Choosing the perfect domain name for your website is like choosing the perfect name for your first child. Sound over-dramatic? Well, considering you could spend longer growing that site than you would spend growing a child, it’s not.
Yes, in the past here at MakeUseOf, we’ve discussed everything to do with building a website, everything from avoiding common SEO mistakes and launching a site using free website services, to launching an online store. We’ve also talked about domain names before, including how to use domain name search tools that might help, and how to make sure you get a good deal when you’re selling a domain name.
What gives your domain value starts from the day that you come up with its name. The domain name needs to be created around words that will draw in traffic, clever enough to generate intrigue and interest around the Internet, and creative enough to spark interest when it’s mentioned in conversation off the web.
The following are a few tips you can use to choose a domain name for your website, which will increase its likelihood of success.
A Website By Any Other Name
So you have an awesome website idea. Maybe it’s an online store unlike any other that has come before it. Maybe it’s a blog that offers unique content never seen before. No matter what the purpose of your website is, the name is going to form its identity both on and off the web. This is why it’s so important to get the domain name right. Shakespeare once wrote that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. For sure, your website under any other domain name would still be just as amazing, but would anyone ever notice?
A domain name is like a billboard along the highway that announces in just a simple word or phrase, exactly what it is your site offers. Is that billboard going to be bland or grand? That’s completely up to you.
There are 5 elements of a website domain name that will make or break it. You’ll hear bits and pieces about this throughout the Internet, but you’ll rarely read it all on one place. I plan to lay out those 5 elements here, and then provide you with the tools you’ll need to accomplish each of those things to come up with the best domain for your purpose. Those 5 elements are the following:
- Traffic: How many people are searching for the target words or phrase?
- Memorable: How hard is it to remember the domain?
- Easy: Can your 90 year old grandmother get there?
- Eye-Catching: When people see your domain name, will it tempt them to click?
- Relevant: Do the words in your domain accurately describe the site?
If you take any of these for granted, or don’t give them much thought, it could very well come back to bite you down the road.
Why Keywords and Traffic Matters
Recently, Aaron listed some good resources for doing some effective keyword research. Why is this important? Well, despite a recent backlash by many website owners to give up entirely on SEO keyword research following the last batch of Google algorithm updates in 2012 and 2013, the truth is that keyword research continues to provide website owners with a competitive advantage. I described in my article on how not to become a content mill, how Matt Cutts himself mentioned noticing that many more website owners are now failing to even use keywords at all in their website considerations.
The fact remains that if you don’t mention the phrase or topic that people are searching for using the search engine, it’s like putting up a roadside lemonade stand along a deserted road in the middle of the desert.
You could have the best-tasting lemonade in the world, yet your little business will completely fail, because you didn’t do your homework and didn’t place yourself where there are lots of eyes to see your awesome business. Do the keyword research. Identify what words people are using to search for the topics that you’ll be covering with your website. And take those keywords into account when you are coming up with the domain name for your website.
Making Your Domain Memorable and Easy
If you want examples of what it means to have a “memorable” domain, all you have to do is check out Time Magazine’s list of the top 50 websites of 2012. Websites like IFTTT, TuneIn, Devour and Atari Arcade all made the cut. Checking out lists of top websites across the Internet is an excellent way to get ideas for what may work in your particular case and your own genre. One thing you may notice from the Time Magazine list is that most of the domain names are short and sweet, but they’re also catchy and easy to remember. IFTTT seems very strange at first, until you see the huge tagline of “If This Then That”.
For the type of people IFTTT targets — basically programmer/techie types that love to automate the things they do online — this is a perfect tagline that’s difficult to forget. I don’t always remember “IFTTT”, but when I want to remember the domain name, I always remember “IfThisThenThat”, and I can type in “IFTTT.com” into my browser without the need to Google it.
A memorable domain name is:
- Usually fairly short.
- Made up of simple words or a phrase that people in your genre will remember.
- Not necessarily an English word. Ebay and Pinterest were hardly known words before becoming popular.
Yes, it’s okay to combine words. Electronic Bay (eBay) and a Pinboard of your Interest (Pinterest) are two great examples.
There are lots of domain name generators out there, but five great ones that are very good at developing short and memorable domain names from existing words or phrases include Domainr, Bustaname, Impossibility, NameMesh or Dot-o-mator.
An Eye-Catching and Relevant Domain Name
To being short and easy to remember, a great domain name should be something that catches the eye and makes it very difficult for people to resist clicking. For example, Oddee.com is a site about odd and weird news from around the web. The word isn’t English, but it’s obvious what the site is about at a glance. It’s unusual spelling catches the eye. Another example is SpoiledPhotos.com. If you’ve spent much time on Facebook, then you’ve probably spotted some shares from this popular site filled with user-provided photos of pictures that were ruined in one way or another (really funny, by the way).
Examples of memorable domain names include Fark.com – a domain that at first glance comes across like a four-letter word. Of course, it’s a website filled with really funny news stories. Or what about PopCap.com, one of the most popular online gaming sites on the Internet? All short, unique, snappy domain names that make you feel like clicking and checking them out if you’re at all interested in the type of content that they serve.
As you can see, the words that make up these popular domain names make sense because they are relevant to the topic at hand. SpoiledPhotos.com is a perfect example. Pinterest is another. Even Fark, a seemingly irrelevant and meaningless word, indirectly applies to crazy and unusual news stories because the word itself is crazy and unusual.
Start Tossing Names Around
Ready to start brainstorming new domain names that may work for your site? If you’ve finished your keyword research, then jump into the domain name generators mentioned above. A few more that might help combine terms together include online domain name generators like Panabee, Domain Puzzler, or NameStation. Generate some ideas with these online tools, pass them around to your friends and family, and see what kind of reaction you get. You may be surprised how people respond to the unique words you come up with using these tools, and those reactions can help you develop a domain name that gets the same reaction from the online community — which can serve as a major catalyst to your long-term success.