The importance of a good domain name

by Martin Reed on 15 June 2007 in Articles

People are often very simple creatures – they struggle to remember things that may be a little confusing or contain ambiguity. This is why it is essential that before you even start your community site, you spend a good amount of time choosing a suitable domain name.

Keep it simple

Always keep your domain name as simple and as short as possible. The longer your domain name, the larger the chance of a visitor entering a typo and not being able to find your site. Longer domain names are often more difficult to remember, too.

Use simple words in your domain name – don’t go using long, hard to understand words. People should be able to remember your domain name easily and be able to type it into their browser quickly and without error.

Keep it relevant

Always ensure your domain name is relevant to your community. I would always recommend you try to include a keyword in your chosen domain name. If your site is about goldfish, get that keyword in your domain name.

Irrelevant domain names can sometimes work thanks to strong branding techniques. When starting a community from scratch though, why make things harder for yourself?

Keep your domain relevant – people should be able to guess what your site will be about from the domain name alone.

Keep it memorable

Keeping a domain name simple and relevant will help visitors remember it. Visitor retention is the key to a successful online community.

You should also consider what ‘Top-Level Domain‘ to register. If your site has a strong UK focus, then you should register the ‘.co.uk’ version, but perhaps also register the ‘.com’ and redirect it to your site in order to secure your brand name.

If you are aiming for direct type-in traffic, then you will want to go for the ‘.com’ wherever possible. I will always argue that your choice of top-level domain has little overall significance compared to the overall domain name you choose, though.

A poor choice in domain name can result in failure

A few years ago, when I was working in the travel insurance industry, our company wanted to set up a website for online travel insurance sales. They asked staff for suggested domain names.

You want to know what they went with in the end?

tortoisexpress.com

What an absolutely awful choice – unfortunately they refused to listen to my concerns, which included the fact that ‘tortoise’ is a relatively difficult word to spell correctly, and the fact they have shared the letter ‘e’ between tortoise and express. The domain name is also overly long and is an open invite for typos.

Just imagine trying to verbally explain this domain name to someone:

“Our website address is ‘Tortoise Express dot com’ but you only use the one ‘E’ between tortoise and express. Right, yes… here, let me spell it for you ‘t-o-r-t-o-i-s-e-x-p-r-e-s-s’… yes, that’s right. Did you get that spelt correctly? Only the one ‘E’, remember…”

And so on, and so on. Needless to say the domain name didn’t work and the website failed.

Keep your domain name short, relevant and easy to remember and you already have a head-start over many of the new sites starting up today.

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{ 9 comments }

Smiley June 16, 2007 at 2:33 am

I agree. I don’t understand these people who spend hours thinking of a really “cool” name, when they could just keep it simple. I’d rather remember & type in “ukchatsite.co.uk” rather than “the-nut-house-of-uk.com” or something similar.

Unfortunately, friendlychat.co.uk was taken by one of those junk/spam directories, so I had to use a hyphen if I wanted to keep my keywords in the domain. The hyphen was a bad choice, really, I dread to think how many people have turned up at the junk directory!

I might try and buy it and simply re-direct it, though!

Mike June 16, 2007 at 1:15 pm

It is also good to only use words that are spelt the same in US/British English.

Smiley June 16, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Very good point, Mike, if you are wanting to brand yourself as an international community! Mainly so people from both sides of the pond can remember the name, without having to add or take away a ‘U’ somewhere, but also partly, I think, because if someone from GB saw “everyonesfavoritechat.com” they would think it was American, not international, so may not bother visiting. The same vice versa, if someone from America saw “colourfulchat.co.uk” they would think it was British, not international so again, may not bother visiting!

Malte June 18, 2007 at 4:10 pm

You should allways register .com.
Whatever TLD you end up using, a couple of users will try to type in the .com version and you dont want to losse them to a competitor who grabs the .com version of your domain.

Martin Reed June 18, 2007 at 5:21 pm

Smiley – I would always be hesitant in using a hyphenated domain name, especially if I didn’t own the unhyphenated version. You can’t verbally convey a hyphenated domain name without saying the word ‘hyphen’ – and even then, people may forget it.

Mike – A very good point, Mike. It is all too easy to forget that even if we have a national focus on our websites, they can still be visited from users all over the world. Using words that are spelt the same globally is definitely a good idea.

If you want to use your own national spelling, you should at least buy the alternatives and have them redirect to your site.

Malte – I agree that it is always preferable to at least register and redirect the ‘.com’ version of your site’s name to prevent any potential loss of visitors.

George June 20, 2007 at 11:45 pm

I too wouldn’t go with the hyphenated name, unless I owned the un-hyphenated name. I personally also would go ahead and buy names that sound similar and redirect them to prevent any loss visitors.

All the best,
George

Martin Reed June 23, 2007 at 8:36 pm

George – Thanks for your comment. I agree – you want your domain name to be memorable and free from any ambiguities. Making it completely different from any other names is definitely something I would recommend.

teenage love March 27, 2008 at 11:14 am

Very good advice.
I also read some where that another way of being memorable is being unusual. Example:- forkinthehead.com. See, I still remember the name. It has a graphics of a man with a fork inserted in his head. Makes it even more memorable.
Thanks a lot.

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 29, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Teenage – Yes, being unusual is also a great way to be memorable! Just don’t be too unusual that people don’t know how to spell the name!

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