Online Business // August 19, 2013How to Choose a Domain Name That is Brand & SEO Friendly
Posted by Fuze
One of the most important decisions you’ll make when creating an online business is selecting a domain name. With over 600 million domains already registered, coming up with one that is memorable, unique and suits your brand can be extremely challenging. A strong name can lead to brand recognition and high SEO value, which means the effort invested upfront on creating it is time well spent.
The keys to creating effective domain names are due diligence, creativity and following best practices. Before you get started, do your homework and carefully weigh the options. In the world of online business, your company name typically matches your domain name, meaning once you’ve officially registered your business, it will be rather difficult to change directions.
1. Fifteen characters or less
Most SEO experts agree that 15 characters is the maximum length for any URL. Any longer and users will have difficulty reading and remembering it. If possible, try to limit the number of individual words to 2 or 3.
2. No hyphenation
Here are reasons you should stay away from hyphenated URLs
– Users who key in the same words without a hyphen will end up on a competitor’s website
– Hyphens are generally perceived as generic or low quality
– Research has shown that hyphens may have detrimental SEO implications
3. Domain extensions
The .com extension is the most popular, and will be how many users attempt to find you. Unfortunately, there are not many options remaining for short .com’s using common words. This prompts some to opt for alternative domain extensions, which are not always suitable and may have negative impacts.
In the early days of the internet, various extensions were created to make it easy for websites to distinguish the nature of their content. For example, .net was for internet only companies, and .info was for informational sites. These days, website owners are often resorting to whatever is available at the time they purchase their domain; however, less popular extensions like .info and .biz may be perceived as spammy and should be avoided if possible.
Another fatal mistake, is choosing a non-www extension that does not suit the business, especially when a .com with the same name exists. For example, www.eyeglasses.com is not available, but www.eyeglasses.org is. In this case (a general retail site selling eyeglasses), using .org would not make sense. Firstly, the .org extension is typically used by non-profit organizations (e.g. ymca.org). Secondly, users will most likely be inclined to type “.com” into their browser bar, thus taking them to an entirely different website.
Developing a business name is an exercise in linguistics. Words, parts of words and mashups of word parts can all be used to create a name that resonates with your audience and connects to your brand. Additionally, as we’ve seen with the likes of Google, a made-up word can be cleverly used to take on a new meaning and become a part of the vernacular of popular culture. With a virtually infinite palette of options, how do you possibly narrow it down to a single name?
1. Merge two or more word parts
-Pinterest (pinning images that represent your interests)
2. Make up a word
-Twitter (sounds like bird talk for chatter)
3. Combine a word or words with an international domain extension
–www.bit.ly is a domain extension from Libya; however, Bit.ly is an business based in the US. The site creators just liked the way the combination sounded.
In the good old days, securing a domain name that included target keyword phrases was the holy grail of SEO, as it resulted in outstanding rankings. The issue was, many sites ranked highly simply because of their URLs, meanwhile their content provided no real value to users.
Recently, the Google Penguin and Exact Match Domain (EMD) updates de-emphasized the value of EMDs, particularly when sites had little value beyond the domain name. This is a continued effort by Google to force website creators to build sites for people, not robots.
This shouldn’t discourage you from hunting for domain names that contain keywords you know will only support the value of your brand. As we’ll get to shortly, branding is more important than technical nuances and algorithm guidelines, and if effectively executed, will rise above any potential Google penalties.
Google has made it very clear that when it comes to SEO, it favors strong brands that users trust and respect. A recognizable brand name is more likely to generate clicks, social shares and mentions within content. This is why choosing a URL that resonates with your audience becomes a vital, yet not obvious, SEO tool.
Branding considerations should include these high level goals:
1. Be Unique:
If consumers can’t remember your name, how do you expect to succeed? Recently, a flurry of quirky and unorthodox brand names have come to be widely recognized. Some, while not even directly related to service or product offerings, are catchy enough to stick with consumers. Some examples are ubuntu.com, and spotify.com.
2. Be Memorable:
Creating a lasting impression is one of the primary goals of branding. The travel website hipmunk.com, for example, has combined a funky name with an adorable logo, to create a brand image that is just too good to forget.
3. Be Brief:
In order for a name to be memorable, it must be easy to remember. As previously recommended, 15 characters or 2-3 words should be your maximum target. The most popular sites on the planet (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn) follow this basic rule.
4. Don’t Be confusing:
The popular social bookmarking site delicious.com, was launched on the domain www.del.iciou.us. As you can image, this was nearly impossible for users to remember, which prompted the company to change its name in 2007.