Best Practices for Choosing a Domain Name That Helps Your SEO

One of the first things anyone will do when getting started online is register a domain name. Let’s face it, without a domain name, you can’t really do much on the web.

Now, you would think that the process of registering a domain name would be pretty straight forward, however time and time again, I see site owners making common mistakes that would be costing them big time in a number of different areas – especially in terms of SEO.

In this article, I’m going to provide site owners with one of the most comprehensive guides I’ve ever written concerning domain names. You may want to print this one out, share it, or book mark it, because I’ll be doing my best not to leave anything out.

Okay, lets get straight into it.

First, let’s cover some frequently asked questions….

Who do I use for domain name registration?

Okay, obviously, one of the first things you’ll need to do, is register a domain name. For this I recommend Crazy Domains. These guys absolutely suck at hosting, (so don’t host with them) but for domain names, they’re okay.

Y’know, in all honesty, when it comes to registering a domain, most registrars are very similar, but here’s a few things you should take into consideration.

  • Go with a registrar that’s well known. Avoid any fly by night registrars that you’ve never heard of.
  • Go with a registrar that promotes via tv, or radio. These are typically highly reputable firms that mean business.
  • Go with a registrar that your friends (or me) recommend – especially if they’ve been with them for years – (I’ve been using Crazy Domains since 2008)
  • Avoid spending $50 odd dollars or so to register a .com.au domain name. Australian domain names should only cost you around $10. (Geeze, I remember years ago paying $99 for .com.au domains and had hundreds of them!)

Anyway, there’s a few pointers, and a recommendation for who you should use for registering your domain name. (and yes, Crazy Domains do .com’s as well)

How much should I be paying?

For Australian domain names, you should be paying around $10 a pop, give or take. If an agency or web development firm try to charge you any more than that, they’re just stacking the price with their own fees. Avoid it. Do it yourself.

Should I have someone register my domain name for me if I don’t know how?

Sure, that’s fine – but MAKE SURE THEY DO IT IN YOUR NAME.

There’s plenty of small business owners around that have no idea how to register a domain name, and often, they ask their web guy to do it, or have a friend, or even an agency do it for them. This is all well and good, but it can be dangerous if the domain name is not in your name. ALWAYS make sure the domain name is registered in your name and you are the rightful owner. This is extremely important.

Why?

Because if someone else registers your domain name for you, they own it, and can take it away from you at any time (legally). Don’t make that mistake!

How long should I register it for?

The longer the better, although it doesn’t really matter. Just make sure you don’t forget to renew it when it’s due to expire.

Anything else I should be aware of?

Yes. Here’s some more advice….

  • Always make sure you know when your domain is due for expiry – you don’t want to lose your domain name!
  • Make sure your contact details are up to date. If you let these lapse or they’re incorrect, then you might just miss out on the renewal notification and then it’s game over.
  • Never share your login credentials for your domain name stuff with anyone. (unless of course you know and trust them)
  • Try and register your domain for 3-5 years if you’re serious. It takes a bit of stress away about worrying over renewals etc
  • If your domain registrar does any dodgy stuff or gets hacked, consider going elsewhere. Crazy Domains has been alright so far.

Alright, now let’s get into the real juicy stuff and I’ll share some invaluable tips with you.

Hurry up and take your time.

Huh, what?

Okay, listen up, here’s a common mistake that I see all the time. Business owners rushing into registering domain names without any thought.

Since 2001, I’ve literally owned hundreds of domains. More than I care to remember. Some of them I’ve developed into successful businesses, others that I’ve registered and never used. Even some that I’ve bought then forgotten about. I have to say, there have been countless times that I’ve registered a domain thinking “I’m going to use that domain to build a fantastic website”, or “Oh wow, I’m grabbing this before someone else gets it”, or “This domain name would be perfect for my business”, or “This domain name might be worth a lot of money, I’ll buy it and just hold onto it – then I’ll sell it later to make some quick cash”.

Whilst some of these examples may not apply to small business owners, the basic principle still applies – and that is – hurry up and take your time.

By this I mean, have a good think about the domain you want, and register it after you’ve given it enough thought – but don’t think about it for 6 months.

So in simple terms, think twice, register once.

Sleep on it. Ask your partner. Give it some thought. Think about how it fits in with your business, how it will look on your business card. How it might look as signage on your vehicle (all of these things) I know in my experience it’s very easy to get excited about a domain, register it, then 5 minutes later think of a better one. So save your money. Think twice, register once.

take your time

Avoid the temptation to register exact match keyword rich domains.

This is a strategy that I still see small business owners doing and it does my head in.

eg. www.garysworkshopandmechanicalrepairssouthbrisbane.com.au

Absolutely ridiculous.

Infact, here’s a few more …

  • northsydneydentalpracticecremornensw.com.au
  • johnslogodesignsandgraphiccardetailandsignage.com.au
  • melbourneresumewritingservices.com.au

As you can see, domain names like this, not only look ridiculous, but they’ll never be remembered, and serve one purpose and one purpose only – and that is to capture search traffic in Google.

