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How to choose a domain name

  • How to choose a domain name
    How to choose a domain name

Getting started with a website begins with your address. The magical set of letters and numbers that all start with “http://” that allow users to find YOU on the internet. The process of choosing the right domain name should be carefully considered when you’re starting and marketing a new website. Especially if SEO is going to be one of your main vehicles for driving traffic to your new site.

Getting started with domain names

Without going into too much detail here we should quickly take a step back and examine your overall business model. Why are you choosing a domain name and why build a website? By asking yourself these questions and doing some keyword research on your target market you’ll be well positioned to know why and if you should even be looking at domain names for a new website/business idea. If you take the time to answer the following questions you’ll be better prepared going forward. Some things you should ask yourself are:

  • Why are you creating this site?
  • Who is your target audience? Do I know them well?
  • Do I have a good business model and plan?
  • Is my business idea unique?
  • Is my idea targeted to a high quality niche?
  • Do I really know how I’m going to make money?
  • Does my website fulfill a need?
  • How can my website fulfill a large need?
  • Does my website make life easier for someone?
  • Can I find a better, more targeted business within my original idea?

What makes a good domain name?

There are many things that make up a good, SEO friendly domain name. Obviously, if you operate a business that you want to brand, the name of your business should be an important part of your domain name selection. If you own a local grocery store you obviously want your website positioned as www.storename.com instead of www.mylocalgrocery.com or something similarly vague and generic. This is only common sense but it should not be your only consideration. Especially if you’re just starting a business and it’s web-based.

Keywords in domain or both brand and keyword

When you’re starting a new business or website, consider placement of keywords in your domain name. It doesn’t mean life or death with the search engines but every little bit helps. There are added benefits like portions of your domain name being bolded within the results. For example, if you search for “Sanctuary Media Group” you’ll notice that my site comes up first and the word “Sanctuary” is bold. I’m not sure there are a lot of searches for our exact company name but you get my point.

You might also consider using your target keywords as your brand and building a business from there. An example might be (and I’m just making this up) where someone is in the market for small business information. They might type in “Small Business Guru” to find an individual who might fulfill their consulting needs. If you perform this search you’ll notice that small-business-guru.com, thesmallbusinessguru.com and other similar sites appear. This is a great example of building a brand around your target keywords.

Don’t use a lot of hyphens in your domain name

We’ve covered using hyphens in your domain name previously, but in summary, try to choose a domain name that people can remember easily. Hyphens can only complicate things. Google is also very good about pulling keywords out of domain names so you don’t have to walk them through it by providing hyphens in your address. If you absolutely have to use hyphens it won’t hurt you unless you have more then 3-4 words. More then this will be hard to remember and as time goes by, the search engines might start to regard domain names like this as lower quality. It reeks of a spammy site, plus it shows that you were probably late to the game and unable to secure the domain without the hyphens. Focus on your brand and fit some keywords into the domain if possible but don’t make this your main focus.

Short as possible and easy to remember

Potential visitors to your site will not remember your domain name if it’s long and complicated. I would recommend using 3 words or less and keep them short. Nobody will remember Andys-computer-fix-it-now.com but they will remember andyscomputers.com or andys.com if you can get it. Again, keywords in our name should not be a high priority. It’s much more important to get a highly brandable domain name and keep it short and sweet if you can.

Consider your country

Are you targeting a specific country or multiple countries? Then you should probably plan on choosing a domain name that you can get with that country’s extension. For example, if you do business in the U.S. and Canada and you want to fully brand and market your company within both regions you should probably register companyname.com, companyname.us and companyname.ca to fully cover your bases. Certain regional based search engines will only list sites that have their extension. At the minimum they’ll favor sites with that specific extension. Do a search at http://www.google.ca for “seo” and you’ll see that it heavily favors sites with the .ca extension or sites with a Canadian reference in the domain name.

Choose a .com domain

When the internet was invented, the original idea for domain extensions was to give some information about the site by looking at the domain name. For example, .com extensions mean that it’s a commercial site of some sort and .edu sites are education related sites and .org means that it’s a non-profit website. There are many sites listed as .net that really shouldn’t be because this was originally designated for internet service sites and the like.

The most important thing to consider when choosing a domain name extension is that most people type in .com automatically. If you have a name that you like and it’s already reserved, check to see if there is a site there and if it’s your competition. That last thing you want to do is spend time and money marketing a .net domain and having people arrive at your competition by mistake. The best rule of thumb (if you’re building a business site) is to stick with a .com domain name and ignore the rest unless you want to keep your competition from using the domain.

Hopefully this introduction has been useful. For more information on registering domain names please check out and compare the following services GoDaddy.com, Register.com, NameBargain.com. I own domains with all three of these quality registrars and I’ve never had a problem. In fact, a friendly representative from GoDaddy.com called me today just for the heck of it. Ok, he did try to upsell me on a couple things but overall he was not pushy, he gave up quickly when I said I was not interested and the guy actually answered a technical question I had on my mind. He was not pushy or intrusive. Overall, a great service.

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Chris Auman is a veteran Internet marketer, website developer, and designer with over 20 years of experience in the trenches. As President and Senior Strategist at Sanctuary, Chris has successfully guided the online marketing efforts for companies large and small. Chris’ clients range from family owned & operated retail operations with a local footprint of 1-10 stores to multinational Fortune 500 companies.

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  1. [...] clients. We believe that constructing a website is much more than a flashy presentation and the right web address. Your company’s online presence should be a major part of your online marketing initiative [...]

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