One of the most important elements of your branding is the right choice of domain name. You want something that reflects your company’s name, but also has all of the ‘goldilocks’ qualities of a great name—nothing too long or too confusing or too irrelevant. In order to come up with a domain name that is ‘just right,’ familiarize yourself with these common website pitfalls:
1. Opting for the wrong Top Level Domain (TLD) extension
There are countless different TLDs that you can register your domain name under, with ‘.com’ being among the most popular. And while there is no wrong TLD, it is important that you choose one that is appropriate for your site. For example, if you have a website for a school, a ‘.edu’ TLD is the most appropriate. You may also want to consider registering multiple TLDs. Then you can either create complementary sites (like blogs) to use them for, or you can register the ones that you think will gain a lot of traffic in order to redirect them to your primary URL.
2. Making it lengthy
When you create a domain name, you want your site visitors to be able to easily get there. A lengthy name can hinder those trying to access your site from a touchscreen device like a phone. It can also make it more difficult for site visitors to remember your website URL to revisit in the future. And you may find that it doesn’t look all that appealing on your marketing materials, either. Try to limit yourself to 16 characters.
3. Choosing a name that is similar to another site’s
Try to come up with a website URL that is unique to your site and also reflects what your site is about. Unless you have strong brand recognition and recall, like Google or Amazon, you may want to avoid using an otherwise nondescript URL that might sound like another site entirely. A good example of a company that chose a branded yet discerning URL is Big 5 with www.big5sportinggoods.com. Acknowledging that ‘Big 5’ might sound like another entity (such as First 5 California), they opted for a URL with clarity. Plus, they even registered ‘www.big5.com’ and chose to redirect it to their primary URL.
4. Incorporating characters other than letters
There’s a lot of room for confusion when it comes to communicating website URLs that contain numbers or dashes. You’ll spend considerable time constantly explaining that numbers are either spelled out or typed as numbers, and indicating what kind of dashes go where. So if appropriate for your brand, take a letters-only approach.
5. Making it irrelevant
It can be easy to get off-topic with domain names. Perhaps your business started off selling kitchen appliances but has since expanded to furniture and textiles, and you find yourself continuing to operate under the domain name ‘www.such-and-such-appliances.com’. Or perhaps you went too broad, with a name like ‘www.such-and-such-auto.com,’ when your business specializes in tires. Take care to make it relevant from the start, but rest assured that you can register a new domain name later, if need be.
6. Not considering the different ways your domain name can be read
Some more embarrassing problems that arise with the wrong domain name occur when the URL can be read in ways it shouldn’t be. For example, consider the domain name ‘Jennas-Side.com,’ made famous by the television show, 30 Rock. On paper it might look okay (minus the dash!), but aloud, it sounds pretty bad. So before you commit to a domain name, be sure to read it carefully and say it aloud, first.
7. Making it difficult to spell
If you can avoid it, stay away from words that are difficult to spell for many people (‘occasion’ or ‘amoeba’), are homonyms and therefore difficult to spell (‘piece’ vs. ‘peace’), or have various English spellings for different cultures (America’s ‘color’ vs. Britain’s ‘colour’).
If you have already registered your URL, but discovered that there’s a problem with it or simply think it’s time for an upgrade, the upside is that you aren’t stuck with it. Sure, you will need to take extra measures to maintain your existing return visitors, but it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle unless the name you want has already been registered. The sooner you resolve it, the better!