Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Here’s what to look for in a good domain name.
- A good domain name is relatively short. A short name — if you can get it — is important for several reasons. It is easy to fit into logos, makes a better brand, is more easily recognizable, and is harder to misspell. Some companies have 50-character domain names spelling out their whole company name. That’s unwise. Long domain names don’t fit in forms, on billboards, or in Google PPC ads. Keep them relatively short.
- A good domain name is memorable. You remember generic names, such as Art.com and Garden.com. But you also remember more unique names such as Amazon.com, Google.com, and FogDog.com. Putting together strange combinations of words is fun and can be very productive. It helps if it rhymes like FogDog, or repeats sounds such as Google, or is sing-songy like WilsonWeb. Say your prospective domain name out loud to listen to its sounds. See if your tongue gets twisted around any syllables. Whatever your domain name, it should stick in the mind.
- A good domain name isn’t easily confused with others. In their desperation to find a domain name, some grasped at hyphenated names and put “the” in front of a word, as in TheStandard.com. The problem is confusion. Trademark laws are designed to prevent customer confusion. If the holder of a similar domain name is first to trademark his combination, it could threaten your domain name, or at least your ability to use it as a brand. Be sure to check with the US Patent and Trademark database (www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm) or the trademark database for your country. Another consideration is how you’ll need to say your domain name over the phone. If you always have to say “spelled ding-hyphen-doodle.com” you’ll soon wish you’d left out the hyphens. Do your best to find a name that can’t be confused.
- A good domain name is hard to misspell. If people can misspell something, they will. The longer and more complex your domain name, the harder it is for your customers to type it in correctly. Many of them can’t type well to start with, so to type in a long name may lose you lots of business. At the low price of domain names, it may pay you to purchase the misspellings of a domain name, too. This way you’ll get the traffic intended for your site and discourage poachers from buying up the variants. Poachers can be driven off by lawsuits if you have trademark protection, but you don’t want that hassle.
- A good domain name relates to your business name or core business. It’s best if your domain name can be guessed from your company name. But in your search for a domain name, don’t give up if you can’t find the domain for your exact business name. Find functional names, names that describe your uniqueness, names that express an emotion or attitude.
- A good domain name sounds solid to your target audience. If possible, get a .com domain or the domain that has the most respect in your country. You can get a .biz or .info, or .cc, .ws, .tv, and .to. (The latter are the country top level domains of the small nations of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, (Western) Samoa, Tuvalu, and Tonga, respectively). The problem is that the general public, in the US anyway, is accustomed to .com, or maybe .net (though .net and .org aren’t nearly as well regarded). Offbeat domain names sound … offbeat and suspect. Your main domain should be the one that people expect it to be. In the US, that’s probably .com. In France it would be .fr. If you want to appeal to an international audience, .com is probably best. Having said that, I think it’s wise to buy up other common domain name endings. They’re cheap. If you become successful you’ll wish you had kept them away from poachers. This helps your main domain name stay unique.
Getting the Creative Process Going
Several tools can help you in the process of coming up with a company name or a domain name — most of them owned by domain registrars to attract business. Some of the best are no longer available online, but here are a few:
DomainFellow.com lets you start with a keyword and then adds up to 1,000 popular prefixes or suffixes to that word. For each combination you can see which domains are available and which have been taken.
NameStation.com lets you select the length and language of a possible domain name, plus a prefix and suffix. Then it generates possible matches and tells you if they are available.
NameBoy is one of the oldest and best. You enter a primary and a secondary word to work with, select the type of site you have, and whether or not you want to turn on the hyphenation and rhyming features, then let ‘r rip! It works like one of those children’s books that allows you to play with multiple head, body, and leg combinations.
DomainNameSoup.com allows you to mix and match words with domain names. Tools allow you to experiment with various combinations of hyphens, prepending and appending words, changing letters of a domain anem, searching for typos, trying multiple choices, looking for synonyms, jumbling word combinations, etc. For the results they’ll tell you what’s available and what’s not.
Be aware! The above services don’t necessarily have the best or lowest cost domain registrar services. For that I recommend GoDaddy, the one I currently use.
Domain Names as Branding
Don’t forget that your domain name automatically becomes your brand-name, whether you intend it or not. It will forever after affect how your company is perceived. As I’ve begun to understand branding better, I’ve worked hard to find domain names that also describe the purpose of the site, such as my religious sites: JesusWalk.com and JoyfulHeart.com.
My son Dan’s consulting company helps businesses define, create, and clarify their core brands and key messages — and then helps implement brand strategies through collateral, advertising, website, and promotional campaigns. His domain name, MarketDifference.com describes his business focus clearly — but it took a couple of weeks for him to get to the “Eureka” moment of discovering this nicely balanced domain name.
The time you take to select your name is time well spent. The money you spend for marketing or branding consultants to help you get the very best name is a good investment, too.
Domain Names Are a Marketing Bargain
I consider a good domain name a marketing bargain. ArtUFrame.com bought Art.com and immediately doubled their sales. A memorable, catchy domain name can make a lot of difference in setting you apart from the crowd — even if you have to pay several hundred or several thousand dollars for a great name that someone already owns. A great domain name can go a long way to launching or revitalizing a successful online business.