Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing A Domain Name
Seven Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing
A Domain Name
One of the most common questions I'm asked by my clients
is "What domain name should I use for my website?". In
response, I would recommend considering several factors. In the
following article, I will go through these factors in a question
and answer format:
1. Should I choose a country code domain name (like .CO.UK
or .CA), or a global top-level domain like .COM?
If your target market is specific to one country, I would recommend
using a country code domain name, especially if you sell physical
products that can only be delivered within that country. Many people
I have spoken too tell me that they are often uncertain of where
online stores are located, and it is not until they reach checkout
and are asked to pay in a foreign currency that they are not able
to order the products in their shopping basket due to the website
not selling internationally. Having a country code domain name instantly
lets your potential customers know that you are located in the same
country as them, and that your service is designed specifically
for that nation.
Alternatively, if you have a website developed for the purpose
of sharing information, with little or no content which is only
relevant in one part of the world, my advice would be to choose
a global top-level domain such as .com.
2. Should I break up words within my domain name with hyphens?
Is 'widget-shop.com' better than 'widgetshop.com'?
There seems to be a general consensus within the search engine
optimisation industry that using hyphens helps search engines deduce
what the actual words within an URL are, therefore leading to those
pages being ranked higher in the search engine results. However,
there is also speculation that using 2 or more hyphens within the
domain name incurs a penalty. With this in mind, I would advise
anyone who plans to receive most of their custom from organic search
engine results to use one hyphen in their domain name to separate
their targeted search keywords.
However, if your business model is not heavy on search engine optimisation,
my recommendation would be to not have any hyphens in your domain
name, as the vast majority of internet users intuitively enter domain
names in their browser address bar without any hyphens. In domain
name value appraisal circles, the non-hyphenated version of a domain
name is usually considered to be of greater worth.
For search engine optimisation, studies show that one hyphen may
give you an advantage, but on the whole I would recommend not using
any hyphens in your domain name.
3. Is it better to have digits (2, 3 etc.) or words for
numbers (two, three etc.) in my domain name?
Generally speaking, I would dissuade anyone using word of mouth
advertising from having any numbers, either as digits or as words,
in their domain name. The reason for this is that a domain name
should be easy to remember and easy to spell correctly. Lets say
for example you had the domain name 'widgets4u.com'. If you meet
someone that is interested in your product, and tell them to visit
your website, you are going to have tell them specifically that
the 4 is numeric and the U is just one letter. Otherwise, they may
input 'widgetsforyou.com', 'widgets4you.com', 'widgetsforu.com'
and end up at the website of one of your competitors.
If however you are prepared to accept this risk, in my experience
the layperson tends to instinctively put the numeric version of
a number in a domain name. Therefore, use 'widgets2.com', not 'widgetstwo.com'.
4. How long should my domain name be?
As short as possible. Long domain names are harder for your customers
to remember, take longer to type, longer to spell out (you may find
yourself having to spell your domain name letter-by-letter to some
clients) and also may be harder to actually fit onto your business
cards, print advertisements and similar. I have one client whose
business name consists of four words, two of which are tricky to
spell. My advice to him was to use a domain name with the first
letter of each word only, which has proved very easy to remember.
If you are targeting specific search keywords, I would recommend
that your domain name consists of those keywords and as little else
as possible. If you were targeting 'purple widgets', my advice would
be to use the domain name 'purplewidgets.com'. If that domain name
is not available, I would recommend adding one extra word to the
end. For example, I personally have a web site which targets the
search keyword 'weight loss'. As one would expect, 'weightloss.com'
and 'weightloss.co.uk' were already registered - so I opted for
the domain name 'weightlossweb.co.uk'. Choosing an added word that
begins with the same letter as your first keyword helps your visitors
remember your domain name. So, going back to the purple widgets
example: Alternative domain names could include 'purplewidgetpro.com',
'purplewidgetpower.com' and 'purplewidgetparadise.com'.
5. Are some domain name extensions better than others?
Yes. Generally speaking, the most desirable top-level domain is
the .COM. Charitable websites may choose .ORG in order to declare
that they are a charitable organisation, but there are currently
no restrictions on who can register .ORG domain names or what they
need be used for - and many commercial websites still use them.
My personal "league table" of favoured domain name extensions
is as follows:
2 Country-code (.CO.UK, .CA, .IE etc.)
I currently have in excess of 300 domain names registered, none
of which are .INFO or .NAME. I would only recommend that one registers
.BIZ, .INFO or .NAME domains if they have a large website with a
brand name to protect. For example, my business trading name is
'Starsol.co.uk'. At the time of writing this article, 'Starsol.com'
is currently registered by a domain name squatter, who is asking
for an extortionate price. I have chosen to register 'Starsol.biz'
to prevent a similar situation occurring in future. I feel it is
very unlikely that anyone actually types the domain with the .BIZ
extension into the address bar looking for my website - but if I
didn't register the name myself - someone else might and go on to
use it for purposes that may harm my brand.
6. What about .TV and .WS?
Although they may be marketed as such, .TV does not mean tele-vision
and .WS does not mean web-site or world-site. .TV is the country
code extension for Tuvalu and .WS is for Samoa. Tuvalu is small
island country located in the Western Pacific Ocean with a population
of approximately 11,000 in the Western Pacific Ocean that gained
independence from the UK in 1978. Samoa, also in the Pacific, gained
independence from New Zealand in 1962 and has a population of around
180,000. If these countries are not your target markets, I would
personally dissuade you from using their country code domain names.
Other similar domain names include .FM (Federated States of Micronesia)
which masquerades as the TLD for radio stations and .CC (Cocos Islands).
7. Why do some domain name registrars charge more than
others? Are their domain names better?
Surprising, this is a question I have been asked on several occasions.
Just like how some supermarkets which charge more than others for
identical cans of fizzy drink than others, domain name registrars
also charge differing domain name registration costs. Although some
domain name registrars may provide extra tools with domain name
registration, a domain name registered for $8.95 a year will work
in exactly the same way and one registered for $35.00 a year.
I hope this article has helped you in your search for a perfect
domain name. I would like to add however, that with domain name
registrations being so cheap, that registering multiple domains
and redirecting them all to your one "main domain" may
prove to be a very good idea. If there is one domain that you will
be heavily marketing, I would strongly advise you to at least also
register the .COM version of that domain name too, and if you are
outside the United States to also register the relevant country-code
version of the domain name. Many of your customers may input the
wrong extension when looking for your site, possibly leading to
you losing their custom to a competitor of yours; or like my personal
situation which I described earlier, may lead to a domain name squatter
registering a domain similar to yours in the hope that you will
spend many thousands buying it from them.
About the Author
Rupe Parnell is the
founder and lead developer at Starsol.co.uk,
a website development and management firm located in Norfolk, England.
Rupe specialises in creating professional grade PHP scripts, a selection
of which are available free at Starsol