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How to Choose a Good Domain Name

Tips for Choosing a Domain Name that Works

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Choosing a domain name can be as important to your company as choosing the company name. In fact, in several cases, companies have changed their name to their website domain because people recognized it more readily than the company name. So finding a domain name can be very important. These tips should help you choose wisely.

Branding and Your Domain Name

Whether you are trying to sell paper clips or web design services, your website domain name will affect your brand. As I said above, some companies have even changed their company name to their website domain name. So, when you're choosing a domain name it should be something that you could live with if it were your company name.

In fact, the best domains are your company name. Your current customers know your company name and they're comfortable with it. Some of your customers may have already typed in your name with .com at the end to see if that's your website. So if you can get a domain name that is your company name, you might have the perfect domain.

To do: Check to see if your company name is already taken. Go to your Web browser and type http://www.your company name.com/ into the URL box. If the result is a competitor or something you wouldn't want to be associated with, you can try to buy the domain or you might want to consider changing your company name.

How Long Should Your Domain Name Be?

It depends upon your domain name registrar, but in general domain names can be anywhere from 26 to 67 characters long. But just because you can, doesn't mean that you should have a domain name that is over 30 or 40 characters long. Remember:

  • Your customers need to type your domain in
  • Even if they're clicking a link, that link needs to be typed in by someone
  • Longer domains are often harder to remember

I recommend sticking with domain names that are no longer than 20 characters or so.

To do: How long is your company name? Is it more than 20 characters including spaces? What about not including spaces?

Special Characters in Domain Names

There aren't a lot of special characters allowed in domain names. For the most part you can use alphabetic and numeral characters as well as hyphen (-). Some domain registrars may allow other characters, but those are the most common ones allowed.

Camel Case or Dashes in Domain Names
Camel case is when you see two words that are typically separated written as one word with the inner word capitalized. e.g. FedEx. Camel case is very popular for domains because even though the domain is registered in all lowercase, you can write it in camel case to differentiate the words. But you can also use hyphens or underscores to separate the words.

Dashes are considered preferable to camel case if you want search engines to recognize separate words in your domain name. However, search engines are getting better and better at reading the domains with or without dashes. The problem is that dashes are not as user friendly to customers. People are more likely to write your domain name without dashes, and then possibly even end up on your competitor's site. So if you can avoid dashes in the domain name, that's better.

To do: If you were planning on using a domain name with dashes in it, check the site with the dashes removed. Is it a competitor?

Bad Word Combinations in Domain Names

Once you think you have your domain name figured out, get someone else to look at it. Preferably someone who has no knowledge of your business or your company name. You don't want to end up with a domain name that has a completely different meaning from the one you intended. I won't print the worst examples (and don't follow that link if you're easily offended), but I'm speaking of something like www.ipanywhere.com. This domain might seem perfect for a company that provides IP services, but when read aloud, they seem to be advocating something better kept in the bathroom.

Is .COM Really Better than .NET or .US?

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Choose and Register a Website Domain

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