The first thing you must do, before you can set up a blog, before you can write killer content to bring the masses to your door, before you can get rich selling information products, is choose a domain name. Your domain is your address. It’s the map to where your site lives, and if it’s a good one, it’s descriptive of your business or your niche.
As more and more people begin setting up shop online, good domain names become harder to find, which leads people to come up with other ways to get the domain they want. But are these domain tricks a good or a bad idea?
.com, .org, .net
In the town where I live, the person in charge of naming streets is terribly uninventive. The old standbys are good enough, it seems, so we have 28th Street, 36th Street, 48th Street, and the like. The trouble is, we also have 36th Avenue and 48th Avenue. So whenever you give someone directions to a home or business on one of those streets, you have to be careful to clarify exactly which one you mean.
I see a lot of new Internet marketers who, when they find their idealdomain.com is not available, excitedly snap up idealdomain.org or idealdomain.net, then wonder, “Is the.org or.net okay for SEO?”
Actually, the domain name has very little value when it comes to SEO, but more on that later. What these newbie marketers should be concerned with whether they are sending potential readers to the wrong house in the wrong neighborhood. And that is exactly what they are doing, because a high percentage of Internet users, when entering URL into the address bar of their favorite browser, will automatically add.com on the end. Just like that, your traffic is landing on your competition’s site.
The moral of the story? Buy the.com or don’t buy anything. Find a.com you can live with, rather than choose a.org you love, because it’s not worth the loss of type-in traffic just to have a cute/clever/keyword-laden domain.
Dash Dos and Don’ts
Just don’t. Never use a dash in a domain name.
Imagine, you start up a nice little business, and you’re doing okay, but you want to branch out, get some more traffic. You decide to try podcasting, or video marketing. In your very first podcast you say “Hi, and welcome to Great Gardening Tips. I’m your host, Ginny Gardener. You can find our show notes at great dash gardening dash tips dot com.” Sounds a lot worse than it looks, doesn’t it?
Never buy a domain name with a dash in it unless you plan to never speak the name out loud. And even then, you’ll lose the type-in traffic, because people won’t type dashes any more than they’ll remember your domain is a .org.
You Have to Use Dashes to Get Good Keywords
You don’t need keywords in your domain name.
There, I said it. Let the debate rage. (Seriously, leave a comment. I’d love to hear your reasons why you must have keywords in your domain name.)
Here’s the thing. If you happen to have a domain that has good keywords then you will get some SEO benefit, but not from the Google gods directly. You will get a benefit because when people link to a site, they tend to use the site name. So if your domain is dogtrainingtips.com, people will most often link to you with the anchor text “dog training tips” which is a nice keyword phrase.
My advice? Use keywords if you can, but don’t sweat it if you can’t.
Avoid Clever Uses of Numbers and Odd Spellings
There’s a business near me that delivers food from local restaurants. Kind of a take-out delivery service. I’d use them, if I could remember the domain name. They advertise on billboards, so I’ve seen it a thousand times, but I cannot remember it, simply because it’s some combination of abbreviations and numbers that someone thought was clever. gr8dinner.com or something.
Think about it. I’m an Internet marketer. I live on the Internet. My Google-foo is strong. I brainstorm domain names for fun. If I can’t remember their domain name, I promise you no one else remembers it either. They’d be much better served with a boring old domain than one that’s clever but hard to remember.
The same goes for substituting z for s, x for ks, or any other phonics trick. Instead of being memorable – which I’m sure is the intent – you just make it difficult for people to find you.
Now I know you’re all out there whining that all the good domain names are taken and nothing is left but dashes and crazy number combinations. Not true. It might take a little longer to find a good.com than it did a few years ago, but there are still decent domain names to be had. You just need a little patience.