Five Easy Steps to Instant Regret
When starting a business or brand, the name you select for yourself is about as important as your product. Your name is usually the first thing your potential customers interact with. That makes it your first opportunity to help people understand what you do.
Your domain name being as important as it is, the Internet has plenty of guides explaining how to find one. But knowing what to do is just as important as knowing what NOT to do. So here are pitfalls to avoid (or if for some baffling reason you actually want a grade-A stinker of a domain name, some handy tips to follow) when picking your business’ domain name.
Make it different from their business’ name
Did you know that Google gives a rank bump to to webpages that show consistency between the business name and the domain name? So do Bing and a lot of other less-used search engines. That alone is an excellent reason to make sure your domain name and business name match.
While it’s true that exact-match keywords can help a domain name’s rankings, experts argue that a keyword-rich domain name is less valuable in the long run than finding a brandable one. Plus, keywords don’t go as far in ranking a domain name as they did a few years ago. The days of keyword-stuffing supremacy are long gone.
Naming consistency is important for your branding and marketing; it just makes you look more credible to visitors when your domain name matches your business name exactly, especially if it’s something you worked hard to brand.
Make it impossible to read
Conventional wisdom says that that brevity is key to a quality domain name. Whatever you want your domain name to convey, the name you select should get it across as quickly and legibly as possible. The longer the name, the easier it is to misread, especially if it contains more than one word.
A good rule of thumb for domain length is to have no more than two words to the left of the dot. You can get away with more if you use shorter words, but the longer your domain name gets, the closer you get to the domain equivalent of a Magic Eye puzzle.
Short names tend to be more impactful and easier for visitors to remember. Plus, a snappy name eases mobile users’ journeys to your website by minimizing the time they have to spend typing on their smartphones. Shaving even a few characters off your name can make you much more accessible.
But don’t go overboard in your quest for brevity, or it could lead you to making the next mistake.
Flunk the Radio Test
The Radio Test is something of an industry litmus test for domain name clarity. It goes like this: if a listener were to hear your domain name spoken on the radio, would they understand it on the first utterance? If so, the name passes the radio test. If you would have to repeat, spell out, or otherwise explain your domain name, it fails.
But what kind of names tend to fail the radio test? Mainly the ones with ambiguous or unconventional spellings. For example, imagine explaining the domain name “ezrider.com” to someone. Initially, they would reasonably assume the name to be spelled “easyrider.com”, so you’d have to explain that it begins with the letters E-Z. And with that, you fail the test.
Domains with numbers can be similarly cumbersome since they require the speaker to specify whether the number is spelled alphabetically or numerically. Then there are names containing sounds that can be spelled more than one way. For example, the sound the letter X makes can also be produced with “ks”, “cs”, and in some cases, “gs” or “qs”.
Assume they need a .COM
.COM is definitely the most commonplace domain extension on the internet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice for everyone. At the end of the day, the best name is the one that you feel best represents what you do.
In the last few years, a steady rollout of hundreds of new domain extensions have hit the web, from .PIZZA to .GREEN. Each of these help to categorize what your business’ essential activity is — whether you run a consultancy business, a restaurant, a shop, or virtually anything else. Smaller local businesses can also pinpoint their locations in their communities with geographically specific extensions like .CO.UK and .BOSTON.
While your .COM will likely be a good investment at some point, from a descriptiveness standpoint it’s relatively dead weight compared to these newer extensions. But in addition to saying more than a .COM about who you are and what you do, studies show that these new extensions they can also have unique SEO advantages over .COM domains. Those who keep an open mind for what can go after the “dot” will find a vast frontier of short yet descriptive domain names.
Make it an afterthought
You know that old saying that you should begin a project with the end in mind? Businesses with crummy domain names often don’t follow that rule.
Even now, too many new businesses don’t even think about registering their domain name until they’ve already picked and grown attached to a name for their company. Of course, if the matching domain name is taken, they still have a chance to get it if its owner wants to sell it — but then they are at the mercy of an owner who can set whatever price they choose.
Avoid this from the start by setting a budget for your domain name early on, and having a domain name search open while coming up with a business name. That way you can see what names are actually available and affordable.