What Makes a Good Domain Name? [Video FAQ]

What Makes A Good Domain Name


Determining a good domain name comes down to 3 different approaches. They are brand, brand plus keyword, or simply a exact or broad match keyword domain. Of these 3 choices the most ideal approach is the second. One in which you can obtain a domain that has all the needed aspects of a well branded domain name as well as a keyword targeted name for search engine optimization. Often this option is not available. In the case that it isn’t available for you the second best approach would be a branded only domain name.

But before we go into the details of these 3 domain name approaches and the benefits and deficits of each one. Let’s first lay out quality domain name practices no matter your choice. A domain name should be:

  • Short and succinct—easy to remember.
  • Provide an idea of what will be found at the site.
  • Easy to spell/read; one of the most common mistakes in this regard is when a domain name is chosen with the last letter of the first word and first letter of the second word are the same. This would be something like infoonline.com. Whether you decide to use both o’s or just keep one (infonline.com) it’s still confusing and bound to cause issues.
  • Avoid numbers and hyphens unless it is part of your business name; these cheapen the way you appear and often cause navigational issues.

Brand-Only Domain Names

A branded only domain name is one where it ties directly to the business name without any regard to terms indicating products or services. Most often these types of domain names are not real terms at all. Some very well known or common domain names that follow this approach are:

  • Nike.com
  • Google.com
  • Bing.com
  • Dell.com
  • Hapari.com

Strengths

All are straight forward, short, easy to spell and easy to remember. But what makes them a good domain from a branding perspective is their uniqueness. To be able to take a name that otherwise has little or no significance and turn that into a term that clearly identifies the product/service your business offers is a powerful thing.

Branded domains like these are also not as likely to mistyped when linked to or forgotten when navigating directly to the website.

Weaknesses

Initially, a branded-only domain name holds no SEO value. Meaning, without any links pointing to it and no keyword to identify relevance within the domain name search engines have no reason to pay attention. This can make the starting months of on organic marketing campaign slightly slow going.

Branded + Keyword Domain Names

The ideal domain name incorporates the best of both worlds. Most commonly you will see these domain names for online focused businesses. Businesses that depend largely on online performance typically consider their domain name choices while finalizing a business name and establishing a business entity. (Side note: Every business should be doing this whether or not you’ll depend on internet performance as a lifeblood for your business). To be able to make your target keywords—the term that clearly defines what your business is about—your brand and domain name as well can have drastically positive effects.

Here are some examples of when a the keyword literally became the brand:

  • Hotels.com
  • SEO.com
  • About.com

This also works with the combination approach:

  • SEOmoz.org
  • HomeDepot.com

Strengths

These domain names place their website in a strong position of authority. Clearly defining what they are about through the ideal keyword, while establishing a domain name that is highly brandable. With a brand+keyword domain such as these you can expect quick growth in your organic marketing that will remain consistent as you continue link building and content strategies.

Weaknesses

Finding and obtaining a domain name like these can be very difficult. Often the domain is either already in use by another business or the cost of the domain is far too high for a start-up to justify. The second set of domains (the combination approach) are usually your best bet.

Keyword-Only Domain Names

A keyword only domain name would be those with no tie to the business name or brand. They use only keywords that indicate what the website is relevant to. In the past, and even still, domain names that fall under this category perform very well within search results. A few examples of this approach would be:

  • PromotionalCodes.com
  • TravelandLeisure.com

Strengths

While it is a slowly dying trend, search engines do still provide benefit to domain names with head terms or priority keywords. This can assist your website in getting up and off the ground quickly by establishing relevance to subject matter and queries for the audience you seek.

Weaknesses

The most common problem people often run into with this approach is in lack of availability. Because the shorter more exact phrases for terms frequently searched have already been snatched up this approach often leads to long and very spammy looking domain names. Because of  this these domains are not typically remembered by users and are likely to be further devalued in the future of search ranking factors. Although it may take slightly longer to get the site off the ground in terms of organic rankings for keyword+brand or brand only domain names they tend to maintain stronger rankings for longer with less SEO efforts simply due to the strength in brand and what that means for naturally acquired links.


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7 Comments

  1. Helga Wetzold says

    Hi Preston, I just found your post ondomain names. Thank you for answering a question I have had for a long time. I will read your past posts and see what other good information you have available. Always had a company site and am now having to get my own website brought a lot of question and not so many good answers. Thank you for the information.  

  2. Kent says

    Hi Preston, I have to say, before Google became famous, they already used google.com, am I right? Sometimes, it depends on our marketing strategy to promote the domain name as well if we can’t get Domain + keywords.

    • Preston Van Dyke says

      Kent, You’re spot on. This is one of the examples of why I’d recommend sticking to a brand only domain. Of course, if at the birth of the business you are able to think strategically about keywords while developing a brand it wouldn’t hurt to utilize a key phrase as part of the actual brand name thereby injecting it into the domain name as well. But for a long term strategy – it is generally a much better approach to develop a short, catchy and meaningful brand and domain name (even if there are no keywords contained within).

      A domain name is only one part that translates to your overall online success. The lion share of success depends more heavily on a successful content marketing strategy.

  3. Larry T. says

    Making a good domain name does require a lot of research and careful planning. I have had experience in the past using domains that were less than beneficial for my business. I have learned through past experience that using a catchy, short, and easy phrase for your business domain can become so much more rewarding. I agree with you Preston on having a meaningful domain because that alone can get you easy traffic. Thanks again for the great information!

  4. Vinod Mohite says

    A domain name should ideally be associated with your business name and business activities.

    It should be easily remembered by customer.

    I would generally prefer a domain name which is associated with the brand, is short and easy to remember.

    As far as Organic Results are concerned having Keywords in domain name is not that important, you can do away with it.

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