When it comes to starting a company in the digital age, one of the most important aspects of your marketing begins with the company website. And it all starts with the domain name. In case you didn’t already know what a domain name is, it’s the URL, the web address, the .com you see up there at the top of the browser. In the past, choosing a domain name was straightforward, but with all the variations on suffixes and the fact that so many domains are already taken, now you have to think ahead and plan.
A bit of theory on the importance of TLDs and whether you should care
TLD stands for “top-level domains”. Top-level domains are the “suffixes” that I mentioned above. So, for example, the TLDs in the following web addresses are bolded:
Do you remember the dot-com bubble? It featured the speculative buying and registering of domain names with the most generic and popular TLD, “.com”. Eventually the bubble burst in 2000, but now we’re seeing a new rush to register domain names with brand-new TLDs like .travel, .law, .business, .xxx and many more. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit that governs the internet’s domain name system, has a full list of available TLDs that you can see right here.
So here’s what you have to know. For SEO and brand identity on an international scale, it’s generally agreed that generic TLDs like .com are best. However, with hundreds of new TLDs and the planned release and sale of yet more, the shape of the internet may be changing. Therefore, companies are wondering, should I register my domain as a .com, or something else? Here’s some advice from an IP attorney on the matter. Or you could take a hint from Amazon, which recently spent a cool 10 million to register the TLD .book. It just goes to show how important these TLDs may become in the future.
Should you consider a country domain name?
Another option for your company would be to register a “ccTLD” (country-code top-level domain). If you have an e-commerce company, then you may have your sights on international business. However, if your market is national, then you should definitely register the country-code domain.
Let’s look at an example. A Spanish e-commerce website that sells soccer memorabilia for FC Barcelona should have the .es TLD; for example, FCtienda.es. This company should also register the .com, FCtienda.com, and redirect one to the other.
Why do you have to care about country-code TLDs? Well because it could impact your ranking on Google. Having a ccTLD means that Google will give your website more weight in your specific country, but until recently, caused problems with multinational companies by lowering their rankings internationally. However, Google announced a list of ccTLDs that will be treated as “generic” internationally. These “gccTLDs” will be country-code specific nationally but generic internationally so that your traffic doesn’t suffer.
Steps for choosing a domain name
Alright, so we’ve touched on some theory with TLDs, but let’s get down to the juicy meat of choosing the right domain name. Moz has a great list of 12 rules when choosing a domain name. We can cleave the important points from that article and others here:
- Don’t infringe other copyrights
- Include the main keyword if possible
- Or focus on branding and recognition
- Create a unique domain (this means research!)
- If you choose to have your main site on a non-dot-com TLD, get the .com anyway and redirect it
- Make the domain easy, memorable, and short
- Don’t use hyphens or numbers
- Make sure the domain is available and register it before you create all the website copy
Let’s address some of these steps a bit more thoroughly.
So, how long should a domain name be?
It depends on your sector, but as a reference, try to keep a domain name below 15 characters. A longer domain name makes it harder to recall, and it can really derail your marketing strategy.
Does a domain name need to have a keyword?
This depends entirely on your purposes. If your business is something novel, then perhaps a keyword is not necessary. If your marketing strategy banks on SEO, then including a keyword in the domain might be considered crucial by some SEO professionals. However, some studies have shown that including a keyword in the domain is not as beneficial in search engine results as they once were. But other studies show that despite Google penalizing exact-match URLs in SERPs, users still tend to click more on domains that include their query keywords. Conclusion: if you can combine a main keyword with a brandable domain, you’re in a very good position. If you need a bit of inspiration, check out this cool brandable domain name generator.
Acceptable characters to use in a domain name
It was once the case in the world of SEO that exact-match domain names that consisted of keywords separated by hyphens offered the best way to rank higher. Google updates have since changed this, and it no longer gives you an edge. What’s more, hyphens and numbers are more difficult to type (yeah, I know, it’s lame), but it’s the truth. Those few half-seconds really do count for internet searches!
The best domain names are timeless
To conclude this brief guide for choosing a good domain name for your website, just remember to steer clear of short-term trends, and choose something that will serve your company and brand for years to come. Be unique, be original, and above all be smart once your website gains traction, and buy up other relevant TLDs before the competition does.