Do you know: Google.com could have well been called Google.Stanford.Edu?
Seriously! Google founders and Stanford students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had named their project originally like that. But the domain that got registered in 1997 was Google.com and that is how we recognize this mega-successful project today.
And at one point, our favorite PayPal was also called X.com after the famous X variable in programming. However, it later got renamed due to the somewhat adult connotation with the same alphabet.
This amazing Mashable story left me wondering. If I had to follow some modern domain name rules, what would I really call my website. I’m sure quite a few of you might be working on projects that you want to go live with soon. And among the other zillion tasks that you might be working on, naming it right might just feel the most taxing one.
Through this post, we’ll revisit some established notions about naming websites and see if they still hold strong or have lost all meaning.
Before I get into the specifics of your domain nomenclature, I’d like to talk a bit about the extension.
1 Whether to use www or not?
I have been working on a side project for a while now. When I was coming up with its domain name, the first question that bugged me was about including the www part in the URL.
I read both sides of the argument.
In favor of:
Nothing really. I think these guys are the convention first types.
Ditching www leaves you with 3 extra shiny characters in the page titles. Now, why shouldn’t the SEOs love this!
And URLS look shorter and better without the www – Awww so nice
While this is a subjective choice, most websites that I see these days prefer to go without it.
2 How the .com Extension Really Factors In
If you’re planning a new website, you might find yourself wondering if the .com extension really matter.
Well, if you think logically, then YES. The .com extension does matter.
It could be the difference between a good blog and a great blog.
And it will affect your type-in traffic. The type-in traffic is one that types your URL and lands on it. I don’t think that there’s a doubt about all of us being kind of programmed to expect a URL to sound like www.mydomain.com.
There are so many times when I can’t recollect the extension of a domain and I end up typing .com, and then I struggle my way through the other popular ones before finding the correct extension.
We are naturally inclined towards a .com site. Therefore, it is generally recommended that you get a .com extension.
However, if you’ve tried all the 100 best domain name ideas that you could think of and none seem to be available, give up and head towards the other popular domains.
- Easel.ly does a nice job with the .ly extension.
Just look around and you’ll find some really creative examples. See if you can play a little with the naming. Just remember that not getting the .com extension is not the end of the world.
3 Do the Search Engines Care?
Every website owner wants his/her website to show up in the top results for all the targeted keywords. Search engines play a big role in this.
Initially, search engines (especially Google) took into account the placement of keywords in the domain name. Among other things, the earlier search algorithms did base their ranking on the inclusion of the root keywords in the domain name.
However, as newer algorithms evolved, this factor lost its meaning completely.
The bottom line
Search engines don’t care a bit about how you choose your domain name.
4 It helps if the domain name has a story
Every time you plan a blog for your clients, always try to ask them the story behind their domain name. This is a wonderful chance to strike a bond between them and their visitors. Their visitors recollect their sites better than the ones that don’t have such stories.
So, if you can pick a domain name that has a story of how it’s interwoven with your business and why it makes sense, you’ll see that your visitors will find it easier to relate to you. Like the famous Nike brand, which is named after the Greek goddess of victory.
Simple, fitting and justified, right? Plus that story behind the name just adds to the brand as a whole.
Just pen out some ideas that you can use as your brand names that also add meaning to you.
5 Remember that the Logo Follows the Name
While a name brings you recognition, a logo helps people recognize you. A brand that absolutely nails both these branding tools is Amazon.
Its name has a story. Amazon wanted to be known for its voluminous range – just like the humongous river Amazon that inspired its name.
If you look at its logo, you’ll realize the great coherency that exists between the two. You have an arrow that spans from A to Z— so much like the range that Amazon offers.
6 Strategic Keyword Stuffing
Again, placing the keyword in the domain has its share of use and abuse in the SEO world. Earlier, this was still a factor. But it’s becoming increasingly non-important these days. Search engines are smarter now, and the newer search algorithms reflect this well.
