Choosing a Domain Name that Works

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We’ve talked about domain names before on this blog. We’ve told you about the pervasive trend toward awkward and strange names due to poor selection or lack of vocabulary to explain a new online service. In this post we’re going to get practical and talk less about trends and more about tips. If you decide to read all of this post, you learn what makes a great domain, how to confirm its greatness, and where to look for and buy a domain of your very own.

Choosing a Domain Name
Historically, choosing a domain name name meant finding one that mentioned the name of your business in it. Although this is still a decent approach, it’s not optimal if you are are looking to attract new visitors searching specifically for a product you sell or a service you offer. Instead, try looking for a generic domain name with the name of your product or service in it. By doing this, you’ll ensure that people will find what their looking for where you want them to: on your website.

For this example, say I own a bakery called The Golden Whisk and specialize in cupcakes. If the option presented itself, I would ideally like to choose a domain name with “cupcakes” or “bakery” in it rather than the name of my business because most of my online customers will be searching for this rather than the name of my company. With this in mind I would choose “cupcakes.com” or “cupcakebakery.com” or other phrases that contain words that best describe my product. This way a search engine will know definitively that I offer what their searcher is looking for because I’ve named my website with my products in mind. I often recommend coming up with a keyword phrase that defines you ideal search traffic in two or three words. Perhaps a good keyword phrase in my case would be “gourmet cupcakes” or “fresh baked cupcakes”. Once I define what I think people will be searching for, it’s time to test the popularity of the phrase.

Testing a Domain Name
To aid you in your search for the ideal domain name, you can do some experimentation to see what people typically search for and how often they search. This way you’ll know that your website will be in the right at the right place when a customer is ready to buy. To do this, you can use a the Google Adwords Tool to see what kind of volume your keyword phrase might receive. As you can see, there are some popular cupcake phrases, and some that are not very popular.

If your target market is strictly local, include the name of your city in your domain name. If you sell a very specific product, be specific about it in your domain name. By defining your audience in website’s address, half the work of marketing your website has already been done for you.

Buying a Domain Name
Once you’ve defined your keyword phrase and found a popular domain name to match, how do you go about acquiring it? Sometimes if you don’t know where to look, this can be the hardest part. Here are your options: register a new one, buy an aftermarket domain, or “catch” one that’s expiring.

Registering a new one is the easiest of the three options. You can use a third party search tool to see if the name you want is available. Or you can go directly to a registrar and start your search there. I typically recommend Sibername, because they have the very reasonable fees for .ca domain names. I have also used Dotster and would recommend their services as well. Network Solutions is another good option with the nicest website of the bunch.

If there are no suitable new domain names available to register, it’s time to try the aftermarket route. The popularity of purchasing domain names strictly to sell has increased dramatically over the last few years and many people use Sedo to offer their domain names for sale. You may want to try negotiating with a seller on Sedo, a marketplace for buying and selling domain names if you find a name you want.

The third option is finding a domain name in a deleting domains auction. Websites like Pool.com offer a listing of domain names that are expiring because people, for whatever reason have failed to pay an annual renewal fee. Sometimes by keeping your eyes open, you can back-order an expiring domain name that is exactly what you are looking for.

The hunt for the perfect name can sometimes be a difficult process but with help from the right tools and knowing where to look can help you find the perfect home for your website faster. Good luck!

  • http://blog.networksolutions.com Susan Wade at Network Solutions

    Hey Neil,

    Thanks for mentioning Network Solutions in your post. Your post has great tips for first timers. What I like about your article is that tell people to use key words that descibe what they do for their domain name, instead of their company name. That’s really smart because that’s how people search for things they want.

    Thanks again,

    -Susan W

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    For domain registration I prefer name.com or godaddy. To find whether a domain is available, 10xwhois.com is the best tool available. It is fast and supports a wide range of tlds.