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"Choosing the Right Domain Name"

Choosing your website’s domain name can feel like an overwhelming task—and for good reason. After all, parents spend nine months deciding what to name their child; your website is, in its own way, your virtual baby, so naming it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

It’s also not the place to scrimp. Saving a bit of money only to end up with an overly long, verbose domain name that isn’t your first choice isn’t a wise idea—you’ll only end up regretting it down the road.

Also, remember, your potential site visitors are more savvy than you may give them credit for, and many web-savvy folks can spot a “cheaper” domain a mile away. Don’t resist going the premium route; choosing your domain name is the time to “go big or go home.”

Another thing to consider: the domain name landscape is highly competitive, and there is a very good chance that your top choice that happens to be available today will not be tomorrow, or even in an hour! So, don’t take too long to jump on it.

Why Domain Names are So Important

Your website’s domain name is one of the absolute most important components of your identity. Your domain name should:

  1. Capture your brand’s identity
    Your site’s name should capture the spirit & identity of your overall brand. Do you like to think of your brand as being luxe and upscale? Then integrate that feel into your name. Is your business hyper-local? Consider adding your city’s name. Is your site a start-up? Then consider focusing more on the domain name’s “vibe” and how it will appeal to your tech-savvy users instead of focusing on an overly detail-oriented domain name.
  2. Resonate with your visitors
    Even if you’re in love with your ideal domain name, it doesn’t matter if your site visitors aren’t going to identify with it. It’s a good idea before you make your final decision to spend some time fleshing out what you feel your site’s user personas are. At minimum, compile a list of adjectives that you feel describe your site’s visitors, and bring that list back out when you have your “short list” of domain name choices. Do your domain contenders convey the adjectives that you picked to describe your visitors? If not, it’s back to the drawing board!
  3. Easy to remember and share
    In today’s highly social virtual landscape, it’s never been so important to have a website name that is not just easy to remember, but easy to share. If your website’s visitors are especially active on social media, then you’ll want to take even take more care making sure the domain name is shareable. Also take into account length, and how long the URLs will be on subsequent pages. For example, if you choose an overly long domain name, think about how long your product pages will be.
  4. Searchability & SEO Value
    Although it’s always been important to take the behavior of search engine users and how potential visitors will search for you into consideration when you choose a domain name, now it’s even more important. One reason is because many searchers type their keywords/search terms straight into the browser’s address bar. Pretend your website sells blue widgets, and a search engine user types “blue widgets” into the browser’s address bar. BlueWidgets.com has a much higher probability of auto-populating instead of WeSellBlueWidgetsRightHere.com. The same applies to search queries typed into the search bar. A highly relevant, succinct domain name containing the same keywords a searcher is typing into the search bar has major potential to rank well. You’ll also want to think about local SEO. A domain name integrating your location is a great way to signal to both visitors and search engines your regional relevance.

How To Choose a Domain Name

Ok, now you know just how important your domain name is. Now it’s time to start picking one! This may seem like a straightforward process, but there are a few ways you can make the process more productive.

  1. Brainstorm
    A good brainstorming session is always the best place to start. If you’re brainstorming with a group, come prepared with your own top favorites, and ask other team members/partners to do the same. Integrate inspiration into the room: post images of your products, users, locations, events, persona descriptions, photos…anything that will help inspire you to choose the best name. Once you’ve got your huge list of possibilities written out, consider using an app like Evernote to easily capture the notes and make them searchable.
  2. Prioritize
    Once you’ve got your list compiled, pop those choices into a spreadsheet and prioritize your favorites. Shave down the list to your top choices, and label them in order of how much you like each name.
  3. Start Searching
    Now it’s time for the fun part—the search. Go through your list and start searching availability. For those that are available, make note of prices and any terms. For those that aren’t, record variations/auto-suggestions that may be viable options you didn’t even consider before-hand.
  4. Whittling Down the List
    Based on availability and new possibilities, update your list accordingly. If it’s a group choice, regroup with your team members and consult the updated list. For each possibility, remember to consult your user persona details, and consider if the names will be a good match for your audience. If you’re deciding as a group, take a poll for each choice.
  5. Ask Friends & Family
    Ask your friends, family, colleagues, connections, anyone whose opinion you value, what they think of your choices, and why they feel the way they do.
  6. Visualize
    Sometimes it helps to visualize how your domain name will look in print. If possible, consider making mock-ups of marketing materials with your domain name inserted. Believe it or not, you may really like a domain name choice, but once you see it in print and attached to your brand, you may change your mind.
  7. Taking the Jump
    You’ve finally chosen your domain name—woohoo! When you press “Add to Cart”, it’s often a smart idea to purchase other variations of your domain name. This prevents other people/potential competitors from purchasing those names that are a close match to your domain name.

A good brainstorming session is always the best place to start. If you’re brainstorming with a group, come prepared with your own top favorites, and ask other team members/partners to do the same. Integrate inspiration into the room: post images of your products, users, locations, events, persona descriptions, photos…anything that will help inspire you to choose the best name. Once you’ve got your huge list of possibilities written out, consider using an app like Evernote to easily capture the notes and make them searchable.