how to choose a good domain name for your website

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Your domain is part of what defines you as a company. It’s on your branding, your business cards, your calls to action, your promotional products, your print marketing. Your domain seems to be a simple concept, and yet we get questions about domains nearly every day.

So what do you need to know about choosing a domain? How does it affect your site’s SEO? Well, here are some of our guidelines and rules of thumb to follow for domain ownership.

On Selecting a Domain:

  • Focus on ease of spelling and memory.

    Using your business name is typically a good idea, but long, cumbersome names that are hard to spell can be challenging.  You want your domain to be memorable, shareable, and easy to spell at all times.  You also need to check to make sure it doesn’t spell something awful when smushed together.  I present the example of Kids Exchange – seems innocent enough, but when spelled out, you get KidSexChange.com – not at all what a consignment children’s boutique would want to attract.

  • Generally, avoid hyphens.

    These can seem spammy at times, although I don’t condemn them with blanket virulence like I do with other things.

  • Stick with shorter, easy to remember lengths.

    One rule of thumb is to stick to about 15 characters or less, though this isn’t a hard and fast rule, either.

  • Make it keyword rich.

    Ideally, you want your domain to include your best keywords to improve your chances of SEO rankings.  For example, if your financial advising practice is called The Smith Group, you could go with theSmithGroup.com or SmithFinancialAdvisors.com.  The latter gives you a better keyword relevance, though you could go either way depending on your branding.

  • Beware the Exact Match Domain.

    A year or two ago the Big G (Google) had an algorithmic update called the EMD penalty.  In it, they began to penalize sites with “exact match” domains.  Imagine a roofing company called Smith Roofing had a domain called Denver-Roofing-Company.com.  They ran the risk of being penalized for having a domain that was an exact match, as opposed to using something like SmithRoofing.com.  Another example would be if our own domain was Best-SEO-Company-Ever.com.  That’s a pretty spammy sounding domain – and one that would take away from my proactive (white-hat) SEO efforts.

  • TLDs

    AKA your Top Level Domains (your .com, .net, etc.).  You can get a top level domain that says just about anything these days, but the fact remains that the general population is typically wary or suspicious of anyhting that isn’t a .com.  You’re better off looking for a good .com name than any other weird domain. You also do not need to (nor should you) buy all the variations of your domain in the .net, .biz, .info versions.

On How Many Domains to Own

Why would you consider owning multiple domains? I mentioned above in the TLDs that you should not purchase every variation of TLD for your domain, so it makes sense that I tend to stay on the side of the fence discouraging you from having multiple domains.  In a Matt Cutts video (Google’s Webspam director and SEO Guru), he explained that it really only makes sense to have one domain and focus on optimizing it with your great content, rather than duplicating content, risking losing your customers in a redirect, or generally using bad SEO mojo.  Times a new domain is okay: different sites  for other countries/foreign language; if you have very distinctive parts of your business (say, a residential and a commercial arm) or another reason for vastly different content.

On the Value of Your Domain

What if you’ve finally decided on the perfect domain for your company and when you look it up you realize it’s for sale for the bargain price of $4000? This happens fairly frequently and business can park on your domain and resell for exorbitant prices.  If you choose a different variation, the price will only be $12.99, but for the perfect domain it’s $4,000.  In this case you have to decide if it’s worth the added expense. Will the “perfect” domain be worth $4000 or more in additional revenue? Is that the best allocation of money for you? If the answer is yes, then by all means pursue the perfect domain.  If it isn’t yes, then hold your horses and choose a different domain.

Still confused about your domain options? Contact us for a consultation.  We’ve saved customers hundreds of dollars a year (and still increased traffic substantially) by simplifying their domain profile.  Let us know if we can help you do the same.

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