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How to Choose a Domain Name: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly A good domain name is a valuable asset to your business and a bad liability. The right decision, therefore, is imperative.

By Mannie Usman Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Choosing a domain name might not be on the top of your list when starting your business, but it can be challenging when the time comes to choose. A lot of good can come with the right name, and a lot can go wrong later on if you don't get it right. It is, therefore, crucial you make the right decision. This article will discuss the psychology behind choosing the good, the bad and the ugly — and how to avoid it to help make you an informed decision.

Related: 8 Elements to Consider When Picking Your Domain Name

The good

Ever since the beginning of commerce, there has been branding. Branding, a powerful marketing concept, manages how your target audience perceives your business. Your brand is your business identity. A positive perception of your business that your audience could relate to can make all the difference.

Branding is a key to selecting a successful domain name. Due to the value, your domain name holds to your brand as it's typically the first thing your target audience will hear and type in to visit your website. And most importantly, your domain name will be a part of your company email address.

Consistency is a key to effective branding. What we have learned from successful brands is that the vast majority of their brand names match their domain, and some have shortened versions of their brand name as their domain. Some have gone to great lengths and paid a premium to acquire a matching domain name. This highlights the value of a matching domain name to a brand. And your domain doesn't have to match your brand name as long as that decision is part of your branding strategy and is consistent with your brand.

Here's how you choose a successful domain name by focusing on these four characteristics: relevance, ease, adaptability and distinctiveness. If you see through the lens of these four characteristics, you will come up with a long-lasting and brandable domain or even a brand name.

  • Relevance: A meaningful name that reflects your business values, your products/services or any part of your business. For instance, if you look at the name "Google," it sounds like someone just pulled it out of thin air. But it wasn't random at all. During a brainstorming session, Sean, a friend of the company founders, pitched the name "Googol" (a mathematical term for the number one followed by 100 zeros), a relevant name fitting for a tech company. When they tried to check the availability of the domain Googol, they typed Google by mistake and thought Google sounded much better.

  • Ease: An easy-to-communicate domain name is crucial, whereas the opposite could cause your customers to lose interest, get it wrong or forget it. Avoid using hyphens, numbers, made-up spellings or anything that makes communicating your domain name difficult. A great practice is involving your family, friends and colleagues and using different scenarios like giving your email over the phone to figure out how easy it is to communicate your chosen domain name.

  • Adaptability: Over time, businesses progress, evolve and expand. This is why many companies spend a fortune on rebranding. To protect your company from outgrowing your domain name, think ahead. Visualize what your company will look like in the next ten years, and then come to your conclusion. For instance, Jeff Bezos named his company "Amazon," the largest river, based on his vision of being the largest internet retailer, even though his company initially only sold books.

  • Distinctiveness: It's all about making your brand memorable. A distinctive domain name will help your customers recall your brand. On the other hand, choosing a popular generic keyword as your domain will confuse your customers. The exact popular generic keywords will be all over Google search results in your competitors' title tags and meta descriptions, making it harder for your customers to differentiate your business from your competitors. A distinctive domain with popular extensions like dot com, dot net and dot co will also likely be available, considering the domain already taken is often the case when registering.

Related: How to Choose a Descriptive Domain for Your Business

The bad

SEO is an arduous task for brand-new websites. It might entice some to find a way around it by believing that naming their domain with a popular keyword will jump their website's rankings on Google. That could have been the case many years ago, but Google search algorithms are constantly evolving and can pick on any manipulation attempt. In recent years, John Mueller, a senior search advocate from Google, has advised numerous times that the keyword domains have no effect on the rankings and get no special bonus. They will have to go through the process like any new website.

Related: 3 Keys to the Right Domain Name for Building a Brand

The ugly

Not knowing your chosen domain history can have devastating effects. If it has a previous owner, it will have a history. Like with any purchase, you will want to know the quality of the domain by ensuring it was not associated with anything that goes against your company's values and hasn't been penalized by Google for spamming.

There are several free tools available that will help you learn about your domain history. Tools like Wayback Machine let you see the screenshots of the website or websites that existed previously. And backlinks checker tools will let you see what other websites have a link to your domain on their sites. This information will create a clear picture and allow you to resolve issues, if any, firsthand.

Mannie Usman

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Managing Director

Mannie Usman, managing director of Search Schematic, combines his expertise in marketing and entrepreneurship with a keen interest in turning sustainability into business success, sharing diverse insights that inspire and inform.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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