10 Tips Before You Buy a Domain Name

When it comes to picking a domain name, it’s important to help clients look beyond a mere web address for their sites. A domain name will become the anchor of a brand for years to come. Before registering a domain name, it’s essential to do the work up front to ensure it meets a client’s needs over the long run.

And to help you out, here are 10 tips to consider before you buy a domain name.

1. Check the competition

Look at the domain names of competitors and leaders in clients’ industries. Note any keywords they include and their domain extension – everything to the right of the dot (also called a TLD). A client operating a bicycle shop would likely find relevant domain names include some variation of bike, bicycle or cycle.

Once you come up with something you like, check its availability with Media Temple’s domain name search tool.

2. Make it easy to type & remember

Even if a website ranks well in searches, it’s still important to have a web address that clients can relay via word of mouth. That can mean limiting creativity a bit, as it’s very difficult to visualize and remember domains with odd spellings of words, multiple hyphens or other characters, numbers and so forth.

People should know how to type it as soon as they hear it or after a very brief explanation. In the domain industry this is commonly referred to as the “radio test.” If your client is running an ad or talking about their business over the air, how do they say the domain? Something like katz4life.com presents far more of a problem than, say, catsrock.com for a web address.

Also try to avoid words that have more than one common spelling, such as ambience (which can also be spelled ambiance). If you must use one of these, try to register an additional domain with that alternate spelling. It’s very easy to forward the variant to a primary domain, letting people find the website without confusion.

3. Avoid slang & pop culture

Imagine if today you tried appealing to a millennial demographic by using the term xtreme in a domain. You might reel in droves of fortysomethings, but the target audience would likely find that choice of words laughably outdated.

Planning for long-term success means picking a web address with classic appeal, not something that fades from popularity within a few years.

Similarly, avoid slang or use only slang that’s universally recognizable. With the global reach of the internet, it’s not unthinkable that you’ll attract some folks who speak English as a second language. Make it easy for them.

4. Shorter is better

As we just discussed, a good domain name is easy to remember – and shortening it helps a lot. If there are multiple words in the domain, people will need to remember all of them and the order they’re in, not to mention correctly typing the whole thing out. There aren’t many one-word domain names available today, but we’re about to go over a key strategy for finding a short domain.

5. Look beyond .com

At the time of this writing, the average length of a .com domain name hovered around 15 characters. That’s quite a mouthful, even if you break it into several words. Fortunately, the growth of the internet means new domain extensions get released regularly – and today there are nearly 300 of them.

Looking beyond .com can make the difference with a memorable domain that tells a story about what you do. For example, imagine working with a client who operates an upscale yoga studio. If you stuck with only .com for their web address, you probably wouldn’t have much luck.

Fortunately, the .studio TLD was released recently enough that there are more short and memorable domains available. It’s also a perfect fit for the industry and would create very little confusion for people trying to remember the web address.

6. Check social media handles

Before registering your great idea, take a few minutes to see it’s already in use as a handle on social media platforms. It’s ideal to have a client’s domain and social media handles match in order to create a stronger brand. Visitors will feel more confident finding your client online, and they’ll have more credibility when you share all the cool stuff you’re doing.

7. Avoid trademarks

With all the new domain extensions available, the unscrupulous individual might be tempted to piggyback off the reputation of an established brand. Imagine registering a domain using the word nike paired with a domain extension that just came out, and then using it to market the sports gear of a client you hope to impress.

This might seem like an easy win, but it wouldn’t be long before it caught the eye of Nike’s legal department.

This also might occur purely by mistake, but either way you’re on the hook. If you have a great idea, make sure someone else didn’t have it first with a quick search at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It’ll reveal if anyone else registered the basic word mark that you’re after.

8. Protect your brand

Even if you trademarked your great idea, somebody could still imitate you without legal repercussions. For example, an imitator of your client’s yoga studio might try using a similar domain that uses another extension, perhaps dropping .studio in favor of something else. You can head off bad actors by registering multiple variants of the domain you want to protect, and then forward them to that online property.

9. Hyphens are a close call

If a domain name uses two words, it might be tempting to add a hyphen for readability. The problem is people might not remember the hyphen and wind up at someone else’s site.

It used to be a common belief that hyphenated domains were easier for search engines to parse, so they had better SEO value. However, today it’s understood that search engines actually associate hyphenated domains with spammy behaviour – and could penalize them.

10. So are numbers

Like hyphens, numbers can present a dilemma if people aren’t sure if you’re using a numeral or spelling out the number. Most of the time, it’s safe to assume it’s spelled out, like twobrothers or threeroses. On the other hand, numerals in a street address or year might present as much a challenge as a branding opportunity. You can easily overcome this simply by registering both versions of the domain, and then forwarding one to the other, opting to make the stronger domain the primary address.

Don’t hesitate to register your perfect domain

If you already used Media Temple’s domain name search tool to find a web address your client will love, make sure you register it without delay. Each day thousands of domains are registered – taking them off the market. Once you find an available domain that resonates with a brand, register it and any variants, and then help your client get started making their way online.

About the Author Art Martori has produced content for nearly a decade and a half following a career in journalism. He’s made words and design for a broad array of industries, including tech, finance, and law. When Art isn’t drafting blog posts or working on web pages, you might find him riding his motorcycle or hunting for new restaurants. More by this Author