, .tech, .yoga, and more. In many cases, these domain extensions are cheaper, and Google says traditional TLDs have no ranking or SEO advantages over newer TLDs.
Step 2: Consider a keyword-based domain name
Keywords are popular search terms that people use to find information on search engines. Including keywords in your domain name makes it clear what your business is.
For example, if you own a company in Ipswich called “Brendan’s Plumbing”, choosing a domain name like IpswichPlumber.co.uk may be an advantage over BrendansCompany.co.uk. When a potential customer’s search term happens to be in your domain name, it’s a sign that you’re exactly what they’re looking for.
But that’s not all. Until a few years ago, search engines like Google rewarded keyword-rich sites with higher rankings in search results. SEO is all about including as many keywords as possible in your website copy and domain name. But this policy creates the possibility for unscrupulous people to game the system by building low-quality websites with keyword-rich domains and content.
As a result, such sites have been deemed untrustworthy by real people and search engines. In fact, search engines have changed their algorithms to block domains with multiple specific keywords. According to Google’s John Mueller: “There is no associated ranking advantage for including keywords in a domain name.”
Best practice is to use keywords sparingly when registering a domain name. A website called IpswichPlumber.co.uk might not give you many SEO benefits, but it does indicate a specific service and location to potential customers. However, a domain name like BestCheapIpswichPlumber.co.uk containing low-quality content can trigger censorship and ranking penalties from search engines.
Step 3: Consider a name that sounds like a brand
There are plenty of examples of unusual, creative, sticky names that make great brands. Names such as Google, Twitter, Yandex, Yahoo, and Adidas are some examples.
The advantage of choosing an unusual word for your domain name is that it stands out and may not be trademarked. The downside is that it might not be immediately memorable, and it might take some marketing work to get it to stick in people’s minds.
If you already have an established brick-and-mortar brand, it might be worthwhile to have it as your domain name. If it doesn’t work as .co.uk. .com, .net, or .org TLDs, you might consider choosing from a growing list of newer, more descriptive extensions, such as .tech, .space, or .yoga, depending on the nature of your business.
But if your business is primarily online, coming up with a creative and branded name might be your best bet. Just write some ideas down on a piece of paper, say them out loud, and ask yourself if they resemble a brand name. People often have a keen sense of what a good brand name should look and sound like.
Step 4: Does your domain pass the radio test?
Radio testing is simple. If someone heard your domain name on the radio, would they understand, remember, and be able to spell it? This useful technique ensures that the name you choose is short, simple, and memorable.
Of course, the radio test extends to all word-of-mouth advertising, including podcasts, talking about your online business at a coffee shop, or mentioning an email address associated with your website. Consider whether potential customers will be able to recall your domain name after hearing it.
Step 5: Stay away from hyphens, numbers and misspellings
Many people use hyphens and numbers between keywords when the name of their choice is not available. These elements can complicate an otherwise great domain name and make it harder to remember. Is it learn2kazoo.net, learntokazoo.net or learn-2-kazoo.net?
Another reason to exclude hyphens is that since many visitors use mobile devices, entering hyphens will require them to switch between keyboards. It’s best to avoid adding extra steps that could close a lead.
You might think oddly spelled words would make your domain stand out. Names like avidgardenr.com or catzanddogz.com may seem creative on paper, but new customers have a hard time remembering them.
The same goes for abbreviations. Do not shorten common words in domain names, such as st for street or mgmt for management. A shorter domain name is usually better, but not at the expense of clarity.
Step 6: Notice the Trademark
Before deciding on a name, it’s a good idea to check if it’s trademarked. This way, you can ensure that the domain name you choose is only associated with your brand and doesn’t get you into legal trouble.
Checking brand names is easy and free. You can use the UK government’s trademark search portal, the USPTO website, or a quick Google search to find some other resources.
Step 7: Don’t forget to check social media
Can this name be used as a Twitter handle? How about Instagram and Facebook? Before deciding on a domain name, ask yourself if you want to use the same name on social media too.
Of course, many names are generic and you can’t expect them to appear on popular social media sites. There may be many plumbers from Ipswich on Twitter and Facebook, and some may choose a handle like @IpswichPlumber. In this case, if you own IpswichPlumber.co.uk, you can work around alternative names on social media by adding numbers or letters to the handle.
Some names may be available on one platform but not another. Identify the social media platforms that are most important to your business and make sure your chosen brand name or similar alternatives are available on those sites.
It’s worth your time when choosing a domain name. Great domain names are short, simple, unique and memorable. Remember to brainstorm a brand name, choose a suitable domain extension, and consider radio testing. It’s best to avoid excessive keywords, hyphens, misspellings, and numbers.
If you’re stuck, there are plenty of domain name generators online to inspire your creativity. Finally, don’t forget to check your preferred domain name’s existing trademark and social media availability. Your domain name is an extension of your personality and reputation. Make smart choices!
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