How to Choose a Domain Name: 7 Most Important Characteristics

Lot of people say that domain names should be search engine friendly or easy to optimize or so they say – pick a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) friendly domain name.

However, I would say, pick a domain name which is “Visitor Friendly” not “Search Engine Friendly”. If your domain name is user friendly, then sooner or later search engines will notice that and it will help your SEO.

Before you pick a domain name you have to accept a few facts about your target audience, who are your potential website visitors–

  1. Most website visitors will come from different search engines and many of them do not use bookmarks.
  2. Internet users will try to memorize the website name.
  3. The extension “.com”, is what most internet users tend to think of when they try to remember a website or a domain name.

7 Major Criteria of a Good Domain Name

  1. .com Extension
  2. Short
  3. Memorable
  4. Difficult to misspell
  5. Descriptive or Brandable
  6. Avoid Number
  7. Avoid Hyphen

Characteristics of Good Domain Name

1. “.com” Extension

Experts on domain names believe that a domain name should be short and “easy to remember, fulfilling the most important criteria for a ‘domain name’. In my honest opinion “.com” domain extension should be the first and most important factor to consider before choosing a domain name for a serious website or blog.

Habitually, visitors come to your website through the search engines. Pay attention to your website’s content or service and barely care about your domain name. But, when they find your website useful only then they take a look at your domain name.

However, they usually do not pay attention to your domain name’s extension or TLD (Top Level Domain). And the fact is that a lot of internet users do not use bookmarks and try to memorize the domain/website name. The .com is already stuck in their mind (for them, domain name means .com) so “.com” is the extension most visitors think of when they try to remember your website or domain name.

In addition to this, many people do not type the domain names with the extensions. They prefer to use the website name and hit Ctrl+Enter as this process automatically inserts a .com extension at the end of the domain name and takes them to the website. So, if you don’t pick a “.com” extension then there is a big chance of losing a good number of your visitors.

Educational institutes might choose “.edu” extension as EDU stands for education. Non-profit organizations might use “.org” extension. Companies or businesses/services targeting a certain demographic might choose local or country code top level domains (cctlds) like; .co.uk, .us, .de and etc. But, “.com” domain extensions are always the best and should be the first choice for anyone.

Moreover, resell value of “.com” domain names are always higher than other ggtlds or cctlds. In the year of 2008 “Fund.com” sold at $9,999,950 and the previous year (2007) “Fund.info” sold at only $15,000. “Weights.com” sold for $32,000 whereas “Weights.co.uk” for $9,981 and there are many examples where “.com” enjoyed much better resell value than the other TLDs or extensions.

2. Short

For me “short” is the second most important factor of a good domain name. Till the end of 1999 maximum of 23 characters were allowed within a domain name label (label means domain name separated by dots e.g. – www.label.com). But, now you can register a domain name with up to 63 characters. Example of a domain name with the maximum characters (in label) is www.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.com – there are in total 63 “x”s within this domain name label. And the maximum of 255 characters are allowed in a domain name including the delimiting dots.

However all good domain names are short. Although, there is no rule or guideline but shorter is always better. And people know (or knew) short domains are important and valuable and this is the reason all 2 letter, 3 letter and 4 letter “.com” domain names are already registered and their resell value is very high. In addition to this, many 5 letter domain names are still available and pronounceable or brandable. 5 letter domain names are also becoming unavailable very quickly.

Many experts prefer to buy a domain name with a maximum of 20 characters. They also suggest to use no more than three words in a domain name. One word domain names (like – www.coffee.com or www.color.com) are best and quite difficult to find (an available one) since 99.99% of one word (or dictionary word domains) domain names are already taken and dictionary word domain names are very expensive nowadays. Two word domain names such as – www.BestCoffee.com or www.BlueColor.com are great and very popular nowadays also three word domain names such as – “www.BestCoffeeShop.com” or “www.DarkBlueColor.com” are all good to go, but do not go for more than three words (like – www.FloridaBestCoffeeShop.com or www.TheDarkBlueColor.com).

