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10 tips for picking the perfect domain name

Copy article link Your web address or the URL is what people type in their browsers to access your website. This address helps people and search engines to identify you online. As you can guess, this is a pretty important element to nail down when you launch your business.

Many businesses mistakenly do not give it the consideration it deserves. Here’s why you must.

A regional phone book is analogous to a ccTLD's registry
A domain name is as important as your brand. Photo by Maria Oswalt

Your web address is as important as your brand.

Businesses spend considerable resources on branding. A design that’s easy to remember, conveys what the company does, and helps separate your brand from the rest.

A web address does the same.

In fact, considering its impact on SEO, I’d say arriving at a winning URL is even more important than creating a bang-on brand. At least you can redesign a brand if you don’t like the original result. Changing a domain name can be chaotic and risky.

Most online web builders allow you to create your web URL as you are building the website. No need to buy a domain name before. But before you get carried away with the design process — because the aesthetics can be quite appealing — it’s necessary to have a list of potential domain names ready that you can choose from before you click the Publish button.

In this article, we’ll share 10 tips to building a strategic web address that can be a true asset for your brand.

1. Get it right the first time

Domain name changes come with a host of risks and challenges. You stand to hurt your SEO, link authority might suffer for a bit, and it can be a hassle asking other websites to change your domain name on their sites.

And while there are steps you can take to minimize the damage; some concerns always persist:

  • It can take time to bring back your organic traffic.
  • Brand awareness almost complete resets as you try to tell your audience that now you have a new name.
  • You’ll need to restart your new social media presence from scratch – and we all know it can be a challenge.
  • Domain name changes require you to get new names on your email, branding, and other marketing materials. It can be time-consuming and expensive.

Therefore, it is important to get your domain name right the first time. Take some time to research domain names before you start. Your future self will thank you!

2. Think beyond .com

As you are finalizing your brand name, you’d do well to research if the matching domain name with the ‘.com’ extension is available. While we now have access to fancier top level domains (TLDs), too -. club, .blog, .shop, and such —- it’s better to stick with the classic and trustworthy .com.

Some reasons why:

  • Visitors always default to typing .com after a domain name in the URL bar. A mistype can land them to an error page or (worse) to a competitor’s page.
  • Most smartphones also have a default .com after a web address is typed, and you stand to lose a lot of traffic if you go after anything other than a .com.
  • The .com top-level-domain makes your brand look more established and trustworthy.

Having said that, if a .com extension isn’t available, don’t lose your sleep over it. Extension such as .net, .org, and .biz, etc., are also great and pretty popular with people.

Plus, if you choose to get something new like a .blog or a .shop extension, not only will it come cheaper, but it can be a great branding opportunity too. With clever branding, you can own and flaunt these new extensions and make them a brand asset.

Important note: when you are buying your domain name, try getting all the available extensions and redirect them to your main site. This ensures that no other business can buy a similar looking domain name as you and infringe upon your brand.

3. Go for short, memorable, & on-brand domains

The reason you need a short domain name is that it’s easier to say and easier to share with people, even vocally.

It’s also memorable. You don’t want an overly complicated or a long URL that won’t win you any favors with your audience.

Also, your domain name should be your brand name. Imagine if Nike had a domain called ‘nikeshoes.com’. Not only it’ll be limiting, but also quite inauthentic and generic.

Therefore, always match your domain name with your brand, even if you have to sacrifice your favorite TLD.

4. Be smart with the keywords

You need to consider two things.

First, search engines no longer require you to have your main keyword (exact match keyword) in your URL for it to rank higher. Rankings have become more nuanced than that now. Plus, stuffing your URL with keywords can actually backfire and get you penalized. Also, the audience equates such web addresses with spammy, untrustworthy businesses.

Second, in some cases, having a relevant keyword in your domain name can help. It’s especially helpful if it’s part of your brand name in the first place. For example, domainnamestat.com sounds like a search query, but since it’s an actual company, the keyword doesn't seem forced at all — instead, it has become branded.

5. Easy to spell and pronounce

When you interact with a business that you like, you tell people about it. You text them, mention it in conversations, and basically say the business’ name a lot.

But what happens if the name is confusing to spell or difficult to pronounce? Something with a hyphen in it, or some words that have been replaced with a number? How can you convey that verbally?

If you can’t, the business loses a huge branding, marketing, and organic SEO opportunity.

Do not be such a business.

Choose brand names — and thus the domain names — that have simple spellings and are no-brainers when pronouncing.

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, all foot the bill.

They are easy to say verbally, with nothing lost in translation. With simple spellings, they can’t be mistyped in the browsers. Meaning, you won’t lose any traffic to error pages or rival companies, and your happy customers will become effective tools of marketing hyping up your (easy and simple) brand name to everyone who listens.

6. Make it intuitive

When people hear your domain name, do they instantly get an idea of what your business has to offer?

If so, you have achieved domain name nirvana.

Take a popular example of Wikipedia. Thename instantly gives away the kind of information you are going to find there. Something similar to an encyclopedia. No guessing here and no confusion.

When you choose intuitive domain names, you not only strengthen brand recognition but brand memorability, too. If your audience can hear your name and understand what you do, it’s going to remember you for a long time to come.

7. Research the domain history

Sometimes, the available domain names come with baggage. What you thought was a brand-new name was actually someone else’s website in the past. Now that it has become available again, you want to make sure that the name you are buying comes with impeccable character history.

You don’t want anyone associating your business with anything less than completely kosher.

Look up prospect domain names in the Wayback Machine to see what was hosted on it before.

8. Explore social media handles

Your brand has to live not only on web servers but also on social media. Before you finalize a URL, look around on social platforms to ensure that your preferred name is available on all major social sites. These include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok.

Even if you are not going to have a presence on all these platforms, nab the names right now to protect your brand for the future.

Having different online identities for the same brand online is a recipe for reputation disaster. If people perceive your business as anything less than completely professional with high integrity, you’ll have a hard time getting your foot in the door.

9. Keep room for growth

Some domain names are so specific that it limits your chances for expansion.

Suppose you are an SEO company called DirectSeo. The name is short, memorable, on-brand, but it’s also highly limiting. If you try to venture into digital marketing, let’s say, you’ll have a hard time convincing your audience of your digital marketing expertise if they only associate you with SEO.

Therefore, as you are shortlisting your domain names, keep room for future growth and expansion in mind.

10. Protect your brand

Buying a domain name has a legal angle to it as well. You want to make sure that your domain name does not infringe upon anyone’s trademark. Check the trademark registries of Europe and the United States to see if the brand has already been trademarked.

You also don’t want to expose your brand to professional domain name flippers who buy available domain names with varied extensions and then sell them to anxious brands at a higher cost.

When you buy a domain, buy it with all common extensions. It means, do not stop at the .com. Go after .net, .org, .io, and other common TLDs too. It not only future-proofs your brand, but by redirecting them all to your main site, you save up on a lot of lost traffic when people type in a wrong extension.

In Short

Your URL is your brand name — just online. Treat it with the same deference you’d treat your brand name and logo, to protect and strengthen your digital presence.

  • Choose the right domain name from the get-go to create an uninterrupted brand presence.
  • The domain name needs to be intuitive, and short, on-brand, with no confusing digits or symbols.
  • The .com is good, but explore more domain extensions for a flexible brand that has room to grow.
  • And lastly, protect your brand by researching your domain name’s history and current use, so you don’t get into any legal or security issues down the road.