To me this demonstrates a complete and utter lack of an online marketing strategy by either a) the small business owner that registered the domain, or b) the agency that told them to do it

Y’know in all honesty, this strategy worked a few years back. Infact, it probably still works to a degree now, but it’s a thin, short sighted marketing strategy that is a complete waste of time. Ask yourself, how would you feel at a networking event telling someone your website address if it were johnslogodesignsandgraphiccardetailandsignage.com.au?

You wouldn’t. Because it’s ridiculous. It’s like calling your business AAAAAAAAAAAAAbakery to get on the first page of the yellow pages.

Of course the examples above are just that – examples, but I’m just trying to make a point. Stop registering stupid exact match keyword stuffed domain names – you’re wasting your time.

Objection alert!

“But my marketing team said it was a good idea, and I’m already on the first page of Google for my target keyphrase!”

So?

What are you going to do when Google changes their algorithm (as they continually do) and you get slammed back to page 16? You’ll lose all of your traffic and enquiries and worse – be stuck with a ridiculous domain name that you’ll be too embarrassed to tell anyone about. (let alone print on your business cards)

Avoid misspelled domains

For some weird reason it seems a lot of people are attracted to mispelled domain names. For whatever reason (perhaps they think its cool) I don’t know, but in terms of domains and branding, they’re horrible.

For example, coolcarz.com or cheapholidaze.com.

There’s two main reasons why registering domains like these are a bad idea.

  • Firstly, you run the risk of losing potential traffic. This would be due to people perhaps typing in your domain name incorrectly into the browser, or even searching for it in Google and ending up at a competitors site (or worse still, not being able to find you at all and giving up)
  • Secondly, over time, you will become frustrated in that, you’ll be constantly having to spell your domain name out to everyone to ensure they get it right. I’ve been in this position and it’s very annoying. Especially when you’re asked 50 times a day.

Always use the correct spelling – avoid the person at the other end having to think.

When you register a domain name, and you’re telling someone – it should be obvious what you’re saying/mean. Don’t confuse people or make them think – you’re just over complicating the process.

spelt

Avoid domains with hyphens

Domains with hyphens are probably worse than misspelled domains. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about they’re domains that look like this….

  • barrys-dry-cleaning-service.com.au
  • carls-lawn-mowing-service.com.au
  • cheap-kitchen-installations.com.au

As you can see, not only do they look horrible, but it’s very rare that anyone remembers domains with hyphens, and infact, no one types them in anyway, so it’s best to avoid these completely. Actually ask yourself right now – How often do I type in domain names with hyphens? Chances are you probably never do, and if you do, I bet you muck it up all the time and it annoys you.

As with misspelled domains, domains with hyphens have the potential to leak traffic, to be forgotten, and they never hold resale value (which is important if ever you decide to sell your domain name)

Avoid trademarks

This may never be an issue for most small business owners, but it’s one worth mentioning – trademarks. I really shouldn’t have to explain this, but essentially, you’ll want to completely avoid any type of domain that contains brand names, or trademarks – unless of course, you’re keen on a court case.

Avoid domains with numbers

Much like misspellings and hyphens, numbers in domains are never a good idea.

Just recently I saw a few business cards at some networking events that I went to and they had domains on them like this…

  • massage4you.com.au
  • 2easycardetailing.com.au
  • 9smiles.com.au

Again, just examples – but they suck. Big time.

Why?

  1. Because I’m certain that having to repeat your domain to people constantly by saying “no its not “for”, its “four” as in the number 4, in your domain will do your head in.
  2. People will become completely and utterly confused when typing in your domain name (unless they have it front of them)
  3. No one would know to type in numbers
  4. It’s not ‘cool’, it’s just bloody confusing and you shouldn’t do it

Don’t put numbers in your domains, it’s a lost cause.

Avoid ‘adjoining’ letters in your domain name

This is something that’s probably not so commonly spoken about, but it’s something that I’m always mindful of when I register domains.

Avoid having the same letters up against each other within your domains.

Here’s a few examples of what I mean.

  • chairsspecials.com.au
  • hollowwheels.com.au
  • beachholidays.com.au
  • businessspecials.com.au

See how there are the same letters butted up against each other in the middle of those domains?

I find when you do this, it makes the domain a little hard to read, and infact, in terms of offline marketing it’s hard to take in quickly – especially on the side of a passing van or billboard or something.

Instead, consider domains that have completely different letters at the end of the first word, and beginning of the next. So domains like this …

  • carsales.com.au
  • realestate.com.au
  • quickbeds.com.au

See how much easier they are to digest? You can quickly make out what the words are straight away.

So be mindful of this when you’re registering your domain.

The worst possible domain name you could register

Okay, so the worst possible domain you could ever register would be a combination of all of these mistakes. Numbers, hyphens, mispellings, adjoining letters etc (although I’m not even sure that’s possible)

If you have a domain that has any of these issues, then kill it. Kill it with fire.

Register a new domain and liberate yourself.

Avoid registering domain names too similar to overseas businesses

I helped out a business owner just recently that had gone about registering a domain name that she thought was fantastic – I thought it was too. Upon a little investigation, it turned out the exact same domain name (just a .com variation) was already associated with a highly established business in the United States.

