How to choose a marketable (and searchable) domain name

Domain names matter — a lot. Here's how to choose a good one.

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Choosing a domain name for your company, a marketing campaign or a specific product isn’t always an easy process. There’s a lot to consider and you have to make sure you’re taking every important aspect into account. Ultimately, you want to end up with a domain name that’s marketable and SEO-friendly.

Why do domain names matter?

Does a domain name really matter? This is a question that gets thrown around a lot. Despite all the tiptoeing around the subject, the answer is actually quite clear. Yes, domain names matter. They really, really matter.

Think of your website like a house. While you may spend time in a lot of different places, you ultimately spend the majority of your time at home. It’s the only little piece of the world that you own and can do with as you please.

Using the analogy, you may have social media profiles, pay-per-click ads, guest blogging entries and a long list of other aspects, but your website is the only one you truly own and manage.

Facebook could suddenly decide that they no longer like your profile and delete it. Google could remove your ads with no rhyme or reason. While it’s highly unlikely that they would do this, it’s completely within their rights. Your website, on the other hand, is owned and controlled by you. This makes it your greatest digital asset.

But what good is a home without an address? Let’s say you just moved into a new house on the far side of town and want to invite your friends over. Sure, you could give them a long list of written directions and hope they eventually find their way to your house — but that’s not practical in today’s day and age. They need a street address to identify the house without any issues.

A domain name is to a website what a street address is to a house. It’s how people find and identify the website. But in addition to serving as an identifier, the domain name also serves as a descriptor. So, you could argue that it’s twice as important as a street address.

The two key aspects of a successful domain name

If a domain name is that important, then it stands to reason that you should be spending a lot of time brainstorming and strategically developing the right one. But in your pursuit of coming up with the right domain name — something that’s becoming increasingly difficult as thousands of names are swiped up each day — make sure you’re focusing on the two key aspects that really matter:

  • Marketable. First and foremost, your domain name must be marketable. It must connect with your target demographic and properly reflect what your brand stands for.
  • Searchable. Secondly, a successful domain name must be searchable. This means you need to take SEO principles into account and choose a domain name that allows you to maximize search engine performance.

If you can nail these two key aspects, then you’ve done your job. Having a domain name that’s both marketable and searchable will take you a long way.

6 tips for developing an effective domain name

But what you really want to know is how. How do you develop a successful domain name that’s both marketable and searchable? Well, let’s take a look at some tips and best practices.

1. Brevity is preferred

It all starts with brevity. As web developer Robert Mening says, “Short, punchy and clear domain names are much easier to remember. If your domain name is too fuzzy, too long or spelled in a strange way, visitors may forget it.”

This is why one-word domain names are preferred, yet expensive and rare to come by in today’s marketplace. More than likely, you’ll have to go with a two-word domain (which is fine). Just make sure there aren’t an abnormally high number of characters.

2. Make it memorable

How many times have you visited a website that you’ve never been to before, found something of value, and then forgotten the name of the website a few hours later? While there’s a thing called your “internet history” that will allow you to eventually find the site again, are you really going to go through all that trouble?

This is why developing a memorable domain name that can be easily recalled by visitors is very important. It can mean the difference between losing people after they leave your site and gaining repeat visitors.

3. Relatable and intuitive

“If you believe that a member of your target audience could immediately associate the domain name with a good guess of what they think you do, that is a big positive,” explains Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz. “Meaning they could look at your domain name and say, ‘Oh, I’m guessing they probably do this. This is probably what that company is up to.’”

The more intuitive a domain name is, the more likely that you’ll attract organic search engine traffic from people who have no familiarity with your brand.

4. Keyword rich

Remember that you want your domain name to be searchable. Well, part of making a URL SEO-friendly involves leveraging specific keywords.

While it’s good to include keywords if they naturally fit into your domain name, don’t go out of your way to include additional words or phrases just because they’re a good SEO fit. It’s way more important to focus on marketability and brevity.

5. Ensure it’s protectable

Just because a domain name is available doesn’t mean you can use it.  “If you choose a domain name that conflicts with any one of the millions of commercial names that already exist, you risk losing it,” attorney Diana Fitzpatrick says. “And if you've put money and sweat into marketing your website and then are forced to give the domain name up, your web-based business is likely to suffer a damaging, if not fatal, blow.”

The moral of the story is do your due diligence and ensure the domain name is protectable. If need be, meet with an attorney who specializes in trademarks. This could save you a lot of pain (and money) down the road.

6. Avoid trendy spellings

The final tip is to avoid trending spellings. Because it’s very hard to find the exact domain name you want, you’ll see many businesses and entrepreneurs take off a letter, purposefully misspell a word, change an “s” to a “z”, or use any number of other techniques to secure a domain name that they feel is right. Don’t do this. Trendy spellings will come back to bite you and ultimately cheapen your brand.

Invest in your domain name

There are plenty of domain names that can still be purchased for $0.99 when you sign up for a hosting plan with specific providers. And while there’s nothing wrong with these, they tend to be obscure domains or three- or four-word URLs.

At the end of the day, you’re probably going to have to spend some money to get a domain name that’s both marketable and searchable. It could be a few hundred dollars, or it could be thousands of dollars. You’ll have to make a decision as to how much you can realistically spend. However, know that the ROI on quality domain names is quite high.

Invest in a good domain name today and reap the rewards tomorrow.

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