(Image by chrisdlugosz)
Importance of the Domain Name
The next crucial step is the selection of the domain name. Why is a domain name important?
- You are ranked higher in the search engine rankings (SERP) if the domain name has your keywords in it
- People would remember the domain name if it is short and made up of simple words
- The domain name can evolve as your brand name once your blog is successful
- A good domain name inspires trust in readers
All the above points are crucial in the success of your blog and earning money from it, so it makes a lot of sense to get the domain name right.
Keywords in the domain name
Although Google evaluates your blog on 200+ factors for inclusion in its search results for a keyword, the consensus is that having the keywords in the domain name is one of the most important factors. So try to have your primary keyword in your domain name.
If you can find a domain name consisting of just your keyword, great! You can be almost certain to get top position in search engine results for the keyword provided you have some reasonable quality content.
If you are not that lucky, try adding a prefix – some commonly used prefixes are:
- e (Example: eweightlossguide)
- top (Example: topweightlossguide)
- my (Example: myweightlossguide)
- your (Example: yourweightlossguide)
- the (Example: theweightlossguide)
Alternatively, you can try a suffix:
- online (Example: weightlossguideonline)
- shop (Example: weightlossguideshop or gymequipmentshop)
- store (Example: weightlossguidestore or gymequipmentstore)
- foryou (Example: weightlossguideforyou)
If even these variations are not available, try slight variations or synonyms for one of the words in your keyword phrase. For example, you can try weightlosscoach, weightlosshelp or weightlosshelper.
There are many online keyword suggestion tools available that would help you find the domain name for your keywords.
You can also use GoDaddy.com to generate domain name ideas – the added advantage is that you can straightaway register the domain name once you find something that you like!
Country specific or generic domain name extension
Should you go in for a country specific domain name (say weightlossguideonline.co.uk), or a generic domain name (say weightlossguideonline.com)?
This depends entirely on the readers you are targeting – if you are writing country-specific content and are looking for readers only from that country, you should go in for a country specific domain name. That way,
- You can get search engine optimization benefits – Local search engines would send more traffic from that region
- Your blog would inspire more confidence in the readers from that region
If you are writing about a more general topic instead and are looking for readers from all over the world, it is best to opt for a non-country-specific domain name.
Which extension – .com, .org, .net, .biz and others (Top Level Domain / TLD)
What about the extension (also called the Top Level Domain or the TLD)? Should you choose the most widely used .com, the other popular extensions like .org or .net, or one of the newer extensions like .biz or .info?
First preference for domain name extension .com
- It has the most weightage in the eyes of search engines
- It is easier to remember – most people assume the extension to be a .com
- Browsers also help in making .com the default choice – most browsers automate the task of typing “www.” and “.com” in the domain name through keyboard shortcuts
- This is the most used extension, so availability of a good domain name with a .com extension is difficult
- As an extension of the above point, you might have to add a prefix and / or a suffix to your keywords
- Also, you might end up with a long domain name
Second preference for domain name extension .org or .net
If you can’t get the .com extension, its best to go with .org or .net extensions. These are the oldest extensions (along with .com), and are respected more by people and search engines compared to the newer extensions.
Avoid .info, .biz and other newer extensions
It is best to avoid the other extensions, especially the newer extensions. This is because they do not carry much authority on the eyes of both search engines and readers. Even if you get a good ranking in search engine result pages, people might not click your link seeing one of these extensions!
The frequent sales (like $1.99 a year) for some of these newer extensions has only helped in furthering this impression – many low quality blogs and websites have sprung up just because the domain names are cheap, thus hurting the reputation of these extensions further.
Hyphens in the domain name
Should you have a hyphen (or a dash) in the domain name? What if weightlossguide.com is not available, but weightloss-guide.com is?
As a rule of thumb, you should avoid having hyphens in the domain name, again because of the trust factor – search engines and people do not trust domains with a hyphen in them (because of the spammy sites that usually use such domain names).
If you must, it might be fine to have a domain name with 1 hyphen. But anything more than that is best avoided.
Numbers in the domain name
Numbers in the domain name don’t impact the search engine rankings, but might be confusing for people. For example, weightlossguide4you.com might sound cool, but when someone talks about it, people would be confused whether it is weightlossguide4you.com or weightlossguideforyou.com! For this reason, numbers in the domain name are best avoided.
But if your brand or business name has numbers in it, you can definitely have numbers in the domain name. Good examples are 1800flowers.com 123greetings.com.
Length of the domain name
Again, this is not something that would have any major impact on your search engine ranking. But it impacts people. So shorter domain names are generally better than longer domain names.
Advantages of a short domain name
- A shorter name is easy to remember
- A shorter name feels more professional (say topweightlossguideonline.com vs weightlossguide.com)
- A shorter domain name helps in better branding – It is easier to put in your promotions (especially offline promotions like print advertisements & brochures) and your business card
- It helps in offline to online conversions – People can read your advertisement in a magazine and easily open your website on their computers
However, it might not always be possible to get a short domain name – especially with a popular extension like .com. So, it is acceptable to go in for longer domain names – especially if the words in the domain name are well known, dictionary words (and not words like family names that might figure in the domain names of many privately held firms).
Brandable domain names or domain with your name
A brandable domain name is one that doesn’t have keywords in it – the domain name is easy to remember and can become a brand in itself. Some popular examples are BoingBoing.net, Google.com and Yahoo.com.
You can have a brandable domain name or a domain name made up of your first and last name, but please keep in mind that drawing search engine traffic to to your blog would take a lot more effort in this case compared to a keyword rich domain name.
Previously used domain names
People register domain names, use them for a blog or website and might abandon or close the site after some time. When the domain name expires, it can become available to you – without you knowing that it has been previously used.
What are the implications of this? If the earlier use of the domain name was spammy or improper, the domain name might be blacklisted at search engines like Google and Bing. If you use this domain name, it would take considerable effort to convince the search engines that the blog or website is legit now!
Therefore, please try and find out if the domain name has been previously used. And if it has been, what kind of a site was run using that domain name.
You can do this using the Wayback Machine – this is a free tool that shows you how a site looked in the past. So if the domain name was used earlier, versions of the site running on that domain name would show up and you can see for yourself if it was spammy.
How I chose my domain name
My primary keyword is “WordPress How To”, and you can see it in the domain name of this blog.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a domain name with just the keyword phrase (WordPressHowTo). I might have gotten a shorter domain name had I chosen to use synonyms, but I wanted the actual phrase. So, I added a prefix and a suffix to arrive at “TheWordPressHowToBlog”. My audience is people around the world, so I went with the .com extension.
And that’s how we have the domain name TheWordPressHowToBlog.com for this blog!
Resources you can use
Market Samurai is an excellent tool you can use for keyword research and for finding the right domain name that can draw a lot of search engine traffic. Best of all, you can get a fully functional trial version completely free! So you can get the trial version of Market Samurai, do your keyword analysis, select the domain name and never pay for it – it would be completely FREE!
GoDaddy.com has a great domain name suggestion tool. You can put in your primary keyword in it, and it would generate domain name ideas for you. It would also tell you whether the domain name is available or not – which means you can grab it immediately before someone else does it!
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