Modern companies must adapt to the ever-changing business environment using all tools at their disposal, especially the Internet. Online presence is often a decisive factor in a firm’s success, so the importance of proper web resource management cannot be overlooked. And while emerging businesses can actually avoid building complex websites towards using social media to promote their services, larger companies definitely need their own web pages. We won’t review the whole website creation process – that’s way too complicated for a single article. Instead, let’s take a glance at the initial stage – choosing a domain name. It’s a starting point for any development process, so its importance cannot be underestimated.
Domain Names: What Are They?
Before getting to examining domain names in detail, it’s important to review the concept’s technical side. Simply put, a domain name is a sequence of symbols – an identification string. The latter is used to represent a certain Internet resource. Domains have a hierarchy, which consists of several levels. They are organized into the Domain Name System (DNS). Fortunately for us, one doesn’t need to study the hierarchy in details to understand the general principle:
- Top-level domains. The last part of any site’s domain – .com, .net, and others. The right TLD can significantly enhance your page’s performance and SEO.
- Second-level domains. By definition, an SLD is located to the left of a TLD. On our website, an SLD is alicewondermarketing.
- Third-level domains and further subdomains. Anything left to a given domain (separated with a full stop) will act as its subdomain.
There’s also a specific category of TLDs – restricted ones. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers manages such domain addresses with the help of registrars – companies created to regulate domain reservation. Registrars manage sponsored and restricted generic TLDs, settling the use of these addresses globally and in particular countries. History knows more than 900 registrars. A registrar will gladly assist you if you want to register a domain or need hosting services. Most well-known registrar and hosting companies include GoDaddy, eNom, Melbourne IT, and others.
While the situation with TLDs is quite clear, the subsequent levels of domains aren’t strictly regulated – you can basically choose any domain. However, picking a good web site name requires careful analysis and long hours of brainstorming. You need to consider multiple factors, including SEO requirements, marketing, customer perception, and many other things.
Many resources on the web suggest that a correct domain name must be memorable, concise, and unique. The best domain names are neither too long nor too short, ideally being around 6 to 14 symbols. But what if a seemingly perfect domain was taken by another company? You’ll need to reconsider your approach to naming completely (or buy your ideal domain from its current owner, but that’s a whole different story). The thing here is that nobody actually knows how to make a certain domain more or less memorable. The perception of a site by the audience doesn’t depend on its name solely. There are numerous factors involved, from the company’s reputation to recent adjustments in Google’s search algorithms. For example, think if you really believe that apple.com is a very memorable name. Let’s assume that you don’t know what Apple Inc. produces. Would a site with this domain attract your attention if you discovered it as a result of a Google search? Quite unlikely. And still, it’s one of the most frequently visited domains in the world.
Why Use Domain Names?
Domain addresses have many disadvantages. So, why are we still using them? Every machine with access to the Internet must be identified in some way. The solution is simple – utilize a unique sequence of symbols for each computer. We could use IP addresses, as they are perfectly suited for resolving the technical side of the problem. But remembering an IP isn’t an easy task. IPs are just sequences of numbers, which hardly make any sense for a regular user. They aren’t very brandable either, making IPs much less suited for business needs than domain names. Finally, keyword search, which is an essential part of any modern search engine, be it Google, Bing, or other solutions, is impossible with IP addresses. You’d need to enter an exact IP of the site you need, and this would make web surfing quite complicated and inconvenient.
It’s worth noting that a domain name is a part of a URL – Uniform Resource Locator. A URL is what you see in your browser’s search tab when filling in an address. However, a URL is not limited to a domain – it also includes a path to a given file. URLs aren’t a central point of today’s discussion, so we’ll cover them in detail another time.
How to Pick a Suitable Domain Name for Your Business?
- Look from a Customer’s Point of View
While choosing a URL, think as potential customers would do. Make sure that the name is short, simple, and related to your business. You may use the company’s name as an SLD, though, in some cases, an abbreviation would be a better choice. Mind that you may need to spend long hours brainstorming to create the right name. The result will be certainly worth the effort, so don’t give up easily!
- Keep It Brandable
A brandable domain is important for long-term planning and initial success. Most companies simply duplicate their own names on their websites. Not very creative, indeed, but this strategy works fine for the majority of brands. Customers are used to seeing a brand’s name offline, so a website with the same domain will be clearly recognizable, helping your returning clients find the needed page. If you are running short of ideas, don’t rush into choosing the first name that seems suitable. Some business owners choose names for their companies using random domain generators. While this may look like a reasonable step, mind that the software will generate a name without considering your company’s needs or brand strategy. Therefore, a randomly chosen name won’t raise any associations with your organization, making branding much more complicated.
- Make It Easy to Remember
How long should a domain name be? One of the main things you should know before registering a website is its name’s length, so make sure to conduct your research! The general rule is quite simple – the shorter the name, the better it is. Similar to a brand name, a domain is meant to act as a “face” of your company, helping you attract more customers. Simplicity is the key here – wordy names are difficult to memorize. It’s generally suggested to keep the length below 14 symbols (not counting TLDs). Remember that once you register a domain, changing it won’t be easy. It’s highly recommended to pick the right name from the beginning. If you run a company with a longer name (for example, a joint venture or a family business), consider using an abbreviation. A long name means that people will have a hard time trying to memorize it, so keep the domain concise. Finally, try to avoid using numbers and special symbols, especially if your site’s name is already quite long – they’ll confuse your visitors even further.
