12 Rules About How to Choose the Right Domain Name

For 95% of the web design projects we take on our team, a domain name is already part of the equation. However, in some circumstances, we may need to provide advice to our customers for the domain name to use. Here are 12 tips from the Moz.com site that I find essential to help people choose a good domain name.

1. Think About a Top 5 Keywords

When you start your domain name search, it helps to have a set of terms or phrases in mind that best describe the line of business. Once you have this list, you can start associating them or adding prefixes and suffixes to create good domain ideas. For example, if you are launching a domain name related to the mortgage domain, you could start with words like “mortgage, finance, equity, interest, home” and then play until you find a good match for your needs.

2. Make the domain unique

Having a website name very close to a popular website that already belongs to someone else is a recipe for disaster. Thus, I never choose domains that are simply the plural version, with a hyphen or misspelled from an already established www address. Even after years of branding, Flickr desperately needs Flicker.com (which they eventually buy). When people told their friends and family to find pictures on Flickr, the pronunciation sent a lot of traffic to the wrong place!

3. Choose only available .com domain names

If you are not concerned with direct traffic, branding or name recognition, you do not have to worry about this recommendation. However, if you are serious about building a successful website in the long run, you should pay attention to using the .com address. Many people still think that the .com extension is the only extension that exists. Yes yes, even in 2015! I make this recommendation even in light of all the new extensions available in the modern era of the TLD band. A site like “I love.pasta” will unfortunately not be interpreted as a visitable or memorable web address by the overwhelming majority of consumers.

4. Make sure it is easy to type

If a domain name requires a lot of attention to typing correctly, because of spelling, length or use of words or non-memorable sounds, you’ve lost a lot of your branding and marketing value.

5. Make sure it’s easy to remember

Remember that word of mouth and domination marketing SERPs (where your domain is still in place for industry-related research), both rely on the ease of remembering the name of field. You do not want to be the company with the great site you can never remember the name when it comes time to tell a friend because we do not remember the web address. There are a lot of advantages to SEO by following the best practices of the brand, and ignoring this practice will hurt your long-term results.

6. Keep the name as short as possible

Short names are easy to enter and easy to remember (see the previous two rules). They also allow more characters in the URL in the SERPs and a better fit on social networks, in magazines and all forms of offline marketing (including essential word-of-mouth).

7. Create and meet expectations

When someone hears about your domain name for the first time, they should be able to guess instantly and precisely what kind of content might be there. That’s why I like domain names like Hotmail.com, CareerBuilder.com, AutoTrader.com and WebMD.com. Domains like Monster.com, Amazon.com, Zillow.com, and even Moz have to invest more in their brand because of their non-intuitive names. That said, if you know that people know you, an unrelated name may be fine.

8. Avoid copyright infringement

This is an error that is not done too often, but can kill a big estate and a big business when it happens.

9. Stand out with your branding

Using a unique name is a great way to create extra value with your domain name. A “brand” is much more than just a combination of words, which is why names like mortgageforyourhome.com or loanratesonline.com are not as compelling as brand names like bankrate.com or lendingtree.com. Zappos is much more eye-catching (and reputable) than Shoestore.com. Moz himself is a good example – “moz” has a historic web association, and an association to be free, open and community-driven.

10. Reject the dashes and numbers

Both hyphens and numbers make it difficult to give your domain name verbally and make you lose chances of being easy to remember or type. We can also link their use with less good search engine positioning, lower branding performance, and direct traffic.

11. Do not follow the latest trends

Website names that are based on weird spelling errors (such as many Web 2.0 style sites), multiple hyphens (such as SEO-optimized domains in the early 2000s), or short, uninteresting adjectives ( like “top … x”, “best … x”, “hot … x”) are not always the best choices. Just look at all the people who have named their businesses “AAA … x” over the past 50 years to be the first in the phone book; how many Fortune 2000’s companies are named “AAA Company”? Any!

12. Use an Ajax Domain Selection Tool

It is easy to determine the availability of a domain name with sites like  Domainr. Just remember that you do not have to buy through these services. You can find a name you like that is available, then go find it on Namecheap.com for example.

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