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Articles - Choosing a Domain Name
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  1. Choosing A Naming Theme

    When choosing a domain name to purchase, your best two choices are (1) your business or product name, or (2) a grouping of best keywords for driving traffic to your site. Sometimes these are the same exact thing, but if you already have an established business, you may not be able to change from Alfred's Service Outlet to Chicago Local Car Service. So which is more important? It all depends on where the majority of your business is coming from - existing customers and word of mouth, or new customers.

    • Your Business or Product Name

      If you have many existing customers, or expect a lot of word-of-mouth referrals, it may be better to go with a domain name that reflects your business or product name, since your customers will be able to find you far more easily than if you choose an unrelated keyword-based domain. The downside is that your website may not climb as high on the rankings, so you're not as likely to get new customers via web search.

    • Best Keywords

      Having a domain name based on the keywords most likely to drive business to your site will help with search engine ranking and therefore increase the flow of new customers from Google, etc. This is certainly the best option if your business is new and your name is not yet established. But what are the best keywords?

  2. Choosing the Best Keywords

    • Search Engine Frequency

      The terms most searched for, if relevant, are usually a good starting place. Experiment a bit with the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Find out what the most-searched keywords are (in our case, "web design" is the clear leader, with sub-terms "firm" and "company").

    • What Your Competition Is Using

      Visit your competition and see what keywords they're using in the titles of their sites. This will tell you a lot about how they're building their customer base, and perhaps change your mind about which of the top keywords to choose (or not choose, if you're attempting to carve out a separate niche).

    • Location Qualfiers

      Sometimes so many thousands of sites are competing for the same niche that you have little or no chance of making it into the top pages of the search engine results. If your business is at least partly geographical, however, you can add your location to your domain name and increase your relevancy for the customers most likely to buy from you. In our case, for instance, we have done work all around the US for other companies, but would like to build some local business in our hometown.

  3. Choosing a Domain Name Format

    • .COM, .NET, .ORG, or Anything Available?

      If you're a nonprofit, you probably want a .org domain. If you're a commercial business, then .com or .net are by far the best choices. The only exceptions are if every possible variation of the particular domain you're looking for has already been registered, in which case .info or .biz may be viable alternatives, or if you're a local company outside the US, in which case the appropriate country extension may be a better choice (for instance, .uk)

    • Character Length

      According to the RFC specs, domain names can be up to 255 characters in length. Most hosts restrict to 67 characters, however, and even this is a lot to expect people to type if they aren't coming from a link or bookmark. It's better to stay under 20-30 characters as long as this covers all the important keywords. But is shorter always better?

      Perhaps your business is called something like Rockwood Omega Investigation Unit and you think it would be a good idea to abbreviate that to roiu.com. Don't. In this instance, the name is certainly short, but also hard to remember and has zero relevancy, so you're basically choosing the worst of both worlds. If you choose shortness over relevancy, make sure it's at least a letter pattern people can remember (rock-un.com would work fine in this instance).

    • Hyphenatation

      Whether or not to hyphenate your domain name (add - characters between words) depends on a number of factors. Are all the good non-hyphenated versions already taken? Are there more than three words in your domain? Are the border characters between words all vowels (aeiou), or worse yet, the exact same letter (peteeats.com)? If you answered yes, then hyphenation may be a good idea.

      • Upside - search engines can distinguish individual words better if they're separated by hyphens. If all your business is via search engines and web links, then hyphenation may actually be a plus.

      • Downside - hyphenated domains are difficult to explain verbally, so people may end up typing in your competitor's domain if referred via word-of-mouth. Hyphenation is probably not a good idea for longer domains if you expect to receive a lot of verbal referrals.

  4. Buy Quickly (And Safely!)

    While it's not impossible to find good domains, it's certainly getting more and more difficult. With domain registration as cheap as it is, therefore, it makes good sense to register immediately if you find that perfect domain - even if you aren't going to decide until next year whether to use it or not. And maybe register several variations as well, just so your competitors can't use them. But be careful!

    A few web hosts have been suspected in the past of registering domains searched for through their sites, then immediately reselling them for a hefty markup. To reduce the chances of this sort of fraud, it's best to do all your searching all in one place, and preferably at a known major registrar such as Network Solutions, Godaddy, Register.com, etc. Our own domain search utility is wired directly into the primary whois servers for the Internet, so it's about as safe as you can get. You probably also want to avoid buying your domains from a bargain-basement company that may put themselves as technical contact and then refuse to transfer the domain later when you need them to.

Overall, have fun with the process and don't overthink things! If you feel after reading this article that you need help with choosing a proper domain name, we're always only a call or email away.

Next article: Knowing Your Web Hosting

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Choosing a Domain Name - Fenton Web Design Firm

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