I know this has been frequently discussed by many websites, and some have excellent ideas too.
But the reason I felt it was necessary to discuss it again here on Applied’s blog is that things have changed a lot since the topic was last put under the microscope.
SEO has become more complex, keyword-focused domains become less valuable, and branding is ever more important for online businesses.
With all these changes, the rules of choosing a domain name have also evolved. If you are still going for old school ideas, you may choose a domain name that might not be of any help to you in the long run.
What you need a domain for?
This is a very important question, and as far as I know, most businesses never really ask it before buying a domain.
There are quite a few reasons people buy domains for. This includes buying a domain name for your main website, your micro website, or to redirect visitors to your main or micro sites.
If you are buying a domain name for your main brand, the aspects to consider will differ vastly from if you were buying a domain name for your micro website.
The domain name can have keywords and branded elements in it. But, if you are buying a domain name to redirect to your main or micro website, in most cases chances are that you will buy a keyword-based domain name so you can easily drive keyword related traffic to the main or micro website.
Once you know what you are buying the domain for, then you can set the rules accordingly.
In the rest of the post, I will discuss some generic rules and ideas that will tell you exactly what to consider when buying a domain name for each of the aforementioned categories.
Buy a domain for the main brand website:
Here’s what you should do.
This might sound funny, but when buying a domain name for your main website, just forget SEO and focus on branding and audience instead. Your domain name should represent what you do, the audience you want to target, and how you want to be recognized in the market.
If you do a quick search on Google for a money making keyword like ‘Web Design Services’, you will see that eight out of 10 websites do not have a keyword-matched domain name.
The idea is to focus on your audience when buying domain and come up with something that is easy to pronounce, read and remember.
Choose ccTLD wisely
The ccTLD is very important when you choose a brand website. Don’t just shift to .net, if .com is not available and so on. The idea is to understand your target persona, look into your business plan and see what geographical locations your business wants to target and then choose the ccTLD accordingly.
If your services are specific to a country like the UK, Canada, Australia choosing ccTLDs like .co.uk, .com.au and .ca are preferred over general TLDs. But if your targeted audience is general and you are providing services and products to customers around the world, this is where general TLDs like .com, .net, .biz come in.
Another benefit is that when Google will list the websites against a key phrase, they will give you higher rankings in Google UK as you contain country specific domains. Shopify is a good example here as it contains country specific domains for each of their prominent locations. So, if you access Shopify from Canada, you will see .ca and it will shift to .co.uk, if you are in the United Kingdom.
Make it easy for everyone
This is in continuity to point one. The idea is to make your domain name so easy that anyone can remember by looking at it only once. It should contain fewer words so that it’s easier for people to type, whether they are using smartphones to visit your site, or their desktops.
If you ask me about the domain names I found easy to remember and never mind typing on my smartphone, then these will be macys.com, business.com, moz.com and several others.
On the other hand, I won’t type chesterbrand.com, although I remember its name and this is because it takes time to type something like this and I always misspell it.
The idea is to have a domain name that is easy to remember, easy to type, and easy to spell all at the same time.
Reject hyphens and numbers
I am not only going with popular suggestions available online, but after looking into 10,000 different money making keywords in Google, I can say that hyphens and numbers should not be preferred in a domain name unless it’s part of your branding like 2checkout.com.
A single hyphen is fine if it is part of your branding, but multiple hyphens are simply a signal to Google that the domain name is suspicious. Also, if you keep users in mind, people avoid clicking on the domain with more than one hyphen.
To cut the long story short, do not go with numbers and hyphens in the domain name unless they are part of your branding or else you will see people will trust your domain less.
Buying a Domain name for a Microsite
Brands sometimes use microsites to drive traffic to the main site. For instance, if a fashion website offers products like clothing for men and women, fragrances, baby clothes and more, the website probably will have few micro sites that transfer traffic to the main website (specific sections). The idea is to drive traffic from different websites to the main website and convert those visitors into paying customers.
Ideally, microsites contain original content used to rank on long tail key phrases, collect traffic from search engine, and send it to the main website.
When choosing a domain name for the micro-site, consider following tips and tactics.
Keyword based domains are valuable
Keyword based domains are valuable – maybe not for the main website as usually it requires you to compromise on branding which isn’t really a very good idea as a business.
But, when choosing a domain name for a microsite, you are not really looking for branding here but what you are really looking for is a domain name that can easily grab user attention and rankings.
There are lot of other factors in place when it comes to website rankings that includes CTR, bounce rate, brand query, anchor text, links and so on. I am not saying keyword based domain is a huge factor but if all other things are constant, I have seen websites get better rankings because of their keyword based domain names.
If you type in ‘SEO Services’ you will be able to see websites on the first page that are there just because of their keyword targeted domain name.
Prefer general TLDs
Microsites are not brands and their purpose is to drive traffic to the main brand website. There are few reasons why I would prefer general TLDs over country level TLDs.
Cost: Cost of the general TLDs are normally cheaper than country specific TLDs. As the idea is to drive traffic to the main website, why spend more money?
Wider Audience: General TLD can cater more audience as compare to country level domains. As a business, if you need to cater to a wider audience from different locations, it would be best to go with general TLD and rank it on long-tail key phrases.
Note: You don’t need to have a domain name that is short, easy to remember as this is not your need in a microsite but if you are getting one that will only benefit you to an extent.
Buying a Domain to Redirect
When you want more traffic, it could be a good idea to redirect several domains – that already attract independent visitors – back to your website. The idea is to buy new or expired domains and then redirect it to the main website.
Google.com is the best example . They redirect typo URLs to the original URL so people do not really drop off. I mean if you accidently type googel.com, it will automatically redirect it to the original URL.
Let’s explore this further.
Buy expired domain
The idea is to redirect targeted traffic back to the main website. Expired domains within your industry can be of great use . If you find an expired domain within your niche, just buy it and redirect it to your main website.
Keep an eye out for industry news, and see who is going out of business.
If your brand name has a solid and consistent influx of traffic, it is always wise to research the typos people use to search your website. When you have the list of these, the next thing to do is to buy the list of these domains and redirect them to your main website.
Alternative TLDs could be another important idea. If your main domain is on .com you could buy all alternative TLDs including .net, .org and others. This will not only keep you safe from a competitor’s tactics, but also drive extra traffic back to your website.
Buying a domain name for your business is not as easy as it may sound, however if you know the purpose you are buying the domain for, you will surely save a lot of time and money in the long run.