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Close up photo of Peter Mead from Domain Name Trade

Peter Mead is a WordPress SEO Specialist with a passion for domain names.  He is the co-organiser of the Melbourne SEO Meetup group and is also co-owner of DNTrade.com.au

How to pick the best domain name

Essential to the success of any online business is to pick the best domain name for your website. We’ve all spent countless hours thinking of ideas and then seeing if the name is available. We may have done it over and over again, only to find that a lot of the really good names are already taken. Often times we kind of give up, and select a name that may not really be the best representation of our business.

Domain names are super important if we want people to remember our website and what we do. When potential customers are searching online, we want them to be able to instantly recognise our brand. People make buying decisions based on familiarity and trust, so having the best domain name to represent what we do and having one that can be easily remembered is a must.

Let’s go through how we pick the best domain name without making a compromise and having to settle for something that does not really put our business in the best possible position.

Q1. How to pick the best domain name for your website?

Consider this simple process:

Step 1. Decide what your business is about. If I am a designer, then: Design

Step 2. Brainstorm a catchy branding word. The work I do is bright and shining, so: Shining

Step 3. Select appropriate domain extension. My customers live and work in Australia, so it’s: .com.au

Put the words together in a meaningful way and you have something like: ShiningDesign.com.au. If you want to have a strong local focus for your business then in Step 2 replace the branding word with a place name. For example if I live and work in Torquay I could select a name like TorquayDesign.com.au. Or you may opt to focus on your branding word only such as: Shining.com.au.

In an ideal world we now have our perfect domain name, so we can pop the cork and toast to our future success. But what if the name we want is gone already? Of course this process is easier to do when you are starting up and have not yet registered your business name. You can tweak both business and domain names as you brainstorm. Sometimes it is worth spending a little extra time brainstorming for the best ideas. It may also be worth investigating if your preferred name is available to purchase through a marketplace. It may be more expensive but it could be money well spent to give your business a great kick-start. Obviously there can be significant effort required to pick the best domain name.

Does it help to choose an exact match domain name for your business name?

Branding is a huge topic in its own right, but for the purposes of this topic, let us just say that your domain name will become one of your best online branding assets. Consider how we instantly recognise big brands and the connection we make with their domain name. For instance, think of some big names such as Google.com, Facebook.com or Twitter.com. We often mention these brands in conversation without consciously acknowledging that we are actually quoting their domain name. The domain name is exactly matching and indistinguishable from business name.

It can help to choose a domain name that is an exact match for your branded business. You use your domain name as a branding tool to create a buzz around your business. This means having a domain name that matches the name of your website branding or your business name, as it allows people to type the domain name straight into the web browser. So, yes having a domain name that matches your business name is important.

Does the quality of my domain name influence SEO factors for getting found online?

Certain SEO factors are influenced by the quality of our chosen domain name. SEO in general is quite a complex practice, however at the end of the day it is we as people who use the Internet. We often decide to link out to great content. The quality and number of links to our site is a known SEO ranking factor – that is it helps websites rank higher in search results. When we link to a site it is like we are giving an endorsement. Most of us only want to endorse where there is a high quality product involved. So effectively, when people link to our site, they are giving us an endorsement. This endorsement is often based on an underlying perception held about the quality of your website name.

A good domain name should be easy to remember.

A quality domain name will help to increase our credibility by making our website “sound good”. A memorable name means that people instantly recognise it when it appears on a Twitter feed or Facebook wall post. We can use the “radio test” and listen to ourselves say the name out loud. So ask yourself, if this domain name were read over the radio, would it sound good?

A good domain name should be short but still meaningful.

Shorter names are also easier to remember and more importantly easier to type. Many people simply will not make the effort to fully type out a long name. Not to mention the likelihood of a typo while our fingers try to find the right keys and make sense of what we are typing at the same time.

If we type a silly example like this: bestqualitywebsitedesigner.com.au, we can kind of get confused while typing. Also we don’t remember the combination of words very well. We could look at ways of keeping it shorter but still meaningful. We could try qualitywebdesign.com.au, which takes the important words and combines them in a way that still portrays the meaning.

What is the best domain name extension for me?

This question often stumps people because there are just so many domain extensions available for us to register. Extensions like .com .net .org and also, .com.au .net.au .org.au etc. Originally the domain extensions were intended to help determine which country a website came from. Lately we have so many options available to us with new extensions coming on, we could even choose .guru or .pub. Time will reveal how successful some of these domain name extensions are. However, there is still big power in a well-recognised extension like a .com or .com.au because it portrays a level of trust to the customer and can therefore help influence buying decisions.

By far the most common question we ask ourselves here in Australia is the old .com.au vs. .com predicament. Literally anyone can register a .com, making it far easier to get started. It may be your preferred option if you want to take your business to the global Internet markets. However if your strategy involves having a really strong local presence here in Australia, then a .com.au can really help to convey that trust and in turn make it more comforting for customers’ to make that purchase through your online store.

