Choosing a Domain Name

Despite the mystique, there’s nothing magic about domain names. A good name, like a good telephone number, won’t make you rich or famous. But a bad name, like a bad number, can make you hard to reach.

When it Counts
Most visitors will get to your website by clicking a link in an email, blog, website, search engine or status update (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). And most will visit, maybe even bookmark your site, without ever learning your domain name. The intrepid few will arrive after seeing or hearing your name, then keying it into a browser. It is for those keyboard navigators that a good name counts most of all.

Make it Relevant
Ideally your domain name should reflect your business, and look good on your business card. For example, Arleen E. Goscinski, ASA — a residential real estate appraiser — selected HouseAppraisals.com for her domain name. That was more than a decade ago. Today, with appraisal-related generic names long gone, Timothy Griffith, ASA, who specializes in commercial real estate appraisals, picked GriffithAppraisals.com for his site.

Embedded Keywords Count
Both Arleen and Tim selected domain names including the word “appraisal”, thus describing their profession and boosting their search engine rankings.  Although early search engines “ignored” domain names, today’s big three (Google, Yahoo and Bing) all use algorithms that give extra weight to domain names with embedded keywords.

Using Your Name
Arleen’s domain name describes her business. Tim’s incorporates his trade style or DBA. Another option, for a sole practitioner, is to build on your own name, as Robert J. Connelly, ASA did when he chose BobConnelly.com for his antiques, auctions and appraisals website. The pitfall: a cute or informal name that sounds like a vanity site or — gasp — like a blog.

Keep it Simple
To make it easy to remember and type, pick a domain name that’s short and simple to spell. No hyphens, underscores, non-standard abbreviations, or words or names with multiple spellings (e.g., MacDougal). And stay away from domain extensions other than .com. Most people will automatically append .com to a name, regardless of the true extension (i.e., .biz, .net, .org, etc.).

Do it Now!
Search engines don’t give preference to clever names, but they do deprecate free domains (like http://YourName.webs.com) and secondary domains, (like bighost.net/YourName). So register your own domain name, i.e. YourName.com, and do it soon, even if you’re not ready to build a website.  A great many of the “good” domain names are already taken — even ones you might believe are unique, like YourName.com — and the supply of dot.com domains is finite and will eventually be exhausted.

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