- Pick a Proper Extension
Extension is a synonym for TLD, so picking the right one may not seem too complicated. Most professionals suggest commercial organizations to go with .com, which is absolutely justified. People consider the .com extension to be safe and reliable, and they tend to trust websites with this TLD. Unfortunately, things aren’t that easy – .com is the most popular of all extensions. It comes as no surprise that many addresses with this TLD are unavailable. Want to use an occupied domain? Well, you’ll need to contact its owner and purchase the name. However, searching for a domain’s owner isn’t the best idea – it may take a significant amount of time and cost you way too much. When a .com address isn’t available anymore, try other popular variants, like .net or .info. Some people create websites with custom extensions, such as .me, .pizza, .photo, and so on. They are suitable for telling visitors about the content of a site. However, .com is still the most credible and reliable solution.
- Avoid Confusion by all Means Possible
As of 2019, there were about 360 million registered domain names. Quite a significant number, isn’t it? It’s little wonder that so many registers create confusion among visitors. Just mistake 1 symbol, and you’ll be redirected to a whole different website. Some users even register sites with names similar to popular resources (e.g. with 1 different letter or a varying extension) to conduct fraudulent actions. Fraud on the web is a fairly common thing, and setting a concise and memorable name for your site can help fight it. It’s rather difficult to confuse or mispronounce a domain that includes only 5 letters. You may want to conduct a keyword search to check if there are any confusing uses of the name you chose. Useful tools also include random name generators and trademark searches.
International Domain Names FAQ
It’s hard to choose a domain even for a local company, so international operations make matters even more complicated. Would you choose country codes or a generic TLD when targeting a local market? Which words are right for a domain and which aren’t? There are many questions to cover, so let’s start with the most frequently seen ones:
- Do I need a dedicated domain for each separate country where my company operates?
No, not at all. There are many tools for enhancing a site’s performance in foreign markets. Consider using subfolders instead of separate TLDs for geo-targeting. This way, you’ll save money on purchasing multiple domains and create a brandable website recognizable all over the world.
- Is the number of visits to a site influenced by keywords in its name?
The use of keywords is one of the most complicated subjects in naming a website. While keywords are important for making your page more relevant to a user’s search query, they aren’t the only element that matters. Google’s algorithms have significantly improved over time. Nowadays, the content of a page is more important to the search engine than the number of keywords, so stuffing them here and there won’t help develop your site. Overall, using a keyword in your domain won’t hurt, but don’t expect it to be very effective either.
- Do I need a .com address for international targeting?
The answer is absolutely clear: no, you don’t. .com is a suitable address most of the time, but it’s not an ultimate solution. Try searching for any foreign organization (preferably a non-commercial one) to prove this point. For example, when googling “Berlin museums,” the first 2 results have .de domains, even though we weren’t in Germany while writing this article.
- Are ccTLDs the best tool for targeting particular markets?
Not exactly. If you are an emerging company, or you want to attract the local audience, using ccTLDs is a decent idea. However, customers don’t search for a firm registered on a familiarly sounding domain. They want to see valuable deals and decent service, so make sure to provide them both. Most importantly, using a local domain won’t help your site rank higher. At times, getting a reliable and trustworthy generic domain is a more efficient solution.
- Is covering a maximum number of domain addresses effective?
When we said that website owners should avoid confusion, we didn’t mean buying all domains around. You can (and should) purchase frequent misspellings, but the abundance of domain names won’t improve your international SEO. The best practices in modern SEO involve making the number of redirects as small as possible, so buying numerous TLDs is one of the worst ideas one could think of.
Keywords in Domain Names: A Comprehensive Analysis
Although some state that using keywords in a domain is absolutely necessary, this is hardly an effective strategy. Such words are commonly generic, so they won’t make your site more brandable. A domain that consists of keywords will look like it was taken from a random name generator without any concern for its quality or brand image. If you do choose to use keys in a domain, pick niche words that would clearly signalize about your company’s specialization. For example, we chose the word “marketing” because we wanted to indicate our proficiency and show that we are a web design studio. The main takeaway of our experience with domain names is as follows: making every single word in your domain a keyword is not necessary, though you can surely use one or two of them if you want to.
Out of Ideas? Use Generators to Help Yourself!
Need help picking a name for a personal website? In this case, a domain name generator is an irreplaceable tool. It provides an easy way to check for available domain addresses and choose the most suitable one. A domain generator is a nice source of new ideas, but it’s not the only way to take a fresh look at the problem. If you’re totally out of solutions, check out a thesaurus. It contains numerous synonyms, antonyms, rare expressions, and useful suggestions. Even the most recognizable names were taken from dictionaries (Google, for example, is nothing but 10 to the power of 100). Looking for a truly unique word? Check some history books for a reference! For instance, Bluetooth technology was named after King Harald Bluetooth.
How to Name a Website? Our Best Hints
- Avoid special symbols. Commas, hyphens, and other symbols are characteristic of a bad website name.
- Register the shortest available domain. History suggests that a concise domain keeps the site more popular and appealing to the audience. In addition, smartphone keyboards aren’t that convenient to use, so a short name is a huge plus for a mobile website. How many characters should a website name be? Ideally, a domain address should be between 6 and 14 symbols long.
- A domain name generator can facilitate your job significantly – don’t hesitate to use it to choose an address. It’s also useful for availability checks and brainstorming new naming ideas. A decent piece of this software not only generates words but also shows expired and available domains.
- Avoid using unreliable domain extensions. Speaking from experience, all-time classics, such as .com or .net, is a perfectly suitable solution for any domain.
- Ensure that your domain is brandable and triggers associations with your company. A nice method of naming a site is using an organization’s name + a niche keyword.
- Choose something memorable, as your clients will share it through the word of mouth. There’s nothing worse than having to explain how to pronounce a site’s address.
Although naming a site may seem like an overly complicated process, it’s not that hard overall. Just make use of all tools at your disposal, including software, books, and your own creativity. Stick to the major principles of domain name creation described in this article, and you’ll inevitably come up with a decent solution.