Domain Name Best Practices: How To Not Regret Your Domain
Ready for a shocker? When it comes to domain name best practices, there's not really much that's too important. Aside from the obvious ones:
- Easy to remember
- Fairly short
- Reflect your product/service offerings...and/or...
- Reflect your brand name
There's not really much to deliberate over. Even those so-called best practices aren't too important in the scheme of things. The truth is, unless you've got a niche site that is getting around 98% of your traffic from search engines you can get by with just about anything. Now I know you want that absolute best start possible in your online presence, so there are still some factors to consider (beyond the obvious ones) to make your domain the absolute best it can be. Just remember that we're talking about pennies on the dollar here. The real money is made not in the domain name but in the content you put on your site. Unless you've got Gooogle.com, your content is one thing that will drive search engine and referral traffic to your site, not your domain name. That said, here's a few things you should know before you buy that new domain:
.Info domains, in my experience, tend to rank a little lower in Google than most other domain extensions. The reason, I think, is that the barrier to entry is so low. As a result spammers and shady internet marketers use them all the time to set up low quality sites and pollute the internet with crap. Whatever the reason, .info domains don't rank as well as domains costing upwards of $8. So I wouldn't recommend using one for your primary site.
Don't Be Afraid of .Net and .Us
If your .Com isn't available, just go for the .Net or .Us. .Net is a great alternative all around and .Us is great to use if the majority of your customer base is in the United States. In fact, I haven't tested this yet, but I would think that if 100% of your customers are located within the 50 states, .Us might even be better than .Com. Please don't quote me on that. I only say that because as Google gets smarter, it will be sending people to more and more relevant search results. Generally speaking "more and more relevant" is getting more and more synonymous with "more and more local." Think about that when you decide to buy a .Us extension.
Don't Get Too Excited About New Extensions (Unless They're More Local)
For professionalism's sake, don't put your business website under a .Me domain, or really anything other than the heavy hitters. There's a lot to be said for staying cool calm and collected when it comes to new domain extensions. They're untested and don't have a track record yet. Building a website on top of that might not be the best idea. That said, for the same reasons .Us is cool above, I have a feeling we might start getting domain extensions that are more local. For example websites for businesses in Florida might have a .Fl extension. Pay attention to those. Those will definitely be crucial as the internet moves forward.
Whenever Possible, Use Keywords
I know I said you could do fine with just a brand name, but if your primary traffic strategy is going to rely on search, keywords in a domain might mean the difference between the 2nd position in Google and the 1st. According to a recent survey of professional search engine optimizers, about 7% of the ranking factor of a particular page has to do with registration and hosting data. Now that's nothing compared to the more than 40% of ranking factors coming from external links. But it's still a percentage and not to be ignored. Keyword domain names are especially helpful when you're just selling one type of product. In other words, if a customer wants a dog leash and you have www.DogLeashes.com, not only will Google like your name more, but a customer searching for dog leashes is more likely to click knowing that your site probably has exactly what they're looking for. Now if your domain was something like www.DoggieDaze.com you might lose out on a few of those clicks. It's important to note here that if www.DogLeashes.com isn't available, I would go with www.DogLeashesHQ.com or something along those lines. As long as the main keyword is in there, you're probably fine.
The Best Domain Registrar Around
I used to use GoDaddy.com to buy domains. But recently, I've been getting my domains from Namecheap.com. You get free Whoisguard for a year with each domain and you don't have to deal with all the crap Godaddy has on their site. I've found that NameCheap is just easier to use all around. Try 'em out next time you need a domain and tell me what you think.
The Ultimate Domain Name Best Practice
Whatever you decide for a domain, just decide quick and move on. Domain names aren't that important and shouldn't be fretted over. In fact, that's really the only best practice I can offer.