Short domain names are always easier to remember. Hence, by selecting a shorter domain name you are basically helping your visitors to remember and type your domain name in their browsers. Short domain names are easier for your visitors to tell others about your website. And this is where our domain name generator tool is a very handy online application, as it can generate thousands of two words short domain names within minutes.

3. Memorable

As I said most internet users do not use bookmarks and try to memorize domain names and in fact, this is the most important factor/issue to consider before selecting a domain name. You should choose a name that can be easily remembered (for those who do not use bookmarks and try to memorize domain names). You always need to pick a domain name keeping those visitors (and their habits) in your mind.

And that is why you need to select a short, pronounceable as well as memorable domain name. Say your domain name is – “hxwzd.com” which is short (5 letters) but very difficult to pronounce and memorize. Your visitors are going to forget the name soon as it will be very difficult for them to remember. You better select “havana.com” (6 letters) which is also short, pronounceable but very easy to remember.

4. Difficult To Misspell

Experts say a good domain name should be “easy to spell” but I prefer to say a good domain name should be “difficult to misspell”. Always aim for a domain name that is difficult to misspell and try to avoid confusing or use strange spelling.

“NameCentre.com” meets our other three criteria (.com, short and easy to remember), but the word Centre is confusing to spell. Lots of people are going to write or memorize it as “Center” and in that case those visitors are going to visit “NameCenter.com” and not your website which is “NameCentre.com”.

Another example is “Peento.com”. Most of your visitors will remember your website name as “Pento.com” that double “ee”, will create a problem for you. Even Google bought “gogle.com” and redirected it to “Google.com” which indicates they had this problem too.

Also if possible try to make your domain name easy to type. Usually “z, x, q, p” letters are difficult to type using a keyboard. So if it is possible try to keep the spelling simple and easy.

5a. Descriptive

A descriptive domain name gives web surfers an idea of what a website is all about even before they visit the website. These kind of domains are also known as “keyword rich” domains. Search Engine Optimization gurus always prefer to pick “keyword rich” domain names. They say – your domain name should contain your most important keyword (word that describes your website/business/service). And statistics show keywords in domain names help to increase Click-Through-Rate (CTR).

Some SEO experts believe search engines rank “keyword rich” domain names higher than other domain names. But, personally I do not agree with them (although I am not a SEO expert). I do not think domain name has anything to do with search rank or SERP (Search Engine Results Page) after recent search engine algorithms (panda and penguin) update . I rather believe quality (with other SEO factors) of a website determines the rank or SERP of that website.

5b. (Or) Brandable

Brandable domain names are usually catchy, short, pronounceable made-up words. However, an exact match domain name or keyword rich domain name can be a very brandable name as well. But, usually a brandable domain name sounds like a word but actually a word with no dictionary meaning. “www.jimdo.com” is a great example of this kind of domain name. Jimdo is very popular among website developers and bloggers and the word “jimdo” is a short, catchy and pronounceable made-up word with no dictionary meaning but, it sounds like a word. You can find thousands of short, catchy and pronounceable domain names like jimdo on this unique brandable domain names page.

A descriptive brandable domain name is a made-up word using the main keyword. “www.domaining.com” is a perfect example of descriptive brandable domain name. “Domaining” (domain+ing) sounds like a word but actually it has no dictionary meaning but this name contains the keyword “domain” which makes this name a descriptive and brandable name. You can create this kind of domain name using the brand name generator tool. Or just read our – How To Choose A Brand Name.

Personally I prefer this type (brandable or descriptive brandable) of domain name as I believe Google loves branding.

6. Avoid Number

There are thousands of popular websites out there with a number in their domain name. “www.1and1.com” is a great example of this kind of domain name. “1and1” is a very famous domain registrar but many people can get confused with the number “1” and may type “oneandone.com” and interestingly if you try to type “OneAndOne.com”. You will find “oneandone.com” redirects to “1and1.com”. This means “1and1.com” avoid visitors leaking and bought “oneandone.com” to redirected it to their main website.

“Top2Bottom.com” is a great domain name, but many people will forget that “2”and will remember it as “toptobottom.com” some may even try to access the website by typing “toptwobottom.com/topbuttom.com/twobuttom.com”.

