You’re starting a new business, and one of the first things on your to-do list is to select and purchase your website address, also known as your domain name. There is a lot of competing advice out there, and there are a lot of factors at play, and some things are great for SEO but terrible for branding, and vice versa. Not to mention that the market is fairly saturated, with many of the best names already taken.
Given all of this, choosing the perfect domain name can be a bit of a juggling act, but in this post, I’ll show you a practical checklist of what to go for, what to avoid, and how to prioritize all of these factors to make your job of choosing the perfect domain name easier.
So, how do you choose a domain name that your customers will remember, type in easily, and will help you be found in searches? I’ll show you all of that, as well as a really cool trick toward the end that you can actually use to truly have the best of both worlds, even if it appears that there isn’t a way, and all of this has been researched by moz.com and other branding and SEO experts and shown and proven to be the most important things you should be looking out for.
Let’s start with the first criterion. You should aim for a domain name that is both short and memorable. I’m sure you can guess why. You know, the longer or more complicated your domain name is, the more likely it is that people will mess it up when they try to share it and certainly when they type it in, assuming they can remember it in the first place.
So now is not the time for long tail keyword phrases, and if you’re the law firm of ziffrin brittenham branca fisher gilbert larry steifelman cook johnson landy and wolf, which is a real law firm by the way, then you should keep it as short as possible without hurting your branding or ranking potential.
Next, let’s compare dot com to dot anything else. So, here’s the thing, a lot of domain names you might want or probably already have in the dot-com version, so people start thinking hey, that’s okay, I can just get a dot-net or a dot luxury, which is also a real thing you can get, and in fact a new industry has pretty much popped up this past decade of all these new uh what we call top level domain extensions.
Some of them actually sound trendy and cool, while others are definitely specific, such as dot beer, which seems like it’d be a great fit for a brewery, or dot george, which seems like it’d be a perfect fit for a Costanza. However, I do not recommend them for one simple reason.
People associate websites with dot coms to the point where if you told them to go to my website senbasolutions.net, they would most likely remember it as senbasolutions.com. So, if your dot com isn’t available, rather than simply calling dot net your Plan B, I’d make that more of a Plan C behind slightly tweaking the name of the dot com if possible. So, something like getsenbasolutions.com lengthens it a little, but that’s something you’d want to consider.
I believe that adding that one short word to the beginning is worth sticking with dot com because it makes the name a little more actionable and fun in my opinion. If you can’t find anything acceptable as a dot com, my second choice would be a dot net or dot co. I’d leave out the cleverer ones because most people will be perplexed by those they’d see as jets.pizza and think, oh, they’re probably thinking of jetspizza.com, and then they’re just going to go to dominoes.
So now we come to the most contentious point about domain names: should you go for something classy and branded or something more keyword driven? There are clear advantages and disadvantages to both options. Let’s just talk about it for now. To begin, by branded domain, I mean something like accraclinic.com, and a keyword-driven version of that could be accradermatology.com. So, with the pure branded domain, it reads cleanly, is memorable, and has the feel of a genuine brand. All of these are advantages for accradermatology.com.
It closely corresponds to what people may actually search for on Google, making it much more likely to rank for that term. In this case, it’s also somewhat memorable, but it doesn’t sound like much of a brand, does it? You are aware that depending on how severe it is, this can have a minor or significant impact on your click-through rate. For example, how likely are you to visit bestplumbersintema.com versus allclear.com?
One feels like a legitimate company because it’s branded, and the other feels like you’re going to a really slimy spammy page, right? Choosing something purely branded, on the other hand, can really hold you back in terms of ranking and searches, and as a new website, you need all the help you can get, and make no mistake about it. Even though some argue that exact match domain names are becoming less and less of a ranking factor, they are still a thing for the time being.
So, here’s what I think you should do. Not an exact match domain, such as bestplumbersintema.com, but a partial match domain, which combines your company name and your top keyword phrase, albeit only partially. So, if your company name is all clear plumbing, you might want to go with something like allclearplumbing.com or acplumbingtema.com.
You are aware that both options are still branded. It’s just a matter of how aggressive you want to be here and if you can use one of your keywords rather than the entire phrase because remember that even having one broad keyword like plumbing can help you. It may not be as effective in terms of SEO as plumbing theme, but you’ll be far ahead of where you’d be without it. Find a happy medium by compromising on your keywords and, if necessary, shortening or abbreviating your company name. However, I’d prefer to see you use your full business name along with one good keyword.
So, as promised, here is a trick you can use. If you can’t seem to make this work by combining your business name and your best keyword phrase into a really great dot com, you can either buy a dot net or dot co version, or possibly a more aggressive keyword rich domain as well as a shorter punchier more branded one. So, you’d use the keyword domain as your primary site and simply redirect the branded version to it. As a result, Google searchers are more likely to find and click on your keyword domain name.
Furthermore, if you do a good job with your title and description meta text, they are less likely to notice the genericness of your URL. When you tell people where they can find you online, you simply tell them the branded domain. It’s simple to remember, and it will still take them to the same location because it will redirect to your main website. So that is the outward-facing domain you would use in the real world, but you still want to build backlinks and business citations to the real domain.
You know the keyword domain, and as your business grows or if keyword domains begin to lose ground in search, you can always consider transitioning to your more branded domain, which you also own, and simply switch the redirect around. However, I would advise you to first try to make just one domain name work before resorting to this. I believe you can be inventive and come up with a solution that is ideal for your company.