So, you’re ready to help your client choose a domain for their new website. You want to do it right, and not fall down the rabbit hole during a domain name search, spending countless hours finding the perfect one.
Finding the right domain name is an art. In the first part of 2015, there were roughly 294 million existing domains, meaning those options are not available (unless you purchase the domain from its current owner). So it requires a little creativity.
When the web first came online, the primary options for extensions were .com, org and .net. Now, there are a wide variety of extensions, and new extensions are being added all the time.
There are some hard and fast rules for choosing a new domain. But what happens when you follow the “rules” and the domain you want isn’t available? Then it’s time for you and your client to get creative.
Let’s take a look at the commonly accepted rules, and when you should break them.
Use keywords in your domain name search.
With 294 million (and counting) existing domains, it’s sometimes difficult to come up a name that includes competitive keywords. Why? Because everyone wants them. And the more general you are with your keywords, the more competition you have in the search engines. If your domain is around a “generic” keyword, this may be an issue. On the other hand, you can create a strong brand by including your unique brand name in the domain.
What if you can’t fit keywords in the domain name?
That’s OK. Emphasize to your clients that there are many, many ways to optimize for search engines. Remind them that using keywords in their site’s content is important. They should spend time working the targeted keywords into useful and information-filled posts and pages.
The shorter the domain, the better.
Oh, the dream of having a short domain name. Everyone wants one, right? Something like coffee.com? A handful of letters, one succinct keyword — it’s perfect.
What if you can’t get a short domain?
All’s not lost. Weigh the benefits of a short domain against the advantages of a memorable name. When I look at domains across the web, their relevance, clarity, and readability matter more than the number of characters.
I had the fortunate experience of choosing BobWP.com for my domain. It’s short and easy to remember, but it’s not something that automatically pops into people’s heads. It’s my brand.
When I started BobWP.com, I had already built up one brand around WordPress. At first I had some doubts about creating another separate brand, but amazingly I couldn’t have chosen a better domain.
At times I’m not sure anyone knows my last name, but if people remember my business name, that’s the most important thing.
Avoid bothersome characters.
Numbers are often misinterpreted. (Do you use the numerals or spell it out?) Hyphens are awkward to share verbally. (Bob “dash” WP?) Think about how a domain name will read when words are joined together. Let’s say your client’s website is called ‘If You Wish It’, and the domain reads ifyouwishit.com. A certain word stands out and it’s probably not the one you want people to focus on.
What if your client insists on using special characters?
If a client really wants to use numbers in their domain, register the name both ways: with numerals and with the numbers spelled out. If one of the two options is taken, I recommend changing the domain altogether. People may end up on a competitor’s site or, worse yet, somewhere really strange or offensive.
For hyphens, it’s up to you and your client. Personally, I feel it’s an OK option. My reasoning?
More people tend to click on links through posts and social than by remembering a domain name and typing it in.
Hyphens are also useful if the domain spells out a word or phrase you’d rather not see.
Choose the perfect extension.
It used to be that .com was the primary extension of business sites. Now, there are many options available, and I’m sure more are on the horizon. In fact, if you run a domain name search on GoDaddy and an extension isn’t available, they will give you alternatives with different extensions.
What if the perfect extension isn’t available?
Your client may be tempted to grab any old extension because it’s available with the desired domain name. But you need to help your client consider what that extension says.
Many people assume a site has a specific focus based on the domain extension. For example, if you choose a .info extension, visitors may expect it to be an information site. Or if you choose a .net extension, people might assume you run a tech- or network-related business — even though that assumption is a bit outdated.
Bottom line: Ask your client to think about the impression the domain name might give potential customers.
Grab your domain before it’s gone!
Domains go fast. Some people are domain hoarders. Others buy them often because they have ideas for future sites. With all this going on every day across the web, domains go quickly, especially the good ones. So buy the desired domain as soon as possible.
What if your client can’t decide on the domain?
If your client isn’t 100-percent sure on their domain, consider purchasing a few options for one year as an initial investment, then renewing their final choice for a longer period.
Don’t overthink it.
In the end your client will decide what’s best for their business. As the pro, your role is to help guide their decision-making process. And while it’s a good idea to follow the basic rules when running the domain name search, you should also know when to break them.
Also published on Medium.