Over the years of developing complete solutions for websites, we have had many questions from MotoCMS customers on how to choose a proper domain name for their online presence. As this question deserves to be thoroughly discussed, we thought about a cheat sheet article that would hopefully answer most of your questions as to this subject and help you to choose the best domain name for your website.
With each day it is becoming harder and harder to find a laconic, easy to spell, memorable and available domain name which wouldn’t cost you a pretty penny. We hope these simple yet indispensable tips will help you to avoid difficulties while searching for and registering a domain name.
Words have meaning and names have power. ~Author Unknown
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On the average, most business websites (small and medium), which are in TOP 10 in SERPs with industry related keywords, place TOP 10 rankings with branded keywords. That means when people are looking for your website, they are first trying to enter your business or your product’s name. Some people really think about the idea of using some generic names like “shoes.com” (e.g. if a person sells shoes) for their websites (we can only imagine how much those domains would cost:)) But the truth is if you are looking for shoes online, you might already have some brands in mind and you would more likely try some branded names like “ugg.com” or some well-known companies’ names like “zappos.com”, rather than “shoes.com”. That is why it is important a domain name to match your brand.
What if the domain name you would like to get is owned by someone else? The answer would depend on how important it is for you to get that particular name. You can try to purchase the domain from the owner. Look up the “whois” info of that domain and contact the owner to find out if he is willing to sell it. If the domain is for sale, you should be ready that the owner might want to charge higher than you would normally pay for that name if it was new. On the other part, if you are just starting up, you might think about some cheaper alternative or name your website after obtaining a desired domain name.
Keywords are nice, but they don’t matter here as much as some people think. So, don’t be obsessed with using your primary keywords in the website’s URL. Another thing if your website name contains an industry-related keyword, and you have an opportunity to get a short, memorable version which would include both your website name and your primary keyword. That would be perfect. But the thing you should always remember is that the main keyword in your domain name is not the key for high ranking – it is only one factor among many others. The best solution is to think out an easy, memorable, brand-related and available domain name without having to pay a fortune for it.
Try avoiding hard-to-spell, long and too clever words, double letters, numbers and other complexities in your domain name. You surely don’t want to be a company with a great website which no one can remember to tell others about because the name is hard to spell. Try to find a name with only one possible spelling – that will make it easier for users to reach your website. While your domain name can be up to 67 characters long, try to use up to 10 consecutive characters – this is the case where shorter is better.
Make sure the selected domain name doesn’t require much explanation when you speak it out loud. Imagine your domain looks like “designglimpsed.com”, and you are trying to tell it to someone: “D-E-S-I-G-N then G-L-I-M-P-S-E-D dot com”… Not that easy, huh? Especially when you have to explain it to a person who is not so good at English spelling. So, make sure that your domain name doesn’t need a complex explanation, particularly when you are pronouncing it at some noisy place or over the phone.
Although search engines distinguish your keywords with hyphens better, we would suggest you not to use a hyphenated name (if the situation allows avoiding that). When a user is typing your domain that he has heard from someone, the user will probably not type the hyphens and, as a result, may end up at your competitor’s website. Besides, when you are speaking out a domain with dashes loud, the flow of a potentially good domain will be spoiled: “i-design-for-free.com” – “i dash design dash for dash free dot com”.
Using numbers can also make the domain harder to use and can be confusing and cause mistakes. Tell someone your website is “greendesign7.com” and the confusion is guaranteed.
There are around 110 million .COM, 15 million .NET and 10 million .ORG domains on the web as of April 2013. Overall, .COM is highly recommended as it is the most widely used top-level domain (TLD) in the world, and most people who use the internet still assume that .COM is the only possible choice. So, make sure you will not lose traffic from those guys who think that .COM is all that’s out there. Besides, choosing a .NET or .BIZ can be interpreted by some people as if you simply lack business acumen to find an appropriate .COM for your business (please no offense if your domain is .NET or .BIZ:)) . The .ORG domains are really good for organizations and non-profits.
If your business cannot benefit from the international audience (let’s say, you provide services to the local community like pizza delivery or taxi business), it makes sense for you to get a country-specific domain. The advantage from having a local domain is that people in your country, which are potentially interested in using your services, will know that they are dealing with a local company and that is what they actually need. All in all, if a recruiting agency operates in, let’s say, the UK territory, the clients will most likely prefer using services of the company with a UK domain rather than with an international one.
Make sure you are not infringing on anyone’s copyright with your domain name, visit copyright.gov and investigate the situation before purchasing the domain. Do not consider names with brand-related keywords like “facebookthemes” or “adobehelper”. Some large companies are serious about suing businesses for using their branded keywords in the domain names.
Domain generators (search engines) allow you to really easily find out if the domain name you are interested in is available. Besides, not only can you check the domain for availability, but you can also find relevant and worthy domain name suggestions or variations for your business. You can use the websites like Nameboy.com or Domainfellow.com for choosing your domain or even a name for your company. We will give you a longer list of good tools that can help you to determine with your domain name further in this post.
After you have decided upon the domain name you want, we suggest you to check it for possible domain abuse. This is in case you are going to buy the domain from an existing owner or you have found a good deal on a recently expired domain. Check existing backlinks in Google (“link:www.yoursite.com”) or use a service like Wayback Machine to make sure the domain name is clean.
Deal with a reputable domain registrar only. Do not purchase domains from companies which are not recognized enough, because you will be at risk of losing your domain if the registrar goes out of business. Most large registrars (like GoDaddy, or NetworkSolutions, or Namecheap) provide decent services at low cost.
Since you are (most likely) a current (or future) MotoCMS user, we recommend you to use the BlueHost service, which provides a domain name registration for free if you purchase their hosting plan. The MotoCMS developers in collaboration with QA experts have found Bluehost to be a very reliable provider in terms of business ethics, plus it is fully compatible with Moto CMS.
If you are planning to stay online with your business for a long time and you like the chosen domain, register it for the maximum possible period (which is usually around 10 years). According to some experts, the websites registered for a long period of time, have a solid benefit in search engines’ eyes. Most of search engines do not trust much the domains which have been registered for a year or so. And you know that trust means high SERP results. So, you may want to take care of that, too.
Here is the list of good web tools with a variety of features, which we hope will help you find a good domain name for your business. Of course, this is not a full list of all tools available. Also, please note that the tools are placed randomly in the list, so it doesn’t mean that #1 is the best and the last one is the worst. You can just try them out and choose a tool (or some of them) which fits best for you.
1. Domain Tools
It helps users to uncover up-to-date info as to definite domain names. This service is known for their “Whois” search.
With this tool you can explore the top level domains of other owners which have become popular. You can also search for TLDs which are available.
3. Bust a Name
This domain finder with a set of useful features will help you to find words similar to your search, to sort your search results in a number of ways, and to save your search results for later use.
This interesting tool will suggest names for your website by combining beginnings and endings automatically. You just need to enter words in the left box and enter some endings. If you like a name, you can check if it is available right there.
5. Domains Bot
This search engine is peculiar for an advanced search feature which will help you to set more detailed parameters for your search.
This fast Ajax-based tool will help you to find domains similar to the ones you have entered. You can either register a new domain or search for aftermarket domains.
The Domize search engine is a clear and easy-to-use tool for quick search of available domains. You can install their widget on your website so that your visitors can use the search engine right from your website.
Choosing a name for your website is a creative process, which with that involves proper solutions to definite issues. Approach the process of choosing a domain in a rational strategic way and you will definitely succeed in finding an elegant, memorable and successful name for your website.
If names are not correct, language will not be in accordance with the truth of things. ~Confucius