Registering a domain name for a new website is much like buying a storefront for a new business. Just as poor location planning can ruin even the best of businesses, a website with the wrong domain will never be successful. By following a few simple rules, however, you too can be the owner of a domain that not only looks professional, but also keeps visitors coming back to your site time and time again.
1. Always Register a .Com or Country Domain
Unless you want to be number two in your industry, never settle for anything other than a .com. These domains are easier to remember and more professional. Users will be much more likely to trust ToyCity.co.uk over ToyCity.info. When people are unsure of a website’s domain extension, their first instinct is always .com. Hence, if you’re site is located at HollywoodComputers.net, you will likely lose some of your traffic to HollyWoodComputers.com.
If you plan on conducting business in a specific locale, you may be better off with a domain specific to that country. For instance, Andorrans looking to buy a camera locally would probably feel more comfortable with CameraShop.ad instead of CameraShop.com.
2. Register the Domain Yourself
If you outsource your website design, a firm may offer to register the domain for you. Because the domain is what users rely on to get to your website, it is more valuable than any design work a third party might do. With this in mind, why would you let someone else have control over it? Register the domain yourself and make sure it stays in your name. In the event there is a dispute with your web designer, do you really want him or her to have ownership of your domain?
Many web hosts also do something similar where they will give you a domain for free if you sign up for a hosting plan. Approach these offers with caution. Most of these hosts stipulate that if you cancel your hosting, you also lose the domain.
3. Keep it Simple
In order to maintain high visitor return rates, make sure your domain name easy to remember. The fewer syllables, the better. As a rule of thumb, I keep all my domain registrations to two words or less.
There are some exceptions. If I owned a well known car dealer called Dover Auto Express, it would be in my best interest to use DoverAutoExpress.co.uk. Other good choices would be DoverAutos.co.uk or even AutoExpress.co.uk, but since many locals would already be familar with my business name, DoverAutoExpress.co.uk would be best. Businesses with names longer than three words should look into a shorter alternative. I would never think to create a site with the name KramerSmithFosterConsulting.com, but might consider KSFconsulting.com or register a domain with my city name in it, such as TorontoConsulting.com.
Back in the early days of the web, it used to be trendy to register domains with dashes. Instead of purchasing LondonBridge.com or IrelandTravelTours.com, people would opt for London-Bridge.com and Ireland-Travel-Tours.com. Today, domains with dashes are often used by spammers and are considered less professional in general. Use them only as a last resort.
4. Choose Singular Over Plural
When faced with a choice between a singular or plural domain, always pick the singular one. Plural domains, while still very good, are considered less attractive by domain professionals and singular words are thought to be easier to remember. Would a computer shopper’s first instinct be to visit Computer.com, or Computers.com?
5. Check it Once, Check it Twice, Check it Three Times
Once you think you have found the right domain for your website, take a few days and think your decision over. Get a few people together and see what they think of your choice. See how the name looks in logos and letter headings. The best domain ideas come after days or even weeks of thinking. A night at the bar with your friends after you’ve had three drinks is probably not the time for exploring possibilities.
When the popular Q&A site Experts-Exchange launched in 1996, it originally used the name expertsexchange.com. Many web users read this as “Expert Sex Change.” Soon after, the owner moved the site to experts-exchange.com. Maybe he should have thought his site name over more before setting it up.