6 tips for choosing the best domain name

For most of the projects we work on, a domain name is already locked in. Occassionaly however, our advice has been sought for naming a domain, either for a new website, blog or a startup brand. Below, I’ve listed 6 quick tips for helping people select the best domain name. Where possible…

1. Keep the domain name short.
Shorter domain names are easier to type and remember. They also allow for more characters in the URL after the slash on sub-level pages – which look better in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Shorter domain names also fit better on business cards and other printed media.

2. Make it easy to type.
Similar to the above point, but if a domain name is difficult to type correctly, due to spelling, length or the use of un-memorable words or sounds, you’ve lost a good portion of your branding and marketing value. For example a domain name like fiverr.com can be a challenge to remember, does it have two “f”s or two “r”s?

3. Try to use keywords.
When you first start searching for a domain name, try to use one of your keywords in the URL if you can. Put together a list of your top keywords amd try to add them as prefixes or suffixes to create good domain ideas. Play around with the keywords until you can find a good match.

4. Match expectations.
A visitor should be able to instantly and accurately guess what your website is about when they hear about your domain name for the first time. If your domain name doesn’t mention what you do, then you may have to spend more time and money on branding. Websites like LuxuryLodgesOfAustralia.com.au and our recently launched AdelaideLuxuryBeachHouse.com.au make sense. They might break the rule about keeping the URL short, but you know exactly what they’re going to be about just by reading the domain name. Whereas going to a site like Amazon.com for the first time, you’d expect to be reading something about the Amazon!

5. Don’t follow the trend.
Website names that rely on odd mis-spellings like many Web 2.0 style sites (looking at you Flickr.com!), multiple hyphens, or uninspiring short adjectives (like “top…x,” “best…x,” “hot…x”) aren’t always the best choice. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but in the world of naming conventions in general, if everyone else is doing it, that doesn’t mean it’s a surefire strategy. Just look at all the people who named their businesses “AAA… x” over the last 50 years to be first in the phone book. Also, never choose domains that are simply the plural, hyphenated or misspelled version of an already established domain.

6. Choose the right market.
In Australia, you also need to consider who your target audience are, should you use a .com or a .com.au? Many people who use the web in America still make the automatic assumption that .com is all that’s out there – so if you’re after this market, don’t make the mistake of locking out or losing this traffic. In Australia, expectations are different. Australians recognize a website as being for Australians if using a local domain name. Search engines (google.com.au) will also note your site as being for Australians.

Still no luck? Break the rules.

Selecting the right domain name has never been easy, and it’s getting more difficult as the number of registered domains increase. However, it remains one of the most critical decisions you can make. With the lack of good .com domain names available now, you might have to consider breaking the rules a little.

Perhaps it’s better to have a longer domain name if it contains keywords and is memorable. Normally we’d avoid using numbers and hyphens, but sometimes it can make sense, for example 99designs.com is a place to get your logo designed by many designers (possibly even as many as 99!).

The domain name you choose now will be with you for a long time to come, so you need to do some research. A little upfront work now will be worth it in the future.