There is a lot to consider when choosing a domain name for your store. Domain names should be fairly short, relevant to what you sell, easy to remember and easy to say. Customers must be able to easily find your store and pass it along by word of mouth. In addition to coming up with the name itself, you need to think about things like the top-level domain and whether a potential typo will hurt your business. So we’ve put together a list of dos and don’ts to help you commit to the right name.
A warning before we begin: if you’ve had a certain domain for awhile, think twice before changing it. It’s already got a lot of search engine mojo going for it, and even with redirects you’ll lose some authority. If you’re starting from scratch, make sure you pick a name you can stick with for a decent amount of time so you can build and keep your authority.
Domain name dos
1. If you are building a brand, use the name of your business or product. For example, Pet Paint is the name of a business and a product plus petpaint.com is a shareable and memorable domain. But if that name isn’t available, or if your goal is to rank on a specific search term, you might have to get a little more creative.
2. If search is your priority, build a domain name off keywords. These days it’s nearly impossible to get a general domain name, like cars.com. But customers who are planning to buy something will usually search with more specific terms. A domain that specifies what you are selling, like pinkhubcaps.com, is probably better for business.
3. Carefully pick your top-level domain (TLD). If you can get .com, do it. People are most likely to remember it, and if they know your business but don’t remember the address, .com is the one they’re going to try first. A slightly less popular TLD is .net, which means you can often find your desired domain name in .net even if the .com has already been taken. That said, make sure that .com doesn’t go to a competitor’s page or something that could potentially harm your brand’s image. Non-profit organization typically use .org. There is technically nothing wrong with TLDs like .biz, but they have a bad reputation on the internet for being used in scams. If you sell regionally, having your domain on a regional TLD like .co.uk or .de can be a great way to advertise your location.
Domain name don’ts
1. Skip names completely unrelated to your products. If you sell comics and use jonesllc.com, your domain will be hard to remember and frankly a little suspicious. It’s also good to avoid meaningless short domains. If your business is Crazy Carl’s Caribou Carpets, cccc.com is not going to be meaningful or easier to remember.
2. Avoid domains that start with “the” or “my.” These words are often dropped when used in conversation, and this effect seems to double when domains are involved. It’s best not to take that risk, especially since there is a good chance the other site belongs to a competitor. But if you already have a domain that starts with “the” or “my,” make sure you repeatedly promote the full name.
3. Unusual spellings can get complicated. A domain should be easy to remember and pass on. Just imagine your customer trying to recommend your website to someone. “No, not yarnsforyou.com. It’s yarns with a z, the number four, the letter u, dot com.” There’s a high risk that your customer will misspell (or should I say, correctly spell) part of the domain and wind up at a competitor’s page.
4. Extremely long domain names are a drag. Although they can fare well in SEO due to the amount of keywords, they are difficult to remember and can be easily misspelled. For example, crazykarensbeautifulpursesscarvesandhats.com is a pain to remember and even worse to type. Throw some alternate spellings in there and your customer will never speak to you again. The maximum length of a domain is 63 characters, but it’s best to keep it under 25 or so.
5. Stay away from special characters. It is best to stick to alphanumeric characters and possibly hyphens. Although other characters are now allowed, not everyone will have the ability to type them in. Special characters (including underscores) also cannot be used in DNS host names, so setting up blogs, subdomains and email would be difficult.
What about hyphens?
The domain name you really want is available — but only with a hyphen in it. While hyphens might help keywords stand out, they are easy to forget, especially when saying your domain out loud. If my domain is karens-crazy-socks.com and someone says, “Check out Karen’s crazy socks dot com,” the person they spoke to will probably go to the website without the dashes, which belongs to that other Karen who sells crazy socks and I will have lost business. That said, if your dream domain is only available with a hyphen, consider it but be careful with your marketing.
What about typos?
Perhaps the trickiest aspect of choosing your domain name is making sure a potential typo won’t hurt your business. There’s a lot to watch out for — someone adding or missing a hyphen, misspelling a word, going to .com instead of .net. A customer might be taken to competitor’s page or even the dark side of the internet, which could tarnish your store’s reputation. To proactively prevent this from happening, some businesses will purchase both .com and .net, and others will buy variations as well (just try going to amazong.com).
Will people make fun of it?
Sometimes a domain that sounds great in our heads can have a completely different meaning when you see it in print. Do a search for “funny domains” and you’ll see what we mean. Hint: we couldn’t find any examples that were safe for work.
Before you buy your domain name, run it by a few people to see what they think. Say it out loud and ask them to try pulling it up. If they remember it, spell it correctly and don’t start laughing, you may have a winner. And an extra tip, when you pick out your domain, don’t forget to snag the corresponding social media handles too. You’ll be well on your way building out an online brand.
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