Finding the right domain name can be a tricky proposition.
It matters – a lot – when it comes to choosing the right domain name for your company. When it comes to search engine results and how your site visitors find you (or don’t find you), too many characters in your domain name or a domain name with dashes because you couldn’t find a good short one can majorly affect your search engine ranking. Many small businesses let their web designer or a random employee choose the domain name that can make or break that company’s web success. We recommend you don’t take it lightly.
Not a lot of businesses realize that having your domain registered 5 or more years out matters to Google. It does.
Recently, we’ve had a few clients struggling with choosing a new domain name (separate site, promotion or replacing their current domain name) and it prompted us to write this blog post. Taking the time to choose the right domain name IS important. It seems that some small businesses are totally unaware of some of the “new rules” of the all-mighty search engines or basic marketing rules as it pertains to domain names.
If you search around the Internet, you’re sure to find opinions of all sorts with regards to choosing a domain name. You may even find some who say that it’s “too late” to find a good new .com domain name. In some cases they might be correct (length of time a domain has been registered can matter). Most of the information out there can be chalked up to common business sense, but there may be a few things you didn’t know or consider when you chose your first business domain name.
Here’s what we know that should fit the situation most small businesses will find themselves in when looking for a good domain name.
- Register a .com domain name.
You should grab a .com domain name whenever possible. Some experts will say that having a .biz, .info, .name, etc. can be spam indicators with some search engines, but overall it lends to credibility to consumers from our point of view as marketers.
- Do not register a hyphenated domain name (i.e., your-domain-name.com) if you can help it.
According to some domain name experts, hyphenated domain names (like .biz and .info domain names) can be considered spam in some cases. Overall, it detracts from credibility.
- Choose a relevant and memorable domain name.
While some businesses can make up for lack of keywords in their domain name with advertising and a lot of original content loaded with keyword density. Whenever possible, register a domain name that makes it obvious what your site is selling and if you can get a keyword in there, kudos, but do not overload the domain with keywords. If you can’t find a short domain that was on your wish list, register one that is memorable. Years back, we helped a heating and air company who wanted “ournameheatingandair.com”, but it was already registered and we felt it was a bit long. We told them that since whether it’s heating in the winter or air conditioning in the summer, they sell comfort. We registered “OurNameComfort.com” – short, memorable and it has that subtle influence of what they sell right in the domain name.
- Keep your domain name short.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a domain name with 5 or less characters, but there are still plenty of good domain names available (especially if your company name is unique) for registration. The best is to keep your domain name to less than 15 characters – not just for the search engines, but long domain names can be confusing to consumers and hard to remember.
- Capitalize your domain name!
This is less a rule for domain names and more of a marketing thing. Make your domain name easy to read (and remember) for your customers by capitalizing each word in a domain name (i.e., MyGreatDomainName.com). There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to decipher what a domain name says on the side of a truck or in an advertisement because the business has everything running together in all lower case (i.e., mygreatdomainname.com). Some people don’t understand that while capitalization matters with passwords and document/file names, it does NOT matter with domain names and Email addresses. Anything after the domain name (i.e., DomainName.com/soMefIlEnAMe) IS case sensitive, but the domain itself is not. So make it easy for people to read your domains and capitalize each word.
- Is your optimal domain for sale?
If the domain name you want is registered, but not in use, you may be able to negotiate a purchase. If the domain is outright for sale, you will probably find a link when you look up the domain to the sale page, giving you the asking price (be sitting down). If not, there are ways you can privately negotiate a price by using some third party companies who do not reveal who they are buying the domain name for. If an individual or company feels that you are a large company with lots of cash, they may jack up the price while a third party negotiator may be able to keep the price low.
As far as the worth of a domain, that will be yours and yours alone to decide. Purchasing a domain name for $5,000 or $10,000 is not unheard of (and more, actually). Why would someone pay that much for a domain name? One reason is because the domain name may be exactly what you want. Another reason is it may be a short domain name (premium). Lastly, some SEO experts recommend registering or buying a domain name that was originally registered prior to 2005 to get the most out of what Google and Bing/Yahoo! use to rank web sites.
- Did you know that how long you have your domain name matters?
It does matter. If you were thinking that you would just renew your domain each year when it’s due for whatever reason, you’re actually not taking advantage of yet another SEO secret. Google DOES consider how long into the future your domain name is registered. We recommend that you keep your domain name registered at least 5 years out (10 is even better) as it makes it appear to Google that you are in it for the long run. It’s so cheap these days to register your domain name (shop around) and most domain name registrars offer discounts for registering into the future. Now go renew your domain name for at least 5 years!
The bottom line is that there’s more to it than just finding a domain name that is available. Take your time and do your research before committing to a domain name in your advertising and online SEO efforts.
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