But there are some implicit benefits of using keywords in the domain name.
If you remember, a little while back, you would find people stuffing their meta-description tag with all the targeted keywords. They would try to influence the search engines through this.
Once this abuse caught Google’s eye, the meta-description field was dropped as a ranking factor altogether.
But you’ll still find SEOs advocating the proper and effective use of this meta-description field. You’re still encouraged to use your keywords sparingly in it. This advice holds good as this field is visible to the search traffic when they decide whether to click or not.
Likewise, the domain name is visible to the users when they search. They will look at the domain once before (unless of course, you’re a thought leader in your niche) deciding to click.
Simply search for a keyword in a niche about which you don’t have any insights. If the search results popped up as keywordsomething.com and smartrandomtext.com—what will you be likely to click more?
If you ask me, I’ll surely go in for the former option.
While the placement of the keyword in the domain is not a direct factor influencing search results, it can have such implicit benefits.
Like in this example, if most people prefer what I did, the CTR for this domain will shoot up, and this is definitely a factor in ranking websites. A higher CTR often reflects that the search traffic is finding that result more relevant over the others.
If you look at some notable SEO and Copywriting authority blogs, you’ll see them using some form of their keywords: Copyblogger.com, Copyhacks.com, WP Beginner and so on…
7 The Long and Short of It
Another thing that I find increasingly chaotic about naming websites is the name’s length. Just try searching, and you’ll find all kinds of “rules” about the supposed ideal domain length.
While I prefer short ones, there’s no real way to tell how this one thing could affect your traffic.
The type-in traffic will (without a doubt) like to type shorter names and reach you. But there will be some who won’t mind typing in the 3 words long domain names either.
Just look around at some of the authority websites in the SEO niche: SearchEngineLand.com and SearchEngineJournal.com
These are by no means short.
But then, you have Moz.com and Hubspot.com too. Pretty short and easy to reach by typing.
Honestly, I don’t think that the former 2 websites are losing out on anything due to their domain lengths.
Most people seem to be obsessed with staying under the 8 character mark, but it really doesn’t matter if you’re creating a resource that helps people. They’ll always find a way to reach you if you’re truly helpful.
8 Single Word/Multi-word-Nailing the Right Number
You shouldn’t bother about this at all.
If you’d still like to pick a sweet spot, 2 seems just enough. Try to keep the maximum length of your domain to 2-3 words just so for simplicity’s sake.
More than 2 words could mean a very lengthy (and, therefore clumsy) URL.
When it comes to domain lengths, short is almost always better than long, but again, the choice is really up to you as it doesn’t really seem to affect ranking.
9 The Uniqueness Quotient
This one goes without saying. No matter how you name your site, please keep it unique. If you name it a lot like the existing resources in your niche, you’ll only make your life tough.
It’s funny how you’ll see the WordPress niche full of names that are tagged with the epic “WP” term (I’m guilty of owning a couple blogs like this.) Some new blogs are definitely showing novelty. In hindsight, who would care for just another WP titled blog?
Long story short—a non-unique domain name will take you very long to stand out and make an impression.
10 Word of Mouth
If you follow these tips about keeping your domain names unique and backed with a story, you’ll get your share of word of mouth publicity rather easily.
When people come across something interesting that they can relate to, they often share it with others in both: the online and the offline worlds.
So, if you create short, unique and smart domain names, people will remember them and happily share them with their friends and social following.
Through this post, I’ve tried to touch on several ideas that seem to be related with the choice of domain names and how they impact a site’s performance.
Some of them have worn out, thanks to the search engine evolution and smarter algorithms. However, there are still some others factor that continue to remain important despite no longer being a factor in the search rankings. And there are some that will almost always remain important no matter what the context is.
Ultimately, if you only build a resource that will cure some pain points within your niche, you will get your due attention.
You don’t need a catchy domain name to qualify your website for success. However, having one might do some magic.