One big mistake that people new to internet business make is the wrong choice of a domain name. It is so tempting when you think you have a great idea to go off and register a name. It’s quick, and cheap and probably the easiest part of building an internet empire, but if the domain name is wrong, then it can mean the difference between success and failure.
Of course if you are starting a business and you will be branding your own products, you can choose a snappy name like Yahoo, Google, or Amazon. You can’t tell from any of those names what these companies do, but everyone knows these billion-dollar enterprises. Why? Because they had a massive budget for advertising and marketing, and I doubt if you have pockets that deep to promote your little site selling used ball gowns. Sure TwiceAroundtheFloor.com is a great name but when the search engines come across it, they are more likely to get the idea that your site is about floors and not ball gowns.
No, the most effective domain name, dot com name or URL – whatever you like to call it, should be based on some serious keyword research. You will probably know without looking that BallGowns.com was taken a long time ago, but UsedBallGowns could be available. Problem is, the term “used ball gowns” in Google’s keyword finder only gets 140 local (US) searches a month, so your niche is the smallest of micro niches and you may want to think your whole niche again, this one is not going to make you any money!
If you are thinking about building niche sites for Amazon products, your search for a good domain name may be a little easier. Let’s look at Cuisinart food mixers, these are extremely popular and some models get enormous amounts of positive feedback on Amazon. It will be difficult to keep writing good keyword-rich articles about Cuisinart food mixers, but once established you could add a lot of recipes for use with their mixers. If you include the brand name Cuisinart in your domain name, you should not suddenly decide to add information about other brands of food mixers to your site.
Most companies do not mind you using their brand names in a domain name, you are promoting their products and will hopefully be making them money, but once you start comparing different mixers on your site Cuisinart may get upset that you’re saying another mixer is better, and you could be in danger of losing your site altogether. They will write and ask you to take the site down – or else.
If you are building affiliate sites promoting products from, say, Commission Junction, be sure to read the terms and conditions before you apply to a company’s program, they may expressly forbid the use of their name in your domain name.
Let’s say for sake of argument that UsedBallGowns is a popular search term and you can’t find any name available that is appropriate, punch UsedBallGowns.com into the address bar and see what comes up. You may discover that the name is for sale and there will be a place card saying the site is for sale through a company whom you can contact. Some used domain names sell quite cheaply, and if it is the perfect keyword-rich domain name for your business it may be well worth investing a couple of hundred dollars in the name you really want.
There are a number of sites that offer expired domains for sale. These are often an excellent investment and a great way to get your site off to a flying start. If the site has already been around for a number of years, is listed in Dmoz or the Yahoo directory (which costs $299) you may find it has already established backlinks and if you are really lucky has a good page rank. Check the history of the site before you buy though. You can do a quick check of the site’s history by using thewaybackmachine.org which will show you snapshots of the site in the past – you do not want a site that has been used for porn or anything nefarious, Google simply won’t like it. Only buy the site if it has a good history and has never been “dropped”. That means that the name registration has never lapsed before.
Although there are dozens of extensions for sale today, such as .co, .me, .us, you really should aim to get a .com extension with a second choice of .net, Google appears to attach more value to those extensions.
It is going to take a lot of research, and the shorter the name and more memorable and to-the-point the better. Many people say that long domain names are not a good idea, but I don’t think the public actually jot domain names down on bits of paper any more, if they like your site they will probably Tweet it or email a link to their friends. I personally like dashes in domain names, it’s a great way of getting the name you want, so you could get Used-Ball-Gowns.com easily. There is no mention anywhere in Google’s Webmaster help section that dashes are a no-no. The only danger is that someone may forget to add the dashes and go through to a competitor’s site.
A good domain name is going to be part of your brand, especially if you are going to build a large website on one particular subject, so spend some time researching and do it right.
Do you have any other tips about choosing a domain name? We would welcome any comments you might have.