New marketers and old alike will tell you that choosing a domain name is no small task. It's a little scary too, because once you’ve picked a domain name, it’s hard to change to another domain down the line.
On top of that, your domain is what other people will remember you by. It’s what other websites will use to link to you. It’s the crux of your whole online business. That's why knowing how to choose a domain name is so important.
So, a great question is, what should you look for when choosing a domain name?
Here is a checklist that will help you figure out how to choose a domain name for your internet business.
How To Choose a Domain Name Checklist
Memorable. Is your new domain name easy to remember? For marketing reasons, your domain name should have a nice ring to it. It should roll off your tongue and be easily memorable.
Short. Short domain names are best. The shorter the domain name, the more likely you are to get someone to remember it. Single-word domains are considered premium domains for this reason. That said, getting your hands on a single word domain name in your market is quite difficult (especially for dot com domains). You’ll likely have to settle for a two-word or three-word domain. Still, try to make the domain as short and easy to remember as possible.
Numbers. No numbers, no dashes, no exceptions. It’s very confusing to have to say to someone “its 3 cubes dot com, with the number three” or “it’s three spelled out.” It’s also confusing to say “the domain is domain dash word dot com.” It’s hard to remember and just doesn’t work very well for word of mouth referrals. Just forget about it. This is one of the most important tips that I offer people who ask me how to choose a domain name.
Spelling. One possible spelling only please. Avoid words that are spelled differently in other countries. For example, “colors” can also be spelled “colours.” Again, passing the domain along with word of mouth becomes very difficult with such words. Also avoid domains that have to be plural. Only register a domain name with an “s” in it if you can also get the domain without the “s” and redirect it.
Visual. Make sure it looks good lowercase. A lot of domains only look good when they’re uppercase. For example, BirdsStore.com might look great upper case, but looks odd when birdsstore.com is lowercase.
Dot COM. Top level domain matters. In general, you should stick with only .com domains. If you can get your hands on a really great .net or .org domain that’s better than any .com you can find, go ahead and grab it. But you should generally avoid any other TLDs in my opinion.
Of course, there are lots of exceptions to my rules about how to choose a domain name — in this case the exception is if you’re actually starting a local website. For example, if you’re starting a site in the UK, you may very well want to register a .co.uk domain.
SEO. Search engine keywords. Truth told, there is lots of debate about how to choose a domain name. Most people will tell you that your domain name can play a significant role in getting ranked well in search engines. Certainly, if you can get the exact domain name for a keyword you want to rank for in the search engines, your domain name alone can give you a nice boost (at least for now). The trick is in selecting a search engine friendly domain that also has a nice ring to it.
My personal feelings about keywords in domains is that they should help the user understand what the domain is about. Like content, domain names should be targeted at users not search engines.
It is certainly true that you can get rankings for long tail keywords by with exact match domains and thin content. But updates like Panda show us that eventually, Google will sort though things that don't help the user (like the domain name) and focus on things that do (like content). An exact match domain with crappy content will eventually tank.
So….keywords in the domain name are fine. They may even give you a boost in the long run. But I would not focus too much on that — ultimately it is the content that matters.
Thesaurus. Having trouble finding a domain that makes sense? Try alternate words. If you’re having trouble coming up with good domain names, try finding similar words to the words in your keyword using tools like Thesaurus.com or the Google Keyword Tool.
Brainstorm. Compile a list of potential domains. You might not always be able to get the exact domain you want. Instead of coming up with just one domain name you want, try to come up with a list of 20. Then use a mass checker, available free on many domain registrars to find out which one(s) are available.
Need more help figuring out how to choose a domain name. Try http://www.bustaname.com. It's perfect for brainstorming with loads of options.
Feedback. Ask your friends what they think about your domain name. No matter how great you think the domain name is, the real test is other people in the real world. Try to ask friends who’ll give you their real opinions, not just tell you that they think it’s really great even when it’s not. Make sure they’re able to actually figure out the typed in domain name easily based on you telling the domain verbally.
Shop Around. Browse forums and auctions. Look at sites like GoDaddy Auctions, Sedo, NamePros forums and other such sites for premium domains. For example, if you wanted to pick up a domain like “renovation.com,” you’re probably never going to find it available for registration. On the other hand, you might be able to pick up some true winners in expired auction auctions or domain name forum sales.
Relax. As you can tell a lot can go into picking a domain name. Don’t rush the process and make sure you really pick a domain name that you can be proud of in the long run.