Q2. Are there any traps to avoid when picking a domain name?

There are plenty of traps to avoid when picking a domain name. Some of which we may not recognise until some months or even years later. After all, we will be building a business on the foundations of our name and all that it represents. Into the future our business might change direction, and this could cause our domain to lose some relevancy. This may not be easy to pre-empt, however – there are some common issues that we can avoid without learning all our lessons the hard way.

In general:

  • Avoid infringing on any trademarks. This could lead to losing the domain.
  • Don’t register a name for illegitimate purposes or fraud. Check auDA policies.
  • Don’t forget to renew your domain name. Turn on the auto-renew feature.
  • Refrain from using hyphens such as torquay-design.com.au.
  • Leave out sales speak such as “cheapest” or “award winning” from your name.
  • Be careful not to use a trendy buzzword, or an expected future fad that may not happen.
  • Don’t use confusing plurals. For example TorquaysDesign.com.au is questionable.
  • Double-check your spelling. Don’t (mistakenly or purposely) register a typo domain.

Q3. What options are available for buying a domain name?

When it comes to buying a domain name there are plenty of options available. Let’s assume we have checked the availability of our perfect domain name and it is available, then we can just go ahead and register the name. Use a good quality registrar rather than base your purchase on the cheapest pricing.

What if your desired name is already taken?

Firstly: be patient. Resist the urge to compromise and register something that you know is not the best representation of your business. Keep brainstorming ideas and tweaking your business name to suit. It will be worth it.

Secondly, the desired name may be available for purchase privately or via a marketplace. It may cost a little more, or a lot more depending how highly the domain is valued. This is because premium domain names can often fetch a high price tag, and are often valued according to their desirability, business value and revenue earning potential. Some entrepreneurs’ have based their entire fortunes on domain name investing, buying and selling these premium domains.

A premium domain name could make a huge difference to your bottom line. One such example is when Beep.com.au purchased the premium name CarLoan.com.au for $200,000. Reported revenue went up from $60m to $100m, that’s a $40m gain, obtained while reducing marketing spend. The business owner Shaun McGowan attributed the mind-blowing uplift in revenue to just one factor: purchasing that premium domain name.

Sure we can’t all go outlay a neat little $200k for our start-up business’s domain name. We may not need to either. There may still be other names suitable and available for purchase. Often times these names may be currently held by an entrepreneur who has business plans for the name. Or someone may have already started a business that did not work out. If the value of their domain name is recognised by its owner, they might try to sell it privately or through a domain name marketplace.

So what if our selected domain name is taken but is not for sale?

What to do in the case where we have decided on our perfect name, yet it is not available to register, and it is not up for sale? There may yet be another way to acquire your desired name; it involves understanding what happens when a domain name expires. Every day thousands of domains expire because their owners have no further use for them. The business possibly has stopped operating and the domain intentionally or unintentionally left to expire, or otherwise ‘drop’.

In these cases we can make use of a drop catching service on which the expiring names are put forward for auction and we can bid on a name that takes our fancy. This may be a good way for us to secure a suitable domain name. Of course there are still policies and rules governing which expiring names we can purchase. So we still need to be mindful that legitimate domain owners really do sometimes forgot to renew their domains. That means we need to take care not to snap up a domain name that is trademarked or has other usage rights already in place by a known business.

Tips for buying names through a drop catching service:

  • As before, don’t compromise and settle for what is less than terrific.
  • Don’t bid above what you can afford, set a limit. Good names can go for a fortune.
  • Remain calm; don’t get emotional when the bidding for your perfect name is closing.
  • Research and brainstorm again, to make sure it is really the name you want.
  • Decide on your preferred extension. Is com.au best for you?
  • Research to make sure the dropping name is not trademarked by another business.

Q4. What resources would you recommend for further information on picking the best domain name?

It certainly helps to be in the know if we want to bag that elusive name that we are seeking. As with most things tech, it can become a pretty involved process. It may require further learning and it can be helpful to connect with a community where people already have the knowledge to share, such as DNTrade. Several popular tools are available on this community platform to help with searching availability and listing expiring domains, and other tools.

Another very well known marketplace is Flippa , which often has lots of domains for sale. Also, there are plenty of domain name registrars, but be aware that not all registrars are created equal.   I would recommend considering  DomainShield  or VentraIP.

Alternatively, if you are looking to find an expiring domain that is perfect for your business then you will need to use Netfleet or Drop as they are currently the only two commercial drop catching services operating in Australia.

Finally, it is very important to make sure we understand the legalities and policies involved in regards to domain names.  The governing body that has been put in place for our protection is the .au Domain Administration LTD.

In conclusion, finding that perfect domain name can be a daunting process, but it is a very worthwhile and rewarding journey. Having a nice short, easy to spell and easy to remember domain name that takes into account the key tips we have discussed above, is bound to give your business the kick start it needs and deserves.

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What about you?  What was your experience like picking your domain name? Do you have any additional tips or comment you would like to share?

 

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