Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who likes to build websites, and make video games. He buys way too much Lego.
Back in 1998, enthusiastic about the launch of my first proper website, I spent a lot of time thinking about the content, the design and the marketing tools to use to make it the next big thing. Overwhelmed by the process, I didn’t think to create a decent domain name.
Or rather, I did think about it, but it was hard to decide – and so I kept putting it off. There were so many questions to answer. Should it be short or descriptive? Can I go for something witty or funny? The domain name is the first aspect of a website that your visitors will see. It has to be memorable and connected to something positive.
It also has to be available to buy!
So, how did I come up with the perfect domain name? To be honest, I didn’t. My first website was called Binary Sun – and I chose the domain name binary-sun.co.uk. It was a website for my ‘web design’ company. So clearly I went for something totally unrelated. It was also a hard name to share – I had to say the hyphen out loud.
Since then I have learnt a few simple rules that will help you to avoid some of the mistakes I made back then.
1. Make It Unique
Uniqueness is the first and the most important prerequisite for successful domain name selection. See what the competition is doing. Avoid domain names that sound anything like theirs. Take some time to think outside the box, to brainstorm and to create the perfect, original domain name.
2. Think about the Best Keywords
Keywords in the domain name will improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Think about the words and phrases that people will use to find information about your niche. Including one or two of these phrases in the domain name will have positive effects on optimization.
3. Memorable and Fun
A good domain name is memorable and fun. Your readers will be more likely to come back to your website if they find it easy to remember the URL.
4. Easy to Read, Easy to Type
Good domain names are easy to read and to type. Leave the dictionary alone, when trying to come up with a good URL. Pick simple words that all people know and understand. Nobody likes to feel stupid and if people are incapable of spelling the domain name, they may well be unwilling to type it.
5. The KISS Rule
Keep It Simple, Stupid! The rule applies to design and web development. It is just as important for domain name creation. The shorter it is, the better. At work we use the Pub Rule. The idea is that we should be able to tell someone the name of our website when we’re in the pub or at a bar. If we have to repeat something or they don’t understand it, then it’s not a good name.
6. Should You Use a Company or a Brand Name?
Is the website or blog dedicated to your company? Include the company name or the name of the brand in the URL. The company name combined with a keyword will deliver the best possible SEO.
7. Avoid Slang Terms
Slang may sound cool and it may appeal to a small target audience but many people will not know what you are talking about. Slang phrases and street language are best left for things like creative marketing campaigns.
8. Clever Spelling is a Big No-No
Do you think that creative or unusual spelling is a good idea for your domain name? It may sound fun but it will get your website visitors confused. Avoid any variations of the terms and the words that you want for the URL. Standard spelling will deliver the best results.
I know that there are exceptions to this, sites like Flickr and Tumblr are huge, but they are the exceptions. Unless you have millions of users, or a gigantic marketing budget, it’s best to stick to things people will understand.
9. No punctuation
My first domain name, binary-sun.co.uk, had hyphens in it. This is not a good idea. When you say the domain name out loud people don’t hear the hyphens – which means you have to spell it out. Every. Single. Time! It will fail the Pub Test for sure!
A good domain name will drive traffic to your website and it will affect SEO, as well. Spending some time thinking about it and doing research will deliver the best possible results. Your URL is your public representation, make it a memorable one.
Do you have any other tips for selecting the best domain name?