This post is part of our ongoing series that aims to answer 29 blogging debates put forward on the ProBlogger.net website. Here we are looking at how to chose the right domain name for your website.
Some of these discussions are already discussed as part of our famous 10 step guide to building your first successful blog site, check out the section on how to chose a domain name. We continue the discussion here and address the specific points raised in the original ProBlogger post.
Long Domain Names vs Short Domain names
Actually, I’d argue that somewhere in the middle is preferable! For a start all the three letter domains have long since been registered and in fact most words in the English language have also been snapped up. So to get one of these you will need to:
- Get very lucky and spot a domain that hasn’t been renewed
- You need to open your very large wallet and fork out a large amount of cash to persuade someone to give you theirs
- Or you might be able to find a more obscure TLD (top level domain, for example .info) where there are still some registrations to be made.
None of these options are particularly attractive and whilst search engines still use the TLD to judge the quality of the site (which doesn’t seem fair and I think this will change as inevitably the number of TLDs increases) I think it is better to get a slightly longer domain.
But wait, don’t go for something too long! If your domain is nearing a full sentence then please think again! I registered “Blogercise” just a couple of years ago so it goes to show what kind of domain is possible, even now. If you start joining a couple of terms together you’ll be surprised by how many choices you’ll have.
Be prepared to try out lots of different ideas but sooner or later you’ll have to take the plunge!
Many website builders will advocate the purchase of “keyword rich” domains on the basis of chasing a specific search term. This may be be something you wish to try but ultimately you want your site to rank for 100s if not 1000s of search terms. A good site is more than it’s domain name and I’d prioritise picking something memorable and meaningful.
If you do go for this route then the process simply comes down to finding a highly searched for term that is not yet registered. My advise here would be to try an automate your search by using term extraction software and a script that can test the availability of the domain – there are commercial solutions that will do this for you. If you are lucky you’ll find something and make a few quid, if you aren’t you’ve just wasted a lot of time – personally I prefer to build sites that are more than just a name.
Domains with Hyphens vs non Hyphens
Avoid hyphens. The only time I see the value of these if you are desperate for a particular term and adding the hyphen in means you can get it. Generally I think hyphens just don’t look so good when your readers look at the URLs. There aren’t many well known sites that contain them and this somehow seems to cheapen the poor old hyphen. Your site will somehow look less worthy.
I must admit that I have never registered a domain name that contains a hyphen.
If you do have to go for one, don’t worry too much. Your site will still rank in Google and it will still work. Remember your site is more than its domain name! If it isn’t, you might just be in trouble…
.com vs other extensions (like .net, .org)
The world has come to associate the term “.com” with a website. So for no other reason owning the .com will give you a head start. Other well known domain extensions will work and are acceptable but they are no substitute for the good old fashioned .com name.
In time it is inevitable that more TLDs will become available for us to use and when this happens I imagine the .com effect will become eroded. There is no way that this won’t happen as restricting the available domains will simply stifle the Internet’s progess. Of course those who have invested heavily in domain names will resist this at every opportunity but sooner or later something will give.
Personally I avoid .org domains as they are specifically reserved for organisations. Sure, no one ever checks when you register but given the fuzziness around this can you really guarantee me that this rule might one day be enforced. I agree it seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened! I wouldn’t want to take the risk of a site I invested hours of time in being seized from me thanks to bureaucracy.
For now I would avoid the obscure domains that have low recognition. There is a general perception that these are used by “low grade” sites. I will immediately follow that statement up by saying that there are many awesome sites that do use such domains so if you are confident enough in your product then go for it. However if you are trying to launch a new blog with very little resource then you might just find that a less well known TLD will be harder to get off the ground.
Local vs Global domain Extensions
If you are trying to build an international community that will attract readers from all around the world then a country specific domain will make this difficult. On the plus side your site will rank well in your local search engine but it will perform less well across the rest of the world.
So again this is another vote for going for the .com version of your domain name! The .com has universal appeal and will be recognised the world over. It is possible to let the search engines know that your .com domain is aimed at a specific country to begin with. For example you can log into Google’s webmaster tools and let them know that, for example, a site is aimed at UK individuals.
I would however use a country specific domain if the site has an obvious connection to your national identity. If you are writing about your local city, a national sports team or a well known television program then associating your site with your nationality will only strengthen the appeal to those looking for information about your country from abroad. Who knows more about what’s going on locally than someone who lives there?
Don’t get too Obsessed with the domain name
Domain names are important, don’t get me wrong, but they are not nearly as important as some people believe. Sure, if you’ve only ever built sites around keywords then another approach may seem impossible. But I can assure you that many sites with weird and wonderful domains rank number one in the search engines for 100s of searches that have no connection with their domain. This is thanks to building good content that people want to link to. At some point you need to make a decision so that you can get started on your site!
And actually, savvy users such as you and I will be able to spot keyword chasing sites a mile off in Google and will skip past them. It is just a matter of time before Google realises this too and will rank based on how relevant the site’s content is and not how closely the sites name matches the term. If you care about building a site in the long term then you’d do well to remember this.
Personally I am getting more and more fed up with rubbish sites that clearly exist just to make a few affiliate bucks, despite their poor content and quality they still seem to appear in the top 10 results simply because the owner thought to buy the domain name. This just doesn’t seem right to me.
Google please fix.