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Eight Easy Steps to Choosing a Domain Name

Mar 18, 2011 / by Christian Greiner

Choosing a domain name can often be a frustrating and challenging task. It’s not uncommon to feel that all the good names are taken. Nevertheless, with a little creativity it is possible to choose a great domain name that will make you proud for years to come. And while there is no “one way” to choose a domain name, I offer these eight simple steps for those feeling overwhelmed by the task. They are intended to maximize your new domain’s search engine optimization along with its conversion potential.

Step 1 - Choose a .com

There is a lot of speculation about whether any domain or top level domain is given preference by the search engines. The search engines have said they are not, while some anecdotal evidence says they do. The following is a data table in which I compared the number of registered domains to the number of pages indexed by Google. I then listed the average number of pages indexed per domain by TLD.

TLD # domains registered (millions) # pages indexed (millions) # pages indexed per domain
.com 90 13,870 154.1
.net 13.4 1,290 96.3
.org 8.8 7,000 795.5
.info 7.1 234 33
.biz 2.1 75 35.7
.us 1.7 493 290
TOTAL 123.3 22,962  

Number of pages indexed by Google in millions. Number of domains registered in millions.

This data is not scientific. It is most likely biased towards .com and .org. Many people purchase the other TLDs to protect their brand and have them redirect to the .com or .org version of their website, which causes them not to be indexed by Google. And while it doesn’t prove causation, the data is interesting and if nothing else, it shows that there are a lot more .coms out there. While we may never know for sure if one TLD is preferred over another by the search engines, this table does suggest that .com and .org are preferred by users.

Step 2 - Use your industry in your domain name

Let me preface this post by saying that some of the biggest and most successful businesses online did not follow this step. Names like Amazon, Flikr and Monster have been extremely successful. Though, the goal of this step is to help a business create a domain name that will stand on its own, not one that requires a large advertising budget to promote.

The best practice is to name your industry in the domain you choose. If you sell knives, “knives” should be in your domain name. This not only helps customers identify immediately with your product, it will also help search engine optimization as users type that keyword into their browser.

Also be sure not to stuff your name full of keywords. This looks spammy and is a huge turn-off to Internet users. Besides good link building will help you rank for additional keywords later in your SEO campaign.

Step 3 – Brand yourself

Unless you can jump back in time, or shell out big bucks, chances are that keyword you want is already taken. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Ever try going to nissan.com? It is not what you think. It is some guy’s computer shop in North Carolina with the last name Nissan. I guarantee he gets lots of unwanted traffic and his bounce rate (people going to his website and immediately leaving) is huge. The point is that having that domain name has not benefited him, just like having the name cars.com would not help you if you run a used car lot in Lubbock, Texas.

Branding yourself allows you to get creative by giving a memorable and distinct name to your company. If you already have a business name then this should be easy, just put it up front or in the back of your industry keyword. If you are starting a brand new online business then have some fun and think of something catchy.

Step 4 – Put in your geographic location

If you serve only one geographic location then you can go ahead and add it to your domain name, or use it instead of your brand. This will not only make it more likely for the people within that location to click on your site, but it will also make it less likely for people you don’t serve to click on your site.

Step 5 - Keep it to a handful of words

Obviously, the shorter your name, the easier it is to remember. In fact, there is really no reason your name should be longer than five words.

Sometimes you may need to introduce a second keyword, such as “usedcars” or “tacticalknives,” to clarify what types of products you sell. In addition, you may need to be specific in your location, and add that to your domain name. In some cases, your domain name could end up three, four or even five words. But never go longer than five.

You may tempted to use an acronym. But acronyms don’t help you with keywords or do anything for branding. Basically, you would be ignoring steps two through four. Plus, they can often be difficult to remember.

Step 6 - Make it easy to say

Stay away from names that use hyphens, numbers, slang and homonyms. This may help you get a name you might not have otherwise received, but it makes it difficult for people to remember your domain name and you will lose traffic. Besides, just imagine having to tell people what your domain name is. Names laced with hyphens or numbers get tiring.

Step 7 - Make it easy to remember

Stay away from plural words unless you can get both the singular and plural domain name. If you only get the plural, you may lose traffic to someone who registered the singular form. Also, if the “perfect name” is already taken, it is tempting to add “my,” “the” or “your” to the beginning. This can cause a less professional look and you may end up losing some traffic to your competitor without these modifiers in their name.

Step 8 – Make sure you love it

This is your brand, your website. Imagine it on business cards and on billboards. Imagine telling people every day the name of your website. Be sure it makes you proud. If it doesn’t give you pride then keep on brainstorming and go through these steps again. Keep brainstorming keywords and creative branding words. Eventually, you will stumble upon something that excites you.

Topics: SEO Blog

Christian Greiner

Written by Christian Greiner

Christian Greiner is a former Senior SEO Specialist at SEO.com who enjoys quantifying SEO strategies through statistics. He graduated with a B.S. in Sociology from Brigham Young University—Idaho and joined the SEO.com team soon afterwards. Born and raised in Tracy, CA he now lives with his wife Tiffany and their two young boys in the Salt Lake City area. If not in the office he will most likely be found backpacking through one of Utah’s many National Parks.

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