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How to Choose and Register a Domain Name

Anyone can register a website domain, whether they are an individual or a business. A domain name is basically the web address of a particular website. For example “Google.com” or “precisestrategy.com” is a domain name.  You NEED your own website rather than the alternative free-host sites.  It is like renting an apartment, the price can go up, they could convert to condos, they may not maintain it… therefore you need a domain.   A domain name is like the title deed to your website. (You want to build equity in your web properties…Not rent.)

 First think about the domain extension.

  • .COM is usually the best, especially if it’s for the primary website of your business
  • .ORG can be beneficial in gaining trust, and may be preferable for some information and service oriented websites.
  • Country-specific extensions (ex. .CA, .IN, .JP) can be advantageous if you’re marketing exclusively to a niche within a certain country.

The next most important decision is to choose the words which make up the domain. An actor would most likely choose their full name. A school or charity would choose the name they are known by. Consider the reasons for wanting a domain name. If the domain is for a business website, then the business owner will almost certainly want the website to be found in the search engine results. But will customers search for the business name or a particular product or service? The choice of words which make up a domain name can be important in achieving good placement in the search engines and make a big difference in the number of visitors finding a website.

  •  While domains consisting of “made up” words can become popular (ie. ebay.com, Xanga.com, Bebo.com, etc.), a more straight-forward approach is better for informational websites.
  •  The domain should PRECISELY describe what the site is all about.
  •  Consider adding a word, thinking locally, or making it personal.
  •  Generally avoid superlatives such as ‘best’, ‘top’, and ‘number 1′.
  •  Use an adjective. I often use an adjective as the first word of a domain name.
  •  What about hyphens?

In general, I would prefer a domain with no hyphens. It’s debatable, but hyphens may create a visual advantage in some cases for SEO and PPC. However, it also makes the domain harder to remember, and more difficult to say out loud. Having said that, using a hyphen (a dash) in a domain name is still a hotly debated topic and whether you should select a hyphenated domain really just depends on your specific situation.

Advantages of hyphenated domain names

A.com domain name comprised of generic terms (common words) is more likely to be available in a hyphenated version, and the same goes for many country code top level domains (CCTLDs) such as.com.au.

Several groups believe there are also search engine optimization benefits with a hyphenated name. While that may have been the case a few years ago, search engines are now quite adept in ascertaining separate words in a domain name and links; so it’s not such a fervent issue. Still, as it can certainly help in your search rankings to choose a name very relevant to your topic or industry, it certainly won’t hurt.

The use of a dash can avoid a “slurl” situation – this is where two words put together without some sort of break can also create different sets of words than intended, depending on how the domain name is read. Sometimes those words can be unflattering to say the least and in the past some registrants have wound up needing to register a different name due to the fallout.

Disadvantages of hyphens

A hyphen adds an extra character to the domain name – when it comes to names, the shorter, the better.

The presence of a hyphen can create problems with recall as people are typically used to domains without a dash being used. In that connection, a hyphen makes it more challenging to advertise on radio and also via word of mouth.

Finally, if you’re using generic terms with view to selling the domain name at a later date, a hyphenated name will have far less value than one without a hyphen.

Cover your bases

If you’re not sure which way to go as both versions are available, register both. Use the non-hyphenated version as your primary name (for some of the reasons mentioned above) and point the hyphenated one to the primary name. By capturing both versions, it can also help deter cyber-squatters who may seek to cause confusion by drawing away traffic from your site or damage to your brand in the future.

How many hyphens?

If you settle on using the hyphenated route, try to register a name with as few hyphens as possible; preferably less than three and there should be no double-dashes used. The reason for this is a domain with many hyphens gives the name a “spammy” look.

  • Don’t use intentional misspellings. You can use misspelled domains to capture traffic, but you should NOT build a full fledged site on one. (There are exceptions, like Flickr.com or Fiverr.com, but you are probably not the exception. Misspellings can look bad).
  • Don’t use abbreviations, unless it’s very well known and common. 
  • Don’t use numbers (digits), unless you have a really good reason. 
  • Don’t make it too long. Aim for 2 or 3 words, and no more than 4 words. Short is better.
  • Matching up with your product…

If your product name is 2 or 3 words, it would be ideal for the domain to match it.

If your product name is not available to register as a domain, you’ll want to check to see if that domain is currently in use. If someone is using that domain to sell a product in your niche, I would recommend coming up with a new product name to avoid conflicts.

If your product name is long, you’ll need to come up with a shorter domain.

  • You may want to register several domains to give yourself some options. (Multiple domains can be used for the same website. You can then split-test domain names on PPC, or use multiple domain names to avoid competing with your own affiliates on PPC). 
  • Just don’t register a bunch of domains you don’t need. 
  • Domain suggestions tools. It’s fine to use domain suggestion tools to get ideas, but I generally do not use them. If you can think like a marketer, you can come up with a better domain name than a computer. 
  • Where to register your domain

Having chosen a name, the next step is to find a reputable website which sells domains. Do some research – compare prices and renewal policies. Find out if the company will automatically renew the website before it expires. Otherwise, a website will suddenly disappear from the internet if the domain is not renewed. Domain name sellers usually have an on-line domain checker so that a purchaser may establish which domains are available. Every domain must be unique and there are several domain suffixes, including .com, .co.uk, .info, .biz and .gov. As I mentioned, some business may purchase several domains with different suffixes in order to avoid anyone else using them.

There are hundreds of places on the internet where you can register a domain. Some are better than others. If you’ve already found a good and reliable registrar, feel free to stick with them.

I recommend registering your domain with someone OTHER than your web host. It’s important that you have good control over your domain (easily be able to change DNS, set up child name servers, etc.).

Once a domain name has been chosen and found to be available for purchase, it is a very simple procedure to buy the domain using a credit card. During the purchase, registration details will be taken including the name and address of the domain owner. These details will then be available to the general public. It may be possible to request that address details be hidden from publicly available information during the registration process.

Domain names may be purchased and registered for 12 months or longer, and should then renewed shortly before they expire. Make sure that credit card details held by the domain registration company are always updated when a new card is issued. Failure to do this could result in expiration of a domain name.

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