They had the .com and she had the .com.au

When this happens, you…

  • Might end up with a cease and desist
  • Might lose or confuse customers
  • Might direct customers to your competitors

Let’s face it, you don’t need any of these hassles, so be sure to run a few searches through Google FIRST to ensure the domain you’re thinking about registering isn’t already established in a different country.

Okay, so what makes a great domain name?

Let’s now look at what makes up a good domain name.

Ensure your domain is highly brandable

This is one of the most important considerations you should make when registering your domain. If you think about some of the most profitable websites, and the domains they use, they’re almost all using brandable domains. In many cases, the domains they’re using have nothing to do with their topic – and this revisits my point of not registering exact match domains. If you think about websites such as Paypal, Ebay, Amazon, Yahoo and Google – they’re all using
highly brandable non keyword specific domain names.

So for small business owners – this means registering a domain name that reflects your BUSINESS NAME.

Yes, that’s right. I’ll say that again.

Always register a domain name that reflects your business name.

So as an example

  • Ace Laptop Repairs – acelaptoprepairs.com.au
  • Priority One Plumbing – priorityoneplumbing.com.au OR simply, priorityone.com.au
  • Mr Power Electrical – mrpowerelectrical.com.au

Objection alert!

“But my business name has (numbers, hyphens, mispellings etc) in it”

Solution – Try variations of your business name to remove these issues – eg. Priority 1 Plumbing, try registering just priorityplumbing.com.au (or something similar) The trick is to make it as close as possible to your business name.

“But but but….”

Solution – There are no excuses.

Keep your domain name short

There’s really no need to register a really long domain name. Its always best to register short domains in that they’re visually easier to recognise, and type in.

Why is this important?

Here are the most obvious reasons…

  • No one cares for long domains, they’re hard to remember and a nuisance to type in.
  • They may not fit on your business cards, and if they do, it will be in a font that will be smaller than a nano tube
  • There’s more room for error. Again, people typing them in wrong, unable to spell them, etc
  • They take up too much space in the search results

There’s probably more reasons, that I can’t think of right now – but that’s surely a start.

Think about keeping your domain generic

This one is a little obscure, but I wanted to mention it anyway – generic domain names.

NOTE – (If you’ve already taken my advice about registering a your business name as your domain name, then you can probably ignore this advice)

An often common mistake that I see some online business owners make is that they register domain names that “ties” them to a specific marketplace, service offering, or industry. For example, let’s say that I was providing web design as a service, and I registered johnswebdesign.com.au.

Seems practical right?

But what about say, after having provided web design for 5 years, I make the decision that I no longer want to provide web design, and that I want to shift into the SEO industry as a consultant. As you can see, I now have a domain that doesn’t really reflect my services. It becomes awkward and clunky.

A great way to avoid this problem from the outset is to register a domain that allows you to change your business model (if necessary) without the need of having to change your domain name.

So in this case, a much better domain might be something like activemedia.com.au or bluesolutions.com.au. As you can see, the domains are generic and will virtually cater for any business model.

Of course, if I’m using my business name and I change that too, then it’s likely that the whole lot will change. In any case, it’s something to be mindful of if you’re unsure if your direction might change in the near future.

Ensure your domain passes the phone test

The what test???

This revisits my points above by ensuring you don’t have hyphens, numbers or misspellings in your domain name. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to constantly explain and spell out your domain over the phone to someone.

dub-dub-dub

Make your domain easy to remember

Whichever way you decide to go (unless of course you’re going to register a variation of your offline business name) be sure to register something that is easily remembered.

In my case, I decided to register bringthedonuts.com for a reason.

Its simple, its interesting, and everyone always remembers it, I think mostly because it’s a bit quirky.

Be sure to do something similar.

Register a domain name that people will remember, and have a long term vision.

Let’s now look at some other important aspects of domains.

Geographical targeting

Just before wrapping this up, I want to mention geographical targeting.

A common question I’m often asked by small business owners is, “Should I register a .com domain name or should I get my domain name in my own country code?”

Each business owners circumstances will be different, however in the case of this question, I would usually always recommend small business owners get both.

For instance, if you’re doing business in Australia, I would register a .com address as well as a .com.au

For example, say you register aussiesupplements.com.au – always get the .com version as
well.

There are a number of reasons for doing this.

  • You’re protecting your brand
  • You’re preventing potential traffic leaks (some people just type in “.com” and forget the “.au” If you have both, you can redirect them both to the same website and not lose that traffic.)
  • You’re preventing unwanted competition
  • You own a larger part of the overall asset (if you sell out)

Conclusion

When it comes to domain names and SEO, site owners tend to get swayed by silly tricks or tactics – like registering multiple domains, or registering domains that are stuffed with keywords. That’s really not the right approach. You’ll want to focus on building a BRAND.

Think eBay, Paypal, Google, Amazon, Youtube.

None of these huge businesses have keywords in their domain names.

In any case, you’ll want to be sure to keep all of these considerations in mind before you register your domain name. It’s better to get it right from the outset, than it is to be trying to “fix it” later when you’ve already established yourself.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please post them below – and if you’ve enjoyed this article, be sure to share it.

 

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