10th Jan 2013
What is a Good Domain Name?
Domain names are the real estate of the Internet. Just as a good location is vital for a bricks and mortar business, a good domain name will be the corner stone of your website’s success. It is also good advice to purchase more than one domain name. But how do you identify a good domain name?
7 characteristics of good domain names:
1. Good Domain Names are descriptive
Many visitors will come to your site through the search engines and via direct links on other websites. That is, they will come if the domain name they see promises to be appealing.
Having a descriptive domain name will give visitors an idea of what your site is about even before they enter it. If related keywords are present in the domain it might also help your search engine rankings.
Example: You would be able to guess what TelevisionGuides.co.nz is about even before visiting it right?
Put it in another way. Suppose you are searching for a movie review. You make a quick search in Google. The first result comes from MoviesCentral.com. The second result comes from MikesLair.com. Which one would you rather click?
2. Good Domain Names are short
Good domain names are short. It is not a coincidence that all the three-letter and four-letter .com domains are already taken, and that the five-letter ones are going fast as well.
There is no definite number of characters that you should aim for, just remember that the shorter is easy to remember. The maximum number of characters is 67. If you really need some guidance, try to keep it below 10 characters, and never exceed 20.
As for the number of words, one-word domains are gold, two-word names are good, three-word domains are average, and above that it is often a bad idea.
Example: websites.com is a superb domain and probably worth millions of dollars. FriendlyWeb.com is a good two-word domain worth thousands of dollars. FriendlyWebSites.com is an average domain and could be used for a website. FriendlyWebSiteDesign.com is plain worthless.
3. Good Domain Names are easy to remember
Many Internet users do not use bookmarks. They just memorize the domains of their favourite websites and type them whenever they want to visit one. Guess what, if your domain is complex and not easy to remember you will lose these visitors along the way.
Example: Brcwr.com is a short domain name, but is not easy to remember at all, so it would be a bad idea to use it for your website (unless the initials represent the name of a well known brand or a memorable message or acronym).
4. Great Domain Names are easy to spell
The last thing you want is visitors misspelling your domain and ending up somewhere else.
Avoid unusual foreign words, words that have complex pronunciation, strange combinations of letters, text language and anything else that might cause someone to misspell your address. Text language is memorable but not helpful as everyone spells txt lingo (text language) differently.
Example: The site gr8smile.co.nz is a memorable short domain name, but the spelling is difficult. Also, what do they do? If you are looking on Google for a dentist and gr8smile.co.nz came up on the search results would you ignore it and scroll down – even though gr8smile.co.nz is a great dentist. Wouldn’t DentalSolutions.co.nz be chosen first way before GreatSmile.co.nz?
Another example is common miss-spellings. Should you spell fibre as in fiberglass as: fiber or fibre? The correct spelling is fibreglass, but research shows that 43% of people spell it fiberglass, and your spell checker will even agree and accept both spellings. So we recommended our client Fibreconcepts buy both domains: Fibreconcepts.co.nz and Fiberconcepts.co.nz. This way their bases were covered and clients were not disappearing elsewhere
5. Effective Domain Names don’t contain hyphens, underscores or numbers
Domain names containing hyphens and numbers are cheaper for a reason. They suffer the same problem of domains not using a .co.nz extension or with complex spelling.
Underscores appear to disappear when there is an underline under a domain name. For instance: is Friendly and Web separated by a space or an underscore when displayed as: Friendly Web.co.nz ?
Consider Pizza-World.co.nz. The names that will stick in people’s mind are “pizza” and “world.” Many visitors will just forget the hyphen along the way. Eventually they will try to access your site by typing PizzaWorld.co.nz, in vain. It won’t work when the hyphen is missing. They may get frustrated and go to Pizza Hutt.
Numbers, on the other hand, will confuse people with the spelling. Suppose you registered a memorable short name like Web5.co.nz. Visitors might mix it with WebFive.co.nz, if they manage to remember the number in the first place!
Example: Coolest-Gadgets.com is an extremely popular gadget blog, with over 70,000 RSS subscribers. With such a huge readership you get people often typing the domain directly on the address bar; needless to say many of them would just forget to add the hyphen. The owner of the site bought CoolestGadgets.com afterwards to fix the problem.
6. Efficient Domain Names have an appropriate extension
Organizations might prefer to register a .org (dot org) domain, and companies targeting very specific geographical regions might want to register a local domain (e.g. .co.nz (dot co dot nz), or perhaps .org.nz (dot org dot nz) and so on).
Visitors coming to your site via search engines or organic links will pay attention mostly to the name and not to the URL. The next time they want to visit your site it is very likely that they will just type its name followed by a .co.nz. Guess what, if you are not there when they hit enter they may just go somewhere else.
7. Great Domain Names are brandable
A domain name that is able to be used as a brand name will have a nice pronunciation, an helpful combination of letters or simply an appealing visual effect. Sometimes they will not be descriptive, but they can be equally efficient.
Brandable domains will make your visitors associate the name with your website and its content. (Notice that brandable domains can be descriptive at the same time, but that is not always the case)
Example: Kotaku.com is one of the most popular gaming blogs on the Internet. The domain is not descriptive at all, but the brand is so strong that gamers immediately recognize it across the web.
Domain name thought
Do not get discouraged if your current domain doesn't have all seven characteristics; or if you can’t find a web site that does. These are just factors that you should consider when evaluating domain names. A solution could be to purchase more than one domain name, and re-direct the web traffic from the old url address to the new url address.
There are plenty of examples of popular websites with domain names that lack in one or two points covered on the above list. Even the domain "Google.com" doesn't explain what’s happening at first glance, until you realise that to 'google' at something is to look and search through it. Just make sure that your domain has most of the characteristics and you should be fine.
The rule of thumb – a domain name that is friendly for web visitors is best. Oh, you may benefit from owning more than one domain name url.
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