Dec 12 2011

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Why The Right Domain Name is Important [video]

When you are establishing a new website or rebranding your business with a new name, consider your domain name carefully.

domain nameWhat is a domain name? A domain name is unique name that identifies a website. The name of my website is “www.SusanCritelli.com”. A domain name is not case-sensitive. You can type it in with or without capitalization.

Why are you choosing the domain name?

  • a personal or business website
  • a website for a single purpose, for instance, to sell a book
  • a blog established to help your website rank in the search engines
  • a lead capture page, where someone has to enter their email address to obtain information

The answers to those questions will determine how you optimize your domain. Consider the following:

  • a short name that is memorable and  easy to spell. This is especially important for radio and tv advertising.
  • a name based upon a keyword or phrase you are targeting
  • a name that does not infringe upon a copyright or trademark
  • a business name not already in use in your state
  • a name you will still like in ten years
  • a name without hyphens or special characters
  • a .COM or country specific domain for your business
  • a .ORG or country specific domain for your non-profit organization

When selecting a domain name for your business, most of the time the domain name should be the name of your business.

But if your business name is very long or complicated, you will want to select a domain name that is a short version of your business name, the name of a popular product you sell or a simple phrase describing your business.

Branding is important here and you want a short and memorable name that will stick in someone’s mind, especially if they are not able to write it down. In my opinion, memorable trumps short.  I would rather see a domain name be longer if it is easy to spell and remember. One of my very earliest domain names was biggerearnings.com.  It was recently appraised for about $1000.  It is long to type, but it is easy to say and remember.

Who cares if your domain name is short if you always have to say “xoomlie.com – that’s x-o-o-m-l-i-e-dot-com.  No, X, not Z. No, not l-y, l-i-e.” Not exactly radio friendly. And if you are trying to explain it on the telephone, they will hang up on you before you get to the end.

Always go for a .COM or a country-specific domain extension, like .CA or .CO.UK,  for your business.

If you have many customers in a particular country, you may wish to add the country-specific extension. This will help your search engine rankings in that country.  It may reduce your overall ranking, but since your goal is to sell products or services, if you don’t do business in Asia, it doesn’t matter if people in Asia can’t find your website.

Use a .COM extension if the majority of your business comes from the United States. The country-specific extension “.US” never really caught on, and it brands your website as an “also-ran” that was unable to obtain the .COM.  You want your domain name to convey authority in your niche.  In my opinion, the only exception to this was the clever use of .US in the domain name of the popular bookmarking site del.ic.io.us – but even that site is now known as delicious.com for obvious reasons.

Do not use .NET or .INFO, or any of the other domain extensions, if possible. Most people are lucky to remember the name of the domain and they will usually assume it is a .COM when guessing the rest of the address. You will lose a significant amount of traffic to the .COM version of your domain name, and if you have a major competitor at that location, you will be handing them your traffic.

The only kind of website that people expect to see a .NET address is an internet service provider, like verizon.net or optonline.net.  Avoid it if you can.

Another element to avoid if at all possible is a hyphen or other special character. “marketing-tips-today”  ends up sounding like “marketing-dash-tips-dash-today-dot-com.”


Your domain name can enhance your brand’s reputation, or damage it.

You can have an amazing site and an amazing product or service, but if your domain name is risque,  sarcastic, or an inside joke that is not easily understood, you can offend your customers without even knowing it. What seems plain to you may be interpreted in an unexpected way by your customer. Guard your brand carefully.

PS – if you have not purchased your own name as a domain, you should do that immediately if it is available.  Since much of your marketing is tied to your domain name, you don’t want to lose that traffic when you switch gears. You may not always be selling widgets or arch supports forever, but you will always be YOU.

You can download the video here.

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  1. Denise Sonnenberg

    Good info Susan. I know a while ago I couldn’t get the domain I wanted so I chose the initials. But it didn’t “Say” anything when you looked at it. It didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. It’s better to make it a little longer and then get a secondary URL that is easy that can be redirected.

    1. SusanCritelli

      Yes, I think that is a great idea to have a secondary URL that can be redirected! It is more important to have something a little longer and memorable for that main domain.

  2. Debbie Miller

    Great info! A good domain name is so important and attaining .com over other options is also a must.
    Debbie Miller recently posted..Foursquare Unveils City BadgesMy Profile

    1. SusanCritelli

      I think that “requirement” goes hand in hand with how you expect your audience to access your site. If they will be coming from a link in an email, or on a website or some other way where they don’t have to think about it, it probably doesn’t matter. But if you are using a billboard ad, or a radio ad, or some other form of advertising where they may see your site and don’t have an opportunity to write it down, then you are better off with .com.
      SusanCritelli recently posted..Dealing with stereotypes – What does a Work-at-home-school mom look like?My Profile

  3. Sally K Witt, Social Media and Ministry

    So true Susan! Sometimes domain names “say: something that was never intended!!

