Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to Pick a Great Domain Name

When choosing a domain name, there are two important factors to consider. The first factor is visibility. The second factor is branding. The key to success on the internet is being found. You may have the best website ever built, but if no one finds it, you will not make money online. How do you get visibility? First consider what keywords people are searching for when looking for your product or service? Think like your customer. If you are in the plumbing business, what keywords might they search? How about unclog drain or fix leaky pipe. Google moves websites to the front of the search page based on relevance. If your website is unclogdrain.com or fixleakypipe.com, you would expect to have more visibility than if your website was smithplumbing.com.

If you have been in business for a long time as Smith Plumbing and people will search for you under that name, it is okay to have smithplumbing.com, but you need to advertise to have visibility. I will talk a little more about that later.

Once you have determined the keywords that best describe your business, you need to see if the domain name is already taken. I prefer to use the domain company called Go Daddy because they have great deals on purchasing domain names and offer cheap web hosting as well. Click on the Go Daddy banner on the right to go to Go Daddy. Use the Go Daddy Domain Search Tool to see if someone already has a domain name with your keyword. I checked Go Daddy for unclogdrain.com. It was taken. Fixleakypipe.com was also taken. However, fixleakypipes.com was available. I checked Google to see how many people searched "fix leaky pipe" and found 1,180,000 searches. I tried "fix leaky pipes" and found 1,580,000 searches. If you specialize in fixing leaky pipes, you have a lot of customers searching for you and you can purchase this domain name for only $10.69 plus tax for one year.

If you have established yourself as Smith Plumbing and are known in your community, it makes sense to get smithplumbing.com. You must continue to advertise as you have always done so the local community can find you.

There is something else you can do. If you specialize in fixing leaky pipes, you may purchase fixleakypipes.com and forward and mask the domain name to your smithplumbing.com website. This way you can take advantage of the keywords that are being searched for your business and you can continue branding your business with the Smith Plumbing brand. (I will cover forwarding and masking in a separate post.)

This brings me to the second important factor in choosing a domain name, branding. Branding is more expensive and takes more effort on your part, but if you want people to associate Smith Plumbing with fixing leaky pipes, you can brand yourself with repeated advertising. Then when someone gets a leaky pipe, they will think of Smith Plumbing.

The example I gave is for a local brick and mortar business. The same principles apply for a strictly online business. I recommend the .com domain name. This is the first domain name that is taken with the keyword you select. Look for a domain name that you can promote all by yourself. If someone has the .com name and you buy the .net name, it can lead to confusion. If you are concerned with competition from someone else with the same keywords, purchase the .net and the .org domain names as well.

To prove to you how powerful this concept is, I started a website for Italian folk music ten years ago. The website is www.italianfolkmusic.com. I have hardly done anything to the site in the last 10 years. It still ranks as one of the top web searches for "Italian folk music".

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