I have quite a few websites and blogs of my own or that I have done for others and am always trying to think up new ideas for my next project. One thing always seems to be a stumbling block that I spend a lot of time trying to get other – choosing the best domain name…
Choosing the web host, site design, content management system amongst many things are also very important choices, but all of those can be changed down the line without too much fuss, whereas rebranding a site and changing its domain name although technically not difficult is nearly always something that would be best to avoid. Getting it right first time therefore is pretty important, but very difficult when the project is in its junior stages and hasn’t necessarily developed much of a ‘personality’.
In choosing a domain name there are several points to consider:
If you hope to gain most of your traffic through search engines it may be advantageous to include your keywords in the domain itself. This point is often debated by SEO professionals who say that yourkeyword.com will perform just as well as example.com/yourkeyword, I’m not going to get involved on either side of that argument, however it can certainly be said that having your keywords in your domain name at least describes the site and tells the user what the content is about before they see it.
If you’re going to be doing mainly offline marketing, word of mouth or viral marketing you’ll need the domain name to be memorable. I thought about a lot of the domains I visit on regular basis and very few of them included their keywords in their domain, but most of them are very memorable – ebay, amazon, google, yahoo. This kind of name doesn’t tell the potential viewer anything about the site’s content so although they are memorable and unique they put an onus on your marketing to tell viewers what the site does.
You also need to consider whether you are going to be targeting users that are just passing through with a particular search query or whether you want return readers. If you’re hoping to get someone just passing through looking for the best web hosting plan or mobile phone contract for example and your site’s aim is to compare plans and send them to an affiliate site so that you can earn commission they are probably unlikely to become a regular user as this is not something they’re likely to be looking for on a regular basis. If on the other hand you are running a blog on a particular niche that you will regularly update then it is likely you will want to build a basis of loyal return visitors, in which case you’ll want them to remember you. This problem is somewhat solved by the fact that most people ‘bookmark’ favourite sites, but if its a domain name they can easily remember that can’t be a bad thing.
Once you’ve thought of whether your going for a ‘keyword rich’ domain or something more unique you’ll more than likely run into the problem that I always find myself in. I’ll have an idea for the perfect domain name, will then go to check if its available and surprise surprise some domain poacher has already registered it. In this case there are a few websites I like to use for inspiration, checking availably and finding out which domain have just expired.
https://domize.com/ – is an instant search tool. There are many of these and they generally work on the basis that you’ll click on the link they provide to register the domain, which is a nice way to pay them back for the service they offer, however you should take note that if you are on a really tight budget you can often find domain name for next to nothing by having a look around the various offers that registrars have on.
http://impossibility.org/ – This is a great tool, which works by finding available domain names by adding random words to the beginning or end of your desired word. You can often find some really short domain names by just putting in one letter and choosing a 4 letter word to be added. Recently I got tidyy.com, for a local web design operation I am part of by putting y in the box.
http://www.panabee.com/ – This site will produce a load of variations of your domain or keywords. The thing I like most about it is the design and interface… It just feels good to use.
http://www.expireddomains.net/ – This site is excellent for finding out what domain names have expired in the last 24 hours. It also lists some key information about the domain such as its page rank, backlinks and the year it was first registered.
Its not easy to pick a domain name, I’ve often wasted weeks on getting a project up and running because of this sticking point, but hopefully some of the above links will help!