Over a year ago I wrote about picking a domain for your website, whether to choose one based on the domain extension – .com or .ca. In that article I never talked much about picking the right domain itself, the part that precedes the extension. It may not be as simple as using the name of your company – depending on your web strategy you may want to think outside of the box.
Before we decide on the right domain for you, let’s begin with…
What exactly is a domain?
Basically, a domain is a unique address that identifies the location of a webpage. In the URL http://www.example.com, “example.com” is the domain. The “example” part of the domain can be a combination of any characters you want: numbers, letters, some symbols (like dashes). The “.com” part is what’s called a Top-Level Domain, you have to choose the one you want to use from a list, but that list is growing larger and larger all the time.
Domain selecting strategy
Now it’s decision-making time: Are you picking your domain based on branding, or something stuffed with keywords that will rank well on Google for people looking for a particular topic? It’s the difference (in NORCAT’s case, for example) between norcat.org or health-and-safety-training-sudbury.com. It depends on your business and your web strategy – it’s your decision.
Recently I had to search for a QR Code generating website. Of course when I go to Google “QR Code Generators”, qr-code-generator.com is the first thing that pops up. That’s not the type of business that has brand-name recognition (you’ll never hear anyone say “I only trust QR Code Generator Dot Com for my QR Codes!”)– would they do just as well online if they were called “Jim’s House of QR Codes”?
That’s what I mean when I say you need to come up with a strategy for your website. Are people going to know your name from hearing it around town and seeing it on posters, or are you hoping to get organic web traffic through search engines from people already interested in your niche? Is this just a website to put on a company brochure so people can follow up and learn more, or are you trying to rank highly on Google when people research your industry? The choice is yours and there’s nothing wrong with either option – but now is the time to decide.
Making sure it’s easy to type and remember
It goes without saying that norcat.org is easier to type and remember than health-and-safety-training-sudbury.com. If you have to use a Search Engine Optimized (SEO) keyword domain, can you condense it? Are people actually searching for “health and safety training in Sudbury”, or just “safety training Sudbury”?
Branding wise, norcat.org is much easier to remember and type than northerncentreforadvancedtechnology.org – obviously shorter is better, less is more, etc. Also be aware if you have a business name that could easily be misspelt or mistyped, if it’s a weird or uncommon name. For example, Google owns the domain for several misspelt variations of their name, googel.com for instance – try typing it into your browser and see what happens. All of the mistyped domains Google own redirects back to the primary domain, but I’ll get into buying multiple domains soon.
Picking a Top Level Domain (TLD)
I go over this extensively in part 1, but it’s something you’ll have to decide on when you go to register your domain – the Top Level Domain, the “com” in “dot-com”. So, are you going with the generic .com, or pick a country specific TLD like .ca? Are you part of an industry that allows you to use an industry-specific TLD or are you looking at creating a domain hack for something cool to remember (I’m looking at you Scotiabank, you can get away with both so why you don’t own “www.scotia.bank” is beyond me).
Buying multiple domains and what to do with them
I talk about buying multiple domains in part 1. Coming from the domain registrant, it sounds like a cash grab and a way to upsell clients. Coming from me, it’s a way to protect your brand and to keep the competition and/or cyber-squatters from owning your trademarks.
So you have a handful of domains that you’re hording, what do you do with them? Set up separate sites for each? Don’t, just don’t! It’s always best to have one really good website that 5 or 6 other crappy websites trying to drive traffic to the “good” site. It’s misleading and it won’t help you on Google – it literally won’t add to your SEO at all and it may even hurt it. As I mention in part 1, set up all of your domains to point/ redirect to your primary domain – the one you’ll use for the website and your business e-mails. Even if you don’t use the other domains, at least you own them.
As simple as it is to purchase a domain, coming up with the right one isn’t so cut-and-dry. Besides, you may have the perfectly crafted domain in your head, only to find out someone else beat you to it. Just don’t fall victim to “domain sniffing”, where you go to a registrant, search for a domain, don’t immediately buy it and return to see it’s unavailable because someone, somewhere was tracking the domain queries you were making. The safe way to do it is to Google the domain you want to use and see what comes up. Even enter the domain in your browser and see what comes up. If nothing, it’s safe to say it’s available. Go buy it and do it quickly, before someone registers yourcompany.sucks.