A lot of good domain names are already taken. So how can you find a domain that is good for SEO and your brand?
Visit Google Domains to start searching
I prefer to register on Google for a few key reasons.
- It’s easier to register a Google Workspace account. This is a great service for your email (provided by Gmail), your cloud storage, and online apps like Google Docs and Google Sheets.
- I also like that Google offers free privacy protection. Most domain registrars charge extra for this, even though it’s an essential upgrade. You will need privacy protection to keep your personal information (address and phone number) private from spammers.
- Finally, Google Domains has industry-leading DNS. Your DNS (Domain Name System) connects your website to your web server. A good DNS can impact your page load speed, which is important for SEO.
If you’d like more information, Kinsta has an excellent review of Google’s domain service.
Choose a domain that's short and memorable
The longer your domain name, the more likely people are to make a mistake when they tell others about your business or type your web address into Google.
Your domain (the name between “www.” and your domain extension, such as “.com” or “.org”), should be no more than 20 characters. If you choose a longer domain name, you’ll have trouble fitting it neatly onto a business card when you add an employee’s name in front of it. (For example, how are you going to print email@example.com on a 3.5″ card while keeping the font a legible size?)
Use .com or .org
The most trusted domain extensions are “.com” for companies and “.org” for nonprofit organizations. (The domain “.io” is also popular in the tech industry.)
Since these domains extensions have been around for so long, people have acquired the instinct to recognize them, use them, and remember them.
There is a new industry of creative top level domain extensions such as .movie or .cooking. These are even more confusing to customers. If you tell someone your website is “james.band,” they might miss the fact that you just told them your web domain.
So how do you secure a good “.com” or “.org” when the best domains seem to be taken?
Try coming up with a variant on your company’s name. Here are some ideas….
Weigh a branded vs keyword-driven domain
MidtownAtlantaDentists.com aligns with what people will type into a Google search (“Atlanta dentist”). But it doesn’t sound like a unique brand.
On the other hand, Smiles4GrantPark.com sounds like a distinctive brand. But it doesn’t get the SEO boost that comes with a relevant keyword (like “dentist” or “Atlanta”).
Welcome to the debate between branding and keywords in domain names!
Every industry is different, so I recommend searching Google to see what competitors in your industry are doing.
- Consultants and authors tend to use their own names (highly branded). Barry Moltz’s domain is simply BarryMoltz.com.
- Professional service providers often use a name that combines their branding with a relevant keyword. For example, Hornsby Law Group uses HornsbyLaw.com.
- Stores and restaurants often use their own brand name with a relevant keyword. Casa del Matador uses MatadorRestaurants.com to help the restaurant rank for the keyword “Mexican restaurant”.
- Commoditized businesses often use a keyword driven name. A car wash chose the name USADetailAndCarWash.com to maximize their chances of ranking for keywords like “car detail” or “car wash.”
- Well-funded companies often use a short domain based on their branding, like Instagram.com. Short domains like this are often expensive to acquire. Since you don’t have any keywords in the domain, you won’t have any leg up with SEO. However, a company with a substantial marketing budget can afford to build brand equity using advertising, blogging, and social media.
Make your domain easy to pronounce and spell
You’re going to say your domain to a lot of people! On the phone (“visit us at…”), in your voicemail (“email us at…”), in person (“our website is…”), and in your YouTube video (“find us online at…”).
When you say your domain name, you want people to get it the first time. If they miss it entirely, that won’t help your business. If they have to ask you to spell it, that’d going to get old fast.
Before you build your website, try asking a friend in person if they can test your website. When they pull out their phone, tell them the web domain. If they have to ask you to spell it, think again before launching on that domain.
Avoid common mistakes
- Avoid hyphens. Spammers often use hyphenated domains to confuse people with established companies, and this has decimated consumer trust. You’ll also have to awkwardly explain a domain like Tractor-Supply.com to customers by saying, “tractor hyphen supply dot com…. hyphen, like the punctuation mark.” It’s awkward.
- Avoid double letters. PressSetup.com will be odd to type, and customers are likely to make a typo.
- Avoid boxing yourself in. Businesses often start in a specialized field and then expand to include more services, or they start in one city and expand to additional locations. For your SEO benefit, your domain should be a permanent asset that you build over time. Ideally, you would never change it. So try to choose a domain that represents the future direction of your company.
- Avoid using a trademark or copyrighted name. You can search the USPTO to check.
- Avoid delaying your purchase. Each day thousands of domains are registered. If you spot an affordable domain (usually only $15), consider buying it within the month so that another company doesn’t beat you to registering it.
- Avoid buying a hosting plan from your domain registrar. Many companies that sell domains will try to upsell you on hosting and give you a free domain in the process. If you visit a Facebook group of web developers, you’ll see that buying hosting on GoDaddy, HostGator or BlueHost can lead to a lot of frustration. For hosting, I personally recommend SiteGround (not an affiliate link), as do many other professional development companies. SiteGround won’t give you a free $15 domain, but their overall service is far better in my experience.
- Make sure to add privacy protection. If you don’t, prepare for an unrelating barrage of spam mail and calls for the next year. Google Domains offers free privacy protection, which is a key reason I recommend their service.