Numbers will always confuse people and are easy to forget. How many mobile/landline phone numbers can you really remember? So, you better try to stay away from number(s) in a domain name if possible.

7. Avoid Hyphen

There are many popular websites with a hyphen in their domain name. “www.theme-junkie.com” is a very popular WordPress theme website with a hyphenate domain name. Even some popular websites have two or three hyphens in their domain names.

“my-domain.com” meets our other important domain criteria (.com, short, memorable, difficult to misspell & descriptive) but many visitors of this site will forget the hyphen and will remember the name as “mydomain.com”. Many visitors will type “mydomain.com” in the browser and therefore, visit “mydomain.com” instead of “my-domain.com”.

“t-mobile.com” is a very popular website for cell phones, but they had to buy the domain name “tmobile.com” and redirected “tmobile.com” to their “t-mobile.com” website. This indicates that “t-mobile.com” had a leaking problem for their hyphen and to get rid of that issue they bought “tmobile.com” and redirected it to “t-mobile.com”.

Some say – hyphenate domain looks cheap. Even in a survey a good number of internet surfers said – they were not comfortable visiting a hyphenated domain name website. So it is always a smart decision not to pick a hyphenate domain name.

Some Minor Criteria

  1. Sociable
  2. Not Your Name
  3. Singular & Plural
  4. Other Extensions
  5.  No Copyright Issues

1. Sociable

If possible try to make sure that your domain name is sociable in networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and etc. Say your domain name is “BeautifulDesign.com” then make sure twitter.com/BeautifulDesign is also available.

2. Not Your Name

Though some people prefer to use their name as a domain name, but personally I would suggest not to go with your name unless you are a celebrity or your name is short, memorable and easy to remember. 

3. Singular & Plural (if Applicable)

“BlueCar.com” is not available but “BlueCars.com” is available – Do Not go for “BlueCars.com” for a serious website. Also do not buy “BlueCar.com” if “BlueCars.com” is not available. “If BlueCar.com” and “BlueCars.com” are free then buy both (if possible) and redirect one.

4. Other Extensions

If possible then make sure other gTLD (generic Top Level Domain) like – .net, .org, .info, .biz etc are also available for your domain name. And buy all gTLD (if possible) for an important website to avoid leaking in the near future.

5. No Copyright Issues

You do not want to get into trouble with your domain name so make sure your domain name does not have any copyright issue.

Conclusion

Don’t be frustrated if your current website name does not fulfill all those criteria. Even my website name NameStall does not have all the characteristics of a good domain name. NameStall is not easy to spell as double “ll” is hard for some people to remember even I find many people visit my site typing “namestol.com”. But I console myself saying that “Google Has Same Problem”. Picking a domain name with all criteria is pretty tough, but we need to try our best.

Anyway, try to choose a domain name for your audience, not for yourself. However, you must like your domain name so that you can promote it with all your heart. I wish the best of luck to all of you looking for the perfect domain name.

Ryan

Ryan Shyan is a web enthusiast who loves to develop interesting and unique web tools and applications and leaves in Australia. He is also an SEO expert and loves to write about latest web applications and SEO techniques and has published articles in many different journals and article directories. He is also the founder of NameStall.com.

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6 Responses

  1. Java says:

    awesome article man. i was looking for a domain name using your domain generator but reading this article i probably will search for a short brandable name. thanks you for this post.

  2. Riki says:

    ryan it is a great article. very informative and useful for newbies. but i still prefer EMDs and think they are still valuable and have lot of SEO importance. i always try EDM first then keyword-rich. EDMs are always great and will be great no matter what google does.

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Riki, i do agree with you Exact Match Domains are still valuable/expensive and have great SEO value. But i personally think after panda penguin, EMDs lost some glory. i am sure you know better than me but just for reference please watch this 2 years old video by Matt Cutts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAWFv43qubI

  3. Nil John says:

    i never typed gogle.com always typed google.com. but i am really excited to find out gogle.com is redirected google.com. i didn’t know that. interesting

  4. chwilowki says:

    You made several nice points there. I did a search on the subject matter and found most persons will agree with your blog.

  5. chris says:

    The article above was amazing. I think its important to choose short, catchy and cool company name for your organization.

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