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A website’s domain name is their moniker. The thing (hopefully) everyone remembers. The way search engines identify the subject of the website. And it’s what everyone will be typing into that address bar. So it’s pretty safe to say that choosing a domain name is a pretty important step—and one that usually induces a lot of gray hair and sleepless nights. But if you pinpoint exactly what should go into a domain name—and what shouldn’t—then you’re on the path to success. We’ve broken down choosing a domain name to five basic steps, so you can end up with the perfect address for your online store.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Turn your inner critic off for a moment and just write down whatever words and phrases come to mind when you consider this question: What is your website about? Write down everything you think of. Don’t dismiss any ideas—they may lead to others. Write down general topics as well as proper nouns such as your business name if you already have one or your location. Write down broad categories, specific items and fun words that capture the personality of your website. Take what you’ve jotted down and branched out from there. What words have similar meanings? You can use a thesaurus here to generate more ideas as well.
Step 2: Research
Now it’s time to sit down with your list of words and phrases and research. Domain names play a role in SEO, so head to Google’s Keyword Tool and type in some of those words and phrases you generated in the first step. Mark which ones have a high number of searches, and preferably low or medium competition. You’re more likely to rank for a keyword when it’s in your domain name as well. You might also find more ideas to add to your initial list based on the keyword suggestions the tool supplies. You should also see what else is out there—which one of your ideas is already taken? Avoid names that are similar to ones that are already used as well. If PerfectShoeStore.com is taken, don’t use Perfect-Shoe-Store.com—if someone leaves out the hyphens, you’ll send them right to your competition’s store. You can do a Google search for the phrase to turn up similar sites, but your best bet is to use a domain availability search through a registrar like GoDaddy.
Step 3: Consider Brand
Your domain name is a big part of your brand, so branding should be a consideration when choosing a domain name. Consider your brand as your business’ personality. Are you the quirky, fun-loving shoe store? The budget shoe store with big deals? The serious, high-end shoe store? Cross off any potential names on your list that don’t mesh with the brand or personality you want to portray. You can always go back and brainstorm again too if considering your brand brings new ideas to mind.
Step 4: Shorten it
Is your potential brand name easy to type into the address bar? It should be. The best domain names are often short. After all, you’ll be telling it to customers, and they’ll be typing it into the address bar. PerfectShoeStore.com is okay, but PerfectShoes.com is better. Take a look at the things still on your list—is there a way you can shorten any of them? Don’t use five words when one or two will do. Keep in mind your website needs to be easy to say as well, so if you decide to abbreviate, make sure it still rolls off the tongue and doesn’t cause any confusion. How many people go to Flicker.com instead of Flickr.com or to Tumbler.com instead of Tumblr.com? If you have to spell out your domain name every time you say it, reconsider. Both Flickr and Tumblr are still popular, but they have to do a bit extra to make sure people are going to the right site. You could also combine parts of words to make a new word, in order to keep it both short and easily identifiable. For example, Pixabay.com, with the “pix” indicating the website has something to do with pictures.
Step 5: Anticipate Problems
By now, you probably have your list narrowed down to a few ideas, or even just one. Before you go buy your domain name though, you should anticipate any problems your domain name might cause. Consider these questions: • Is your domain name easy to spell? Again, if you have to spell it anytime you say it, you should probably reconsider. Also avoid words that are simply hard to spell because they are long or ones that are commonly misspelled, like guarantee, independent, maintenance and weather. • Is someone using a similar domain name? Make sure your domain is different enough that you’re not confused with the competition. Don’t send people to MyCoolDomainName.com by accident when they’re really supposed to head to MyCoolDomainName.net. • Does your domain name use symbols? Symbols and hyphens make a domain name harder to remember and harder to say, so avoid them if you can. • Do people who hear your domain name know what your site is about? It’s okay to use a domain name that’s vaguer—but you will have to do a lot more marketing to make up for it. For example, Zillow.com has to do more marketing than Realtor.com, because the first isn’t already associated with real estate.
It isn’t easy to choose a domain name, especially now that there are over a billion websites that already have names of their own. But by narrowing the process down to just five steps, choosing the right domain name becomes a bit less stressful and a lot more feasible.