When your mom was pregnant with you I bet she spent a lot of time looking through baby name books. She wanted something that represented her new child perfectly. Maybe something powerful or dignified or something that had a deeper meaning. A domain name is no different. Thousands and thousands of people are going to encounter your website and the very first thing they notice is the name. It can be the difference between making money and losing money.
In this post I am going to show you some super important things to consider when choosing a domain name for your blog or website. This post might be the beginning of your successful legacy in the online world.
Why your domain name matters, big time
First of all I want to take a look at why your domain name matters. I want to convince you to sit down and actually think about your domain name instead of just plucking one out of thin air. Sure, some of the best domain names on the web have been invented out of nothing. But for the most part you need to spend some time thinking about exactly what you need to get across.
So why does your domain name matter? Well this question actually forms the structure of the entire article. When we know the answer to this question we will (hopefully) be pretty well versed on how to choose a not crap domain name. The three areas I am going to cover are:
- Branding: separating the cows
- Creating a first impression that dominates
- Choosing keywords that matter
- Learning from the best (looking at some examples)
Hopefully at the end of this post you will have a little bit more direction about what is good and what is not. Feel free to drop any questions, criticisms or helpful hints of your own in comments section. They always get noticed.
1. Branding: separating the cows
The very first thing you need to consider when choosing a domain name for your blog is your branding. This is something that 90% of blog and website owners fail to consider and, eventually, pay the price for ignoring. It is vital for your long term success.
What is branding?
So what is branding? Branding is a name or slogan or picture that separates you from the competition. It is your business’ personality. It is so much more than just a domain name but the domain name has so much to do with how you will be branded.
But what has it got to do with cows? Well the idea of branding is thought to come from the days when cattle would be stamped with a burning iron prod in order to separate them from other farmer’s cows. The logo or symbol that they used was unique and left no doubt in everyone’s mind who owned the cows in question. A disgusting and cruel origin but that’s the theory. And in actual fact it gives you a good insight into what branding is. It is the words, images, slogans, etc. that separate you from the competition.
Branding considerations when deciding on a domain name
Now that you know your domain name has to be branded I want to give you a few things to think about. These pointers will hopefully help guide the branding aspect of selecting a domain name.
- Be different
You don’t really need to be original but you do need to be different. The whole idea behind branding is to separate you from everyone else so make sure your domain name at least does that. Give yourself something new and creative such that people know right away you aren’t that other guy.
A good domain name should create some sort of emotional response. It doesn’t have to make the reader burst out laughing or break down in tears. It just has to create some sort of thought process. It has to make people want to dig deeper or find out more.
The domain name needs to connect with what the website is about. As soon as you read the domain name you should know what the website is about. Now, there are exceptions to this rule, as there are with all the rules. For the most part, however, you want people to know as quick as possible what it is you’re about.
Don’t call your website www.makingtoast.com if your website has nothing to do with toast. Unless, of course, that quirkiness is part of your branding, the inconsistency will really confuse people. You need to make your domain name branding consistent with the rest of the site. This is similar to connection but more in depth and long term.
The domain name needs to target the audience you are trying to tap in to. If you are selling hearing aids of old men you don’t want to use a Gen-Y word that none of them are going to understand. Phat Aids is just not going to work! Make sure your domain name works for your target market.
Branding is something that people do entire degrees on and spend whole careers trying to get right. It is a major part of marketing and vital for every business. We don’t need to go that far but we do need to consider it when choosing a domain name. Most people don’t succeed with a poorly branded web address.
2. Creating a first impression that dominates
This section is quite similar to branding in that if your brand is thought out well you will create a good first impression. And as we all know, first impressions last. You need to create one that dominates.
Ideally a first impression will dominate if it does two things:
- Creates a memory
The whole point of a first impression is to get people to remember you. You don’t want to fade into the crowd. You want to stand out and be remembered. It is actually quite easy to create an emotional response with a domain name – it is quite another to be remembered. Stop and think about a website that you have visited in the past month that you remembered the URL of right off the bat. I bet there aren’t too many.
- Sells your service
If you are writing a blog about tree planting you want a domain name that sells your service on the first impression. As soon as someone reads that address you want them to want to go deeper, look further and trust what you are doing. It goes for any blog, website or even product. Make sure that domain name says enough about what you do and also makes people want to engage you.
First impressions are very important for a domain name. That being said, it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t make a great one. If your actual website, blog, product, writing, etc. is exceptionally good then people will stay despite a bad domain choice. If, however, you can think of something fantastic in the URL you might convince them to interact before they even see what you’re writing about.
3. Choosing keywords that matter
Okay here is where it starts to get a little bit tricky. The keywords that you put in your domain name can play a big role in how well you rank on the search engines like Google. For example, if you have an exact key phrase match in your domain name it is likely that you will rank well for that domain name. The tricky part is that this is only important if you are trying to rank for a particular key phrase.
Blogs vs product sites
I make money on two main types of websites – blogs and product sites. Keywords are really only important on the latter. Let me explain.
I own dozens of product websites that make money by selling individual products, affiliate links, etc. Each of these is based around a very specific niche. For example, I have a slow cookers website where we only review and write about slow cookers. We don’t talk about cars or make up. On a site like this the keywords in the domain name are very important. You want to have slow cookers in the URL. You don’t NEED to have it in the URL but it makes a big difference on the search engines (from my experience).
A blog, on the other hand, doesn’t really need to have an exact keyword match. The keywords in the domain name are still important if you want to get an idea across but they become less relevant for SEO because it is your individual posts that are going to be ranking and bringing in the traffic. Problogger is a good example of this principle. As soon as you read the name you know what the site is about. The keyword “blogger” is very important in this regard. But I imagine Darren hardly gets any traffic from people searching for the word “problogger” or even “blogger”. His post topics are far vaster than that.
If you are going to be targeting visitors of a wide variety of topics then your keywords should be more about branding your site. If, however, you want people to come from a specific niche like a product or event then you should try to get as close a match as possible. This is my theory on domain name keywords and it seems to be working.
4. Learning from the best (some examples)
Now that we have some basic ideas about selecting domain names I want to take a look at some people who are doing it really well. These are people who have considered their branding, their target audience, created an emotional response and thought about their keywords. If they haven’t done so then they got really lucky!
Shoemoney.com is an excellent domain name because it mixes both the personal and the business. The blog is authored by Jeremy Schoemaker who chose to brand his blog by mixing a play on his surname and the goal of the site (making money online). It conjures up all sorts of mental imagery which is then carried out perfectly in the site itself.
Darren Rowse is the Problogger and one of the nicest guys you will ever encounter. He always answers my emails and Tweets and is probably the man to whom the credit should go for the lifestyle I live. I work from home, run several businesses and it all started when I encountered Darren’s blog. Problogger.net tells you right away what the site is about. Its a shame he didn’t buy the .com earlier on in the piece but it didn’t seem to matter.
eHow.com is a website that shows you how to do stuff. In their recent update Google placed a lot of weight on this site – it seems to be getting bigger and bigger. It is a fantastic domain name because it is four letters long, easy to remember and instantly tells you what the entire site is about. Although “how” is not a very good keyword from an SEO point of view it still gets thrown in the mix.
When choosing your next domain name think carefully about your branding, keywords and how you want to position the site itself. If you can evoke some emotion in your readers or give them an instant picture about what it is that you do then you are well on your way to success.