We are often asked for advice on picking a domain name when someone wants to setup a website. In this post we'll look at some of the things to consider when finding that perfect domain name for your new website.
First things first, in case you don't know what a domain name is, it is the address of the website that you see in the browser's navigation bar. For example our domain name is www.webfuel.com. All websites need a domain name so that people have an address to remember them by. The domain name is also used in your email address (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
So how do you pick a great domain name for a new business or website? Let's look at some factors one by one.
This is the first thing to find out. Many millions of domain names have already been registered, particulary on the popular top-level-domains (TLDs) such as .com and .co.uk. However there are still many gems to be found, and you can always get a domain name on a different TLD (e.g. .business, .help, .net, .co). More and more sites are moving away from the common TLDs like .com precisely because they want to pick a website name that is no longer available there.
If your website is successful your domain name will get used a lot. You'll have it printed on stationary and business cards. You'll be telling people your email address over the phone. People will be writing your website address down. So picking a relatively snappy, easy to remember, and easy to read domain name is important. Having to constantly spell your 40 character long domain name to people over the phone is going to get very tedious, very fast.
A domain name can be great for SEO. If you can get your keywords into the domain name that can give your search engine rankings a big boost for those keywords. However with all things SEO it's important not to get too hung up on one aspect of SEO, and it's equally important all your content and any off site SEO work is also driving towards the same SEO goals.
Some websites use www at the start of their domain name, some do not. At Webfuel we would always recommend starting with www. There are strong technical reasons built into the domain name standards for this, to do with how website addresses are redirected. There are workarounds but using them can limit your hosting options. However if you really want to shave 4 characters off the website address and you think the site looks better that way then dropping the www is always an option.
Note that whether to start your website with www or not is not strictly to do with choosing the domain name. You will always register the domain name without www. You are then free to put websites on any "sub-domain" of your domain (www.my-domain.com is a sub-domain of my-domain.com). You essentially own any web address that ends with your domain name.
If your business is really successful, you may want to register related domain names too. This would prevent any competitors putting sites on domain names very similar to your own. Obviously there is a limit to this, you can't buy hundreds of domain names. But for example if you register a .co.uk you may also want to register the same domain on .com and perhaps .co if they are available. If you register a domain with hyphens and the un-hyphenated version is available you may want to get that. One way to think about this is if you read your domain name to someone and they slightly mis-remember it, how would they be likely to type it into a browser.
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