With the number of registered domains exceeding the half a billion mark, finding your perfect domain can sometimes be like looking for a needle in a haystack but there's a good reason to keep searching until you find it. Securing the right domain is the first step to creating a successful web presence.
We'll cover some of the factors to consider when choosing your domain.
Hyphens in Domain Names
There are mixed opinions on using hyphens in domain names, so depending on where you've read up it can be hard to figure out whether they are a good or bad thing. We've listed both the advantages and disadvantages below, to help clear things up a bit.
If you are really set on a name that's unavailable, a hyphen can be a decent compromise.
A hyphen is read by search engines as a separator so it could actually help if the words in your name could be read as something else. We've all seen some of the funny faux pas, such as experts exchange, as one word.
You aren't penalised by including them by search engines, unlike with other symbols/special characters (such as underscores).
Hyphens can be forgotten, so not only will people forget to type it; it also reduces the chance of your website being spread by word of mouth.
Not everyone knows what a hyphen is (also referred to as a dash or minus sign).
More than one hyphen can look 'spammy'.
People are used to just typing a name/company into their browser.
Tips for Using Hyphens:
Do use them if you need to break up words, it's also worth having other people check the name over to see if they can catch something that you didn't.
As people may forget hyphens; you could potentially send your customers to your non-hyphenated competitor. Always check what the non-hyphenated site is for.
Use them sparingly, when keywords were more influential, many nuisance sites would cram content and domains with keywords, separated with hyphens, to earn top places in search results. Due to this many people will now avoid these sites.
'Exact match' domains and keyword domains no longer pack as hard a punch as they used to. Search engines soon twigged on to the influx of domains and sites that were crammed with keywords but contained very little quality content. To combat this, search engines have now shifted their focus to websites containing easy-to-read, quality content that are designed to be 'human-friendly'.
As it is, many keyword domains have already been registered, and often demand high prices if they are sold - mainly due to their limited supply and ability to catch 'direct type-in' traffic. If it's full of quality content as well, it's likely to rank slightly higher in a Google search than a site on a non-keyword domain with equal content.
Keyword domains can also give you a helping hand if you do have quality content. For example, if two sites existed with the same content and one was at tools.co.uk and the other was at tims-tools.co.uk, you would expect to see tools.co.uk appear higher in search results.
So don't make search engines your primary focus, take into account how people will read your domain.
Does Size Matter?
Domains can be anywhere from 3-67 characters long. A shorter domain is both easier to remember and type. If people can remember your domain, they are more likely to return to your site and potentially tell others about it. So all in all short names are better as long as the domain is still meaningful & relevant.
What to look out for:
There are a few things that could compromise the success of your domain; a few things to bear in mind are listed below:
Avoid using a hyphenated version of a well-known brand (or any variation for that matter) as not only does it look 'spammy', it could also lead to legal repercussions.
Using words that are hard to spell. Using commonly misspelled words may effect how many visitors get to your site; you want to make reaching your site as easy as possible.
Be careful when using numbers & special characters. They are hard to remember, type and pass on to others.
Odd spellings. For example, Flickr eventually acquired flicker as it was commonly misspelled. Before acquiring the name it was reported that Flicker.com was getting 3.6million unique visitors a year - most of which were actually looking to reach Flickr.
If you already have a company name and brand, having a domain that differs from it could confuse customers.
Acronyms as these can be hard to remember. However if the acronym is short or is your company name, this is likely to be fine.
Being too unique. Companies such as Amazon had a large amount of money available to promote their brand (the name Amazon previously didn't really provide much insight into what they were doing). If you are using a domain that it too unique and cannot be associated with you it could make you hard to find.
There are more domain types than just .com or .co.uk. However, many .com/.co.uk domains have already been snapped up, so the other domain types could provide you with some further options. You can always take a look to see which ones are still available, you may even decide you'd like to register the .info, .uk, .net etc. to protect your brand.
What to do next
Now that your equipped to go and find your perfect domain, try searching for it at GetDotted, where you'll be able to see what's available and what's been taken already.
If you find a domain you like that's available, be careful not to procrastinate too much, as if it's available and you wait too long, you run the risk of someone else registering it first. Registering a new domain is relatively inexpensive but can be a significant investment. Due to their ever decreasing availability, many domain names go up in value.
Once you've found and registered your perfect domain, make sure to keep on top of renewing it so that it doesn't expire. Otherwise it could end up back on the market - where someone else could buy your domain and benefit from all the hard work you put in to establishing your online presence.
It's also important to keep your details up to date - if you move house or change email address, you'll still need to receive vital communications regarding your domain. Registrant details are also used for verification purposes (domains can be suspended if they are not verified).