So you’ve decided you want to start a website or a blog. That’s awesome! Maybe you’ll be the next Amazon, Search Engine Journal, or Neil Patel. Whatever your idea is, you have to start in the same place as every website owner in the history of the Internet. That’s with your domain name.
What’s a domain name?
To answer this, I like to use the example of a store. For a store, you need two things at the bare minimum. These are your store and your sign.
The sign tells people who you are and where you are,while the store houses your content or products. Move this online—your sign is your domain name and your store is website hosting. An example is searchenginejournal.com. That’s the sign for their business online.
Now, let’s get to the heart of our topic.
Choosing a Domain for Your Website
There are many schools of thought when it comes to picking the perfect domain name for yourself or your business. In this article, I’m going to explain as many as possible so that you will be fully equipped to get started on the right foot.
And no, this won’t be a list article (1. Needs to be short. 2. Needs….) like every other article out there around the topic. I dig into the reasons why you need a domain and how to come up with the perfect fit. I’ll give you the list later if you prefer that kind of thing.
Brandability isn’t really a word. I know this because my spellchecker keeps telling me. However, it’s the perfect word for the concept of I’m trying to highlight. Therefore I’m sticking with it!
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you may have a brand already. This is perfectly fine! You can use a service like my company, HostGator, to see if your company name is available. So if your company name is Just Sewing Moms, you could see if sewingmoms.com or justsewingmoms.com are available.
You don’t want your domain to be too different from your business because this could only cause confusion for your customers.
For those who don’t have an existing business, you want to create something with brandability. This helps you stand out from the crowd. Which of the following sound better?
- I saw this great product from some store, I can’t remember the name, maybe it was Online Store Shopping.
- I saw a great shirt from ModCloth online the other day.
I hope you picked the second one. Why? Simply because it’s a brand name and it’s something people can actually reference. When people talk about you or your website, they are basically doing word-of-mouth advertising. If your name is too generic or isn’t really a “brand”, your customers can’t give you this free advertising.
Earlier in this post I mentioned some brands and you probably knew them immediately. I didn’t even need to link to their websites. That’s just one of the great things about creating a brand.
Personal branding is similar to creating a brand for a business. Luckily you don’t need a unique idea for a domain because you can simply use your name.
If you’re creating a website to showcase your portfolio, blog about yourself, or establishing yourself as an authority on a subject, then a domain with your name is perfectly fine. This will allow people to find you easily on search engines. It is also easier for them to remember your domain because they simply need to remember your name (or look at your business card).
To see someone with great personal branding, check out Neil Patel. He has several successful companies and a very successful blog, QuickSprout, yet he has his own personal website, too.
The decision between creating either a personal brand or an actual brand is hard and it’s yours to make. Either way, you want it to align with your goals. If you’re going to be the one behind the content all the time and you want to establish yourself as an expert, then a personal brand may be what you need. If it’s something you intend to build, but not be involved with all the content, then perhaps create a brand like Search Engine Journal has done.
Here are some other great examples of people who chose a personal brand for their website:
- Amy Porterfield
- Gary Vaynerchuck
- Seth Godin
- Jon Loomer
Exact Match Domains
An exact match domain, or EMD, is based on an outdated search engine optimization strategy. To put it simply, it’s when you create a website around the keywords you want to rank for in search engines.
An example would be the search term “food in austin”—the domain would be foodinaustin.com. While this could be a great food blog about the cuisine in Austin, it is an exact match domain.
Another example would be supercheaptvsonline.com. You may not see this ranking for the keywords “super cheap tvs online” any time soon.
EMDs worked really well a few years ago. However, these days, they don’t have the same power they once did. While this topic can be debated by many in the SEO community, save yourself the headache and try not to create an EMD.
General Best Practices
Now that we’ve broken down some of the core themes around building a domain, there are some best practices you should abide by. A few of them are sprinkled above, but they’re worth digging into. Trust me, I’ve dealt with more domains than the average person.
Keep it Short and Simple
You want people to be able to remember your domain. If it’s isellteddybearsthatareblue.com, then nobody will remember it because it’s too long. You’re going to have to hope they find your website randomly via search engines or on social media. Think about the brandability.
Don’t use Abbreviations
If you have to explain to some that it’s “f-o-r” or “the number 4” then that’s too much. If someone goes to warmappliepiesforyou.com instead of your site warmappliepies4u.com, then they could see a completely different site.
Beware of Unknown Meanings
You don’t want to register a domain that might accidentally be associated with something you didn’t intend. This will hurt you before you even get started.
This can be tricky and can somewhat be solved by doing a few Google searches before finalizing your decision. If your ideal domain name is associated with gangs, violence, religion, or anything else you don’t intend, then you may want to consider something else.
Prevent Unintentional Spellings and Pronunciations
Sometimes that perfect idea sounds great in theory. Yet when you write it down, you see an offensive word within it. You might want to reword it or consider something else.
Same thing goes for the sound of your domain or brand. It could look really great on paper, but if you say it aloud and it sounds like something that could be taken the wrong way, you may want to reconsider.
Avoid Country Specific
Unless your product or service is within a specific country, or your core audience is within that country, you don’t need that extension. Using .com is perfectly fine in most cases. Plus, having the .us or .co.uk is usually a little more pricey anyway.
Consider Grabbing Multiple TLD Extensions
Your first choice for a domain may be the .com and that’s okay. It’s where you should start. But you should also consider registering some of the other extensions like .net, .org, and others, mainly to protect your brand identity. Someone could potentially register the .net of your name in an attempt to confuse your customers and steal your business.
This doesn’t need to be done when you’re just starting out, especially if you have a smaller budget. Keep it in mind for the future.
The amazing thing about the internet is that there are few barriers to getting online. Whether it’s for your business or personal use, you can have a website up in less than an hour.
Choosing the perfect domain for your website can seem like a simple task. However, when you really consider everything above, it’s a little more complicated. Many things go into the domain that don’t exactly pertain to the domain name itself.
Hopefully this article helps you in your search to determine your ideal domain name. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.
Note: Most of the domains mentioned here are fictional and have not been registered at the time of this posting (which is the reason why they’re not linked directly to any websites). This post will not be updated to link to them.
All images provided by Kyler Patterson.