    1. SusanCritelli

      A good example of that would be a site where you had “expert” as one of several words in your domain name, and the word immediately preceding it ended in “s” – unfortunately on the internet, as elsewhere, sex gets noticed, which could cause your domain name to become the butt of many jokes.

  4. Shannon

    I had to settle for TheBeautySmith.com… maybe someday I’ll buy BeautySmith.com. I’ve noticed that a lot of company’s put ‘The’ in front of the name. So I’m not the only one 😉
    Shannon recently posted..BeautySmith Gift CertificateMy Profile

    1. SusanCritelli

      That may not be a bad thing. You could always consider that you are THE BeautySmith, and all the others are cheap imitations! There are quite a few celebrities as well who have THE in front of their name.

  5. Debra Eckerling

    Domain name is all about personality, as well as identity! Thanks for the fabulous tips, Susan!

    1. SusanCritelli

      Thanks, Debra! YES YES YES, personality is so important and often overlooked.

  6. Sukhraj Beasla

    I was so lucky to get the one that I wanted. It’s important to have the right branding. :)
    Sukhraj Beasla recently posted..OC Fair NYE Block Party [Ticket Giveaway]My Profile

    1. SusanCritelli

      There have been times when I wanted a name and couldn’t get it, so I got the hyphenated version, or the .net version, or whatever – only to have the real one show up later and be available again. I guess an alternative is to buy a premium name, but if you don’t have to spend the money…

  7. Mitch Devine

    Susan, this is a great post and summarizes many of the points I have also made to clients choosing a domain name. One more factor to consider would be SEO, since a domain name that incorporates your keywords (preferably without dashes for the reasons you mention) will have search engine benefits.
    Mitch Devine recently posted..Kohl’s Ad Inflicts Black’s “Friday” Earworm on ShoppersMy Profile

    1. SusanCritelli

      Hi Mitch, loved that post of yours about the Kohl’s ad!

      SEO is important, and I think more people think of it relative to posts and pages than to their domain name. What do you think about Denise’s idea of having a secondary URL that can be redirected? Where http://www.TheNameoftheCompany.com is the primary, and there is another one that can be redirected that is http://www.keyword1keyword2.com

  8. Alison

    A name you’ll like in ten years is difficult, but you have to start somewhere. And I use a .net but I liked the word cornerstone. Eventually I think I’ll become my brand…and I’ve already nabbed my name. Great tips.
    Alison recently posted..Triggering Passion in your BrandMy Profile

    1. SusanCritelli

      Agreed, Alison – better a dot.net that has the name of your business – and who knows, maybe the dot.com will become available one day! I have a whole host of domain names that I have had for a long time, and several of them break every rule I set out in this article, but i couldn’t get the dot.com, or the unhyphenated, or whatever. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, and forget the rules.

  9. Mary Glen

    Very useful points. It seems that these days people tend to go for keyword optimized domains rather than “brandable” ones. I think your post points out how that decision is not always the right one.
    Mary Glen recently posted..Onychomycosis Glossary Of Medical Terms And ReferencesMy Profile

  10. Karan

    Right domain names help for branding of business. We shouldn’t look over only keyword optimized domains.

  11. seo agency london

    you are absolutely right. Domain name is really one of the important factors of your site rank. Its quite interesting to read your blog.

  12. Genaro Carleton

    Loving the information on this site, you have done great job on the articles.

  13. Jamison Albro

    Its great as your other articles : D, regards for putting up. “Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” by Franklin P. Jones.

  14. Jorge Purgly

    Hello Susan, I am patient and I am also sure that soon you will be able to be more present on your articles as you like,
    All the best,
    Jorge Purgly
    Jorge Purgly recently posted..Sorvete de alho existe. Vinho com alho tambem. Isto e incrivelMy Profile

  15. Bonnie Sayers (e)AUTISMFAMILY

    I had similar problem when I first started an autism blog after being on twitter and BellaOnline does not have comments so I felt left out. I did it quickly and someone already had autismfamily so I had to take autismfamiily with two i’s. I wanted a domai name but all that was available was .net many years ago.

  16. Adalberto Minihane

    Hi, Neat post. There’s a problem with your web site in internet explorer,you may want to test this… a lot of folks will miss out on your excellent writing because of it.

    1. SusanCritelli

      You’re too sweet. Not sure why you would be having a problem in IE. Are you getting that server error message? It was driving me crazy, then I increased the server capacity and that should not happen anymore.

  17. Salvador Hoshaw

    Thank you, this particular post has been very worthile to read, I look forward to looking at much more of this site.

  18. Shiv Saroya

    You mentioned about underscores, interestingly so far underscores are not allowed in the domain names.

    1. SusanCritelli

      Pretty funny. Thanks for catching that!

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