I’m a member of a very large networking group in the UK, and recently I received a PM from a frazzled member saying she was, I quote, “so fed up” looking for domain names, to the point where she just wanted to “Register something or anything just to get started”.
Stop right there.
The thing about domain names is that they’re a very important component of your online business strategy – this is the domain name that you’re going to have to look at every day, the domain name that is going to be used by your customers and people who like what you offer to link to your website and more importantly, this is the domain name which represents your brand and the seriousness with which you take your online business.
Choosing a domain name for your online presence is never a decision to be taken lightly, irrespective of how frustrating it gets.
Anyway, enough of all this, let’s get to what you need to know when working through what can be an incredibly frustrating process.
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You need to pay careful attention to your domain extension. Don’t overlook ccTLDs (country-code top-level domains) like.co.uk, .de (Germany), .es (Spain) and so on simply because you “want a .com”, in many instances I would say it’s actually preferable to register the ccTLD (especially if you only plan on operating in that specified country).
Once you register your domain name, it’s also worth registering all the other alternative extensions of your domain name (in particular .com, .co.uk (or your relevant ccTLD), .net and .org) – the last thing you want is another webmaster piggy-backing on your brand exposure.
Furthermore, if you do register a global domain extension i.e. .com, .net or .org, and you plan on operating purely in a specific country, then it’s always worth geo-targeting your domain to that specified country via Google Webmaster Tools.
Generic Isn’t Always Best
Many, many webmasters register exact match domain names with the sole intention of increasing their visibility in search around a target term – an exact match domain name is simply one that matches a target keyword, for example an exact match domain for the term “wedding venues” could be weddingvenues.org.uk.
The first thing to remember about this process is that it doesn’t work across every single extension (in the UK it works best for .co.uk and .org.uk as well as .com, .net and .org) – however for those it does work for, it can give you a sizeable boost in visibility in search (depending on the relative competitiveness of the niche).
That said, the main consideration is in branding – do you really want your online presence to be known as weddingvenues.org.uk? I’m guessing not.
Secondly – microsites. Many webmasters jump on the microsite bandwagon, registering everything in sight and launching microsite after, well, microsite. This is dumb (and I say that from being one of the dumb people who applied this strategy for years and years).
If you find a great exact match domain name then by all means, use it for this purpose – but I recommend stopping short of creating a “microsite empire”; all you’re doing is diluting link building resources between a whole host of web properties when in reality, the resources could be used far more effectively if you targeted them to one property and one property alone.
As soon as a consumer sits down behind a computer screen you are no longer dealing purely with a consumer – you are dealing with a five year old child (with the attention span of a two year old). Internet users are impatient and their mental capacity can drain from being afforded so many options and choices. You need to stand out.
Be careful with the length of your domain name – don’t create a brand name which is too difficult to remember, or even too difficult to spell (I know, I can’t believe I said that). Make it easy for your users and make an impression before they even land on your website from the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) by coming up with a memorable (and relatively short) domain name.
Gareth Mailer is an SEO professional – he spends most of his time picking out new ways for his client’s to generate revenue online and through search. SEO Manchester is the place to go to read more from Gareth.