Choosing a domain name is one of the most important decisions you will make for your business. Your domain name characterizes your business, labels your business, and will stick with your business for a long time.
In most cases, you should choose a domain name at the same time you choose your business name. When your domain name matches your business name, you have a far better chance of being remembered while at the same time keeping your branding cohesive and unified.
Make it memorable.
The brain has remarkable powers of memory, but the domain you choose should cater to these powers.
- Unique. The best domain names are not an ordinary combination of words or phrases. They stand out in the memory because they are unusual.
- Visual. The more areas of the brain affected, the more memorable something is. If your domain name suggests something that can be seen or touched, this enhances its memorability.
- Catchy. The easier it is to say, read, and repeat, the easier it is to remember.
- Ordered. The brain likes things to be organized. Memorization is basically the process of organization. The better a domain name is organized, the more memorable it will be. For example, “SellYourPhone.com” has order. But “PhoneYourSell.com” doesn’t make any sense.
Make it short.
Your domain name needs to be short if you want people to remember it or have the patience to type it in.
There are a few ridiculous examples of insanely long domain names:
No business owner in his or her right mind would choose a domain name with that many characters. Unfortunately, some business owners do get greedy with keywords, and create domain names that are nothing more than a jumble of keywords -- lots of keywords and an agonizingly long URL. Don’t go that route. Choose instead a short and sweet name, even if it doesn’t have any keywords.
Make it relevant.
A domain name should reflect some aspect of what the company is or does. Good company names are unique and attention-grabbing, without being blandly declarative. For example, one company I helped start is called Kissmetrics. The name and domain has the word metrics, which describes the nature of the SaaS.
Blandly-named companies run the risk of being forgotten. Worse, they may not find an available domain name. For example, a business called “Window Washing” will probably have to pay a premium for the domain, "http://windowwashing.com/."
Here are some examples -- one positive, and one negative.
- LifeLock, Lifelock.com. LifeLock provides identity-protection services. Their business name and domain is a portmanteau of the two words “life” and “lock,” which describe exactly what they do as a business. Obviously, they could have chosen IdentityProtection.com, but as it is, their domain/business name is memorable and relevant.
- Screaming Frog, Screamingfrog.co.uk. Screaming Frog is a digital marketing agency which also provides a leading SEO spider tool. Their name, while creative, does not indicate either their service or the nature of their organization. Both the URL and business name don’t do much to advance their business’s online objectives.
If you are a little-known startup working in a crowded niche, relevancy is important. However, you don’t want to take relevancy too far. Keep in mind that some of the most valuable and dominant brands have names and domains that are totally undescriptive of their products or services -- Apple, Google, Bing, Yelp, Yahoo and Amazon, among other big-name brands.
You shouldn’t choose a business name simply on account of a keyword-dense domain name that happens to be available. Allow your business name to take precedence over keywords.
Make it simple.
The most simple domains are the best. Two or three words and a dot-com extension make the most powerful domains.
Here are some things that you should always avoid in your domain name:
- Dashes. Few people will remember if or when to use a dash in your domain.
- Numbers. No one can remember whether they should spell “five” or use the number “5.”
- Any extension other than .com. If you are doing business primarily in another country (e.g., .co.uk), then a country-specific domain is appropriate. There are plenty of creative extensions you can use including .tv, .flowers, .biz, .info and .ink. These are useless. Some extensions that provide word completion domain extensions may be acceptable. For instance, youtu.be.
- Abbreviations. Abbreviations will only clutter up your domain name, making it ugly and forgettable.
- Ambiguous words. Make sure your domain doesn’t have any ambiguity. For example, ExpertsExchange.com might look okay as two words, but does it reflect what the company does? This domain could also be ExpertSexChange.com.
- Creative spellings. Some businesses like to tweak the common spellings of words in order to make their business name creative. For example, “Doug’s Holesale Digging,” “Kleen Machine,” or “The Dzign People.” Those may work in an offline world of signage and print advertising, but they don’t make for effective domain names.
Domain name affects every area of branding. It could be argued that today’s domain name is one of the most significant aspect of a brand’s identity. If you follow these simple rules of domain name selection, you will come up with an effective domain name for your brand.