According to WHOIS, by October 9th, 2012 there were a total of 142,287,027 top level domains (COM, NET, ORG, INFO, BIZ, US). Considering picking a domain name has been done a 150 million times before, it is still amazing how easy it is to do it wrong.
Despite the brute force method favored by some registration tools, picking a domain name is still more art than science. No matter what the site's primary purpose, the ideal domain names would display the same cardinal qualities. The qualities a domain name must posses to be ideal are that i be:
- easy to type
- and rank highly in search engines optimization (SEO).
But like any kind of perfection, picking the ideal domain name can be elusive. Some of these qualities tend to be mutually exclusive which introduces perfection's most implacable enemy into the process - compromise.
Another challenge to picking the perfect domain name is, like other art, the domain picking experiences fads. At one time dashes in domain names where considered very de jure because of the belief that search engines would parse them gaining some additional optimization juice. Later completely made up names became very popular. Neither fads has led to ideal domain names in my opinion since the former made domain names harder to type and the latter made them harder to remember. Such is the nature of fads to emphasise one quality at the expense of others.
Fortunately here math comes to the rescue. For an 8 character domain name using numbers and letters there are 2,600,000,000,000 possible combindations (2.61282843 X 10 to the 12th). Additionally on any given day there are 100,000 domain names that are not renewed widening the pool of choices. So practice compromise to achieve perfection and pick the ideal name by following these steps:
Choose a Unique Name
This ideal you will be certain to achieve because your domain name must be unique and this requirement is enforced by a large, powerful international governing body. Unfortunately for perfection, the fact that so many domain names have already been registered almost demands compromise. My understanding is that all 1, 2, and 3 letter word combinations have been registered, as well as every word in the English language. So the most important criteria for choosing a domain name quickly becomes availability.
To find the ideal domain name requires looking at a lot of options and then determining which can be used. The easiest way to do this is to start with a few seed words. Having a few terms in mind creates a mental platform and promotes better focus on the task. The list does not have to exhaustive. You only need a few seed words, because you can use search engine optimization to expand out the list.
For example, if you are picking a domain name for a construction company, you might start with seed words such as "construction, builder, contractor, fix". From there, a good course of action is to use a keyword tool like Google Adwords to analyze how often prospective customers are actually searching for these terms. Google Adwords will also suggest similar terms. This provides a sound foundation later for another cardinal virtue of idea domain names, search engine optimization. To continue the example, here is what an analysis of these seed words reveals.
|Keyword||Local Monthly Searches (United States)|
In my experience the results are almost always surprising. Some seed words, like fix and builder, are not searched all that often in this context. Other words that were not in the seed list, like handyman, are used much more frequently by prospective customers.
Once you understand how people search for your offering, you now pair highly ranked terms together, try prefixes or suffixes, experiment with verbs and adjectives, include brands and place names (if the business is local) to attemt to find truly unique domain names. Don't be discouraged if your favorite name is already taken.
In addition it might be possible to buy the ideal domain name from its current owner. There exists today a healthly aftermarket for domain names. Although most transactions are private, according to Wikipedia the most expensive domain names on record were Insure.com for $16 million, Sex.com for $14 million, Fund.com for £9.99 million and Porn.com for $9.5 million. Most names can be purchased for much, much less than $10 million, so this might be an option worth considering for those who are well funded.
Make it Descriptive
Now the time has come to connect the words together to create meaningful domain names such as HomeConstructionBoulder.com or HandymanLA.com.
Make it Memorable
For the sake of readability it is important to capitalize the first letter of an word.
But be careful. Domain names are case insensitive and capitalization can make a difference in meaning. For example WhoRepresents.com, a popular listing of agents can also be seen as WhorePresents.com. A therapists' referal network named TherapistFinder.com in other lights was seen as TheRapistFinder.com. ExpertsExchange.com was also called ExpertSexChange.com which might be a little too memoriable.
Easy to Type
Unlike many things in life, here shorter is better. The fewer characters customers needs to type the easier a domain name usually is to remember, and the harder to mispell. This is paricularily important if you are going to use the domain name for email addresses. Shorter does come at a cost since it impacts the goal of the name being descriptive and being used to enhance your search engine optimization.
One compromise that might be worth considering is using a different domain name for email. You could use SewardCO for email, and SewardConstructionCo for description and search engine optimation. The SewardCO.com domain name would be pointed at the SewardConstructionCO.com site. If you had an email addess, say Doug@SewardCO.com, you could have an email address at Doug@SewardConstructionCO.com that redirected mail to the same address.
A Few Thoughts on Search Engine Optimization