How to choose a good domain name
In his book Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website, SEO and online marketing expert Jon Rognerud shows you how to build a high-performance website and get top ranking on all search engines. In this edited excerpt, the author outlines how to go about selecting and purchasing a domain name for your site that will help people find you.
Choosing and purchasing a domain name is an extremely important part of designing your website, because that becomes the name (and brand) of your website. To buy a domain name, you can do so directly from your web hosting provider or through a separate domain name service (a recommended option for those using their own servers). If you’re using a separate domain name service for your server, make sure you choose one such as no-IP. com, which assigns you a static IP address, the numerical address that identifies your computer. If this address is ever-changing (as it is with some Internet service providers), you won’t be able to successfully assign a domain name to your server. I personally use Register.com, Namecheap.com, or GoDaddy.com because I like the independence that these services provide.
The process for signing up for a domain name works the same way whether it’s through a hosting provider or a separate domain name service. You’ll be asked to enter the domain name you want to register into a text box. The service shows you the extensions you can choose. Generally, you always want to go with .com because this is the most popular domain name extension and easiest for users to remember. Also, Google likes .com, .org and .net domains a lot, even though it states it doesn’t matter. This is likely because .info and .biz can often be seen as spam sites or thin affiliates sites.
In terms of what domain name to use, this is where keyword optimization comes into play. Don’t fall into the temptation that many webmasters do and use something catchy and creative for your URL. It might be more memorable to potential visitors, especially if you use a lot of offline marketing, but it won’t get your site ranked high in search engines. Ultimately, you’ll want to use keywords to create a domain name that’s both memorable and likely to be ranked in the first ten listings of search engine results.
Go to GoDaddy.com/domains/searchbulk.aspx and enter keywords that you’re thinking about, and GoDaddy will format them and check the various extensions and names. It will automatically check to see if they’re registered and remove ones already taken, leaving you with a list of keyword-rich domains that are available for you!
If your desired domain name is taken, the domain name service will recommend other selections you could use. This can be helpful, since sometimes it comes up with suggestions that might rank better than your original choice. Generally, the best domain names are short, contain no hyphens and offer an excellent one-, two- or three-word summary of what the site is about. An example of an excellent domain name could be cheapknives.com. It’s short, contains no hyphens and, if it’s pointing to a website selling affordable knives, perfectly summarizes the main point of the site. One hyphen in a domain is OK, but more than two starts to look a little “shady” (i.e., not search and user friendly).
Another alternative when it comes to domain names is buying one that’s already established or expiring. This is a popular tactic used by internet marketers to generate traffic for their websites. You can find these types of domain names anywhere, from eBay to specialized services selling them (which can be found through a general Google search). For instance, you could use SnapNames.com to bid on a name that’s already taken. On this site, you enter your contact and billing information, the domain name of interest and your bid price. When the name becomes available, SnapNames.com will purchase it for you. This eliminates watching and waiting for the name.
Here’s a list of where you can buy/research domains:
Flippa.com (look at the previously sold area)
There are also auctions specifically for expired domain names on such sites as eBay and Flippa.com. Go there and start searching. You can buy existing domains, sometimes with existing content, and gain the history, traffic, links and PageRank.
Most folks who sell a website/domain will show you traffic charts and money charts. Make sure that it’s not inflated and that you can look at it over time. One month is simply not good enough. Make sure you also ask about how traffic has been coming to the site, and ask to see server logs.
Once you’ve selected your domain name, you need to register it. Be careful whom you select to handle your domain registrations, as losing your domain name could put you out of business. Use a tool such as RegSelect.com, which can help you compare prices and options of domain registration companies.
All registrars require the name of the company or individual who owns the domain (the registrant), the individual authorized to handle daily matters (the administrative contact), and the person who handles all things technical (the technical contact). Whoever possesses the registrar username and password is essentially in control of the domain, despite the fact that the legal owner is the registrant, so be careful. Choose a complex password, as this could protect you from being hacked. Hackers could have the opportunity to change ownership or servers associated with your account. Try to find a registrar that allows you to “lock” your accounts. Finally, avoid registering your domain name with your web hosting service. This could complicate a domain transfer, should you decide to change hosting companies later.