Choosing a domain name is always a challenge. The rules have changed since long keyword rich domain names would boost you to the top of the Google results page.

According to Versign there are 360 million registered domains,  so many of the best domain names are already taken.

Let’s dive into the world of domain names for your new venture.

 

Domain Registrars

All domain names are kept in a centralized database. Domain registrars have the ability to update that database. There are a number of domain registrars to choose from. Some of the top registrars include …

The prices are very close among them, though some have low initial prices but expensive renewal prices. All will have an auto-renewal options so as long as your payment method is current you can’t get dropped. There are now grace periods in place if your domain name does expire but there are people on the watch for expired domains and they will renew the domain and charge a premium to buy it back.

 

Top Level Domains (TLD)

In the beginning there were only 7 top-level domains …

  • .com
  • .org
  • .net
  • .int
  • .edu
  • .gov
  • .mil

Now there are 1,514! Some example of the new generic TLDs include …

  • .adult
  • .art
  • .bar
  • .car
  • .casino
  • .dot
  • .earth
  • .io
  • .jobs
  • .me

Should you use one of the new generic names? It is tempting. You may have the perfect domain name for your website but the .com is already being used.

Google does not care from a search results standpoint. A .com or .earth TLD will have the same ranking power.

What it really matters is visitor reactions. Most consumers expect a .com for a US targeted commercial domain. Anything else raises eyebrows. It will potentially be seen as unprofessional.  Some successful exceptions include …

  • .io — online SaaS products have taken over this TLD and it is now accepted that a .io will be a software service
  • .net — if you are in the hosting, internet services etc. industry .net is generally accepted.
  • .org — non-profit companies
  • .co.uk — If your target audience is not the US and focused on a particular country the commercial country level domain is fine (though it will limit expansion options into the US market to not have the .com)

At the end of the day, if you are a marketer setting up an affiliate site that includes mainly US visitors, you want to use .com

 

Exact Match vs. Partial Match vs. Branded

There are three general categories that domain names fall into …

Exact Match — These are domains like cars.com, besttoasterovens.com software.com etc. The name is an exact match, often for your top level keyword. In the past this has had a huge rankings boost. It got carried away with people gaming Google’s algorithm with names like bestbirthdaygiftfordad.com. Back in 2012 Google added an exact match penalty to the search algorithm.

exact match penalty

This doesn’t mean all exact match domains are penalized or bad. The penalty targets exact match domains with thin or poor quality content.

Partial Match — This is when you use a keyword as part of your domain name. So if you were in the home improvement tools niche something like zippytools.com would be a partial match. Try to keep the partial match broad to not lock your self in to a specific niche segment. Zippytools.com would be preferable to zippydrills.com for instance.

Brandable — these are domain names that have no keywords in them. Something like Google.com is a brand able name. In most cases short brandable is the preferred name category, though perhaps the hardest to come up with.  If you ever want to expand the topic of your niche a brand able domain won’t lock you into a specific area. Also if you ever sell your site buyers often have a preference for brand able domain names.

 

Domain Name Generating Tools

There are a number of tools out there to help with the creative process of choosing a domain name. You typically give them a seed word and they will generate ideas of available domain names

 

Do’s and Don’ts

Here are some tips that will help you find the perfect domain name

  • Keep it as short as possible.
  • No numbers or dashes
  • Think like a marketer … memorable and catchy
  • Only .com for content website
  • No trademarks or partial trademarks.
  • No long exact match keywords

 

Premium and Dropped  Domain Names

You may find that your perfect domain name is already taken but for sale. There are lots of people and even domain registrars in the parking business. These are perfectly safe to use if you have the budget. You can checkout BuyDomains to get an idea of the premium domains market.They are often overpriced and emotions can get the better of you so just be cautious.

Dropped or otherwise previously used names are more risky.

Anytime you are buying an existing name you will need to do additional research.

  • Was it used before or just parked?
  • How was the name used before?
  • Any Google Penalties?
  • Any Adwords or Adsense penalties?
  • What niche was the domain in before?
  • What is the backlink profile like?

Buying a dropped domain like this can actually give you a jump-start in getting ranked by Google but it can also put you in a position where Google won’t rank your content at all. It is an advanced concept for experienced marketers.

Wrapping Up

Choosing a domain name is always a challenge. You are doing it during the earliest days of your new venture when emotions are high. A .com domain is almost always the best way to go. Make it brandable, short and memorable for the most flexibility. Having one keyword in the name is often a useful hint for your visitors.  Just be careful when dealing with expired and premium domains.

Choosing your domain is often done at the same time as setting up your hosting so checkout or article on best hosting for content marketers and affiliates.