Whether you have a new business, personal brand, or obscure cat-themed book club meeting group, odds are good that you’ll need to purchase a domain name. One of the first major steps to get your website project off the ground is finding the right domain name.
The process of buying a domain name is now extremely easy to do through providers like Google Domains, Namecheap, Bluehost, or Squarespace. Most modern, robust systems have simple search systems that allow you to type in your ideal domain name and check its availability as well as similar options all within a few clicks.
However, before you click “purchase” there are a few simple things you might want to take into consideration. Some of these are common knowledge, others may require you to do a little research. We’ve summarized it in ten easy steps.
1. Strong Brand and Business Representation
This one may seem obvious, but your domain name should strongly coordinate with your brand or business name and representation. As a matter of fact, most marketing and SEO professionals agree that your domain name SHOULD be your brand or business name. If not exactly, then extremely close. The primary reason for this is it’s easier for people to find your website if it matches or strongly coordinates with your entity. This is probably the most important consideration. If your entity’s exact name is not available for purchase, then take time to carefully consider your alternatives. Your overall goal is for people to find your website easily and the best way to do that is to have your domain name match your business name.
2. Symbols and Glyphs
In short, you can’t. You also shouldn’t. Nearly all typography symbols and glyphs are prohibited from being used in your domain name. The only symbol allowed is a hyphen and it’s not recommended. From an end-user perspective, it is very likely that the hyphen could be forgotten or misplaced and your potential site visitor ends up somewhere else. Therefore, you risk losing potential visitors because they misuse or forget to type in the hyphen when trying to locate your website.
While numbers are allowed in domain names they are not recommended. For similar reasons to symbols. They aren’t intuitive to someone trying to find your website. For example, shoes4kids.com could very easily be confused for shoesforkids.com. You are risking losing your potential visitors. The exception is of course for businesses that have a number in their name like 1800flowers.com.
4. Short and Sweet
The shorter and more concise the better. Google Domains recommends using a domain name that is between 3 and 4 terms. Whereas other experts recommend keeping your domain name under 15 characters. Everyone agrees, the fewer words or characters you can utilize to correctly connect people from your business to your website the better.
5. Social Media Account Matching
For optimal brand recognition and marketing efforts you will save yourself a lot of time and effort if all of your social media account names and your domain name match. Not only does it create brand trust, but it helps people (especially potential customers) find you easier. To illustrate, it would not be intuitive to find your favorite Instagram Artisain, Knitting for Novels (@knittingfornovels) at booksforknitgoods.com. We recommend you research the availability of coordinating social media account names before finalizing your domain purchase.
6. Keywords, to use or not to use.
It may be tempting to use a keyword in your domain name. When SEO first became a popular idea and effective practice, including a business specific keyword might have impacted your SEO rankings. However, with the innovation and robust nature of search algorithms, user familiarity with search engines, and improved geolocation and search rankings it’s not necessary. Our personal preference is to forgo keywords and keep your domain name as close to your actual entity name as possible. Skip the “southerntrendgiftshop.com” and stick to “southerntrend.com”. Shorter domain names that primarily focus on the business name are easier to brand and easier for end user to find.
7. Easily Mixed Up Words
Again, the goal here is to help people land on the correct website easily. Using words that sound the same or are spelled similar to others may negatively impact people’s ability to find your site. If possible, skip the “to, two too” and “weigh vs. way”.
8. TLD Type
TLD, or top-level domain, is the last section of your root domain. It’s the .com or .biz associated with your URL. When considering your domain name you also have to decide on the TLD you will use. The most common globally is .com. There are many other TLDs available that utilize keywords, location, or other business clarifiers. Google has confirmed that a custom or unique TLD does “not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.” However, you should consider how your TLD selection is viewed by your target audience. Semrush provided a brief overview of how different TLDs relate to customer/visitor trust. To summarize, .com was ranked extremely trustworthy whereas .biz ranked quite a bit lower. However, if you can’t decide on one, buy more. We recommend buying multiple TLDs for your business with the same root name to maximize the chance people find your website and minimize the chance someone else tries to intrude on your web traffic by purchasing a similar domain name.
9. Audience Preference
When it comes down to it, the thing that matters most is what your audience or ideal visitor prefers. You know them best and you can identify a domain name they will best relate to and resonate with.
10. Actual Rules
There are a few actual rules you should keep in the back of your mind when making a domain name purchase:
- The maximum possible character length is 63 characters (this does not include the part before your domain such as https:// or the TLD itself)
- The only symbol allowed is a hyphen
- No spaces
- Hyphens cannot be at the beginning or the end of the domain name
- Domain names are not case sensitive
- Don’t breach another company’s trademark through a tool like Trademark Engine.
- There are additional TLD specific restrictions (i.e. .mobi has to be a mobile first, mobile friendly website since it was designed to be used for the mobile phone market). No worries though, if your TLD has additional restrictions, major domain name brokers will not let you complete the purchase without proper verification that you meet the standards.
To summarize, your domain name should match your entity, resonate with your ideal visitor, and be simple. By keeping these key points in mind you can set up your endeavor for digital success.
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