Domain Name Best Practices - dummies

By David Karlins, Doug Sahlin

A domain name, like a phone number, is how potential visitors find you — the site you work so hard to bring to reality. Unlike a phone number, though, you do have to purchase a domain name and register it. Domain names have been many things: funny, quirky, long, short, and sometimes just plain weird.

Logically, though, the domain name you pick should be the same as your customer’s business or service. However, sometimes the logical domain name has already been taken. Or perhaps the name of the business is long enough to induce carpal tunnel syndrome when typed into the address bar of a web browser. Regardless, sometimes you have to choose (and register) a different name other than your first pick.

In a perfect world, all traffic to your client’s site would be generated organically through a search engine. However, some visitors come to your site the old-fashioned way by typing the site URL into a browser address bar. That’s why you need a domain name that’s reasonably short and clear.

With simplicity and clarity in mind as a domain name goal, here are some commonsense things to consider when choosing a domain name:

  • Keep it simple. If the business or service for which the website is being designed has a complex name, you don’t have to use all of it.

  • Abbreviate long business names. You can truncate a long business name.

  • Use hyphens. If you must use a long domain name with multiple words, separate each word with a hyphen.

  • Register misspelled variants. If the domain name contains a commonly misspelled word, register the misspelled variant of the domain name.

  • Purchase a top-level domain extension. You’re likely familiar with top-level domains. For example, .com has always been associated with businesses, .org has been associated with organizations, and .net has been used by a variety of organizations. For a business, your best choice is always .com (if available), with .net ranking a close second. Use the new .mobi extension if your site is strictly for mobile devices.

    If you’re creating a website for a personal project, the obvious answer is the .me extension. For flag wavers or to identify your site as one associated with the good old USA, consider purchasing the .us extension for your domain name as well.

  • Register the name with more than one popular domain type. When a website starts gaining popularity, the domain name becomes a valuable entity. And you don’t want someone cashing in on your success or popularity by registering a name like yours only under a different domain.

    Say that you are “” You don’t want someone glomming on to your (or your client’s) coattails by registering the same domain name as a .net or .info domain, like or

    Registering a domain isn’t expensive, so play it safe and cover your bases with registering on multiple domains. And because registering a domain is relatively inexpensive, your client can either park the different domains, or you can use code to redirect the other domains to the client’s main (.com, most likely) website.

    When you park a domain, you buy the name, but don’t put any content on it. The domain name is protected and reserved for whatever you or your client may want to do with it in the future.

  • Choose a domain name that’s easy to remember. If the website domain name doesn’t need to include the name of the business or service, brainstorm to come up with a short domain name that can be easily remembered by people who visit the site.

  • Choose a keyword-rich domain name. Your client may want a unique domain name that’s consistent with his brand. However, getting traffic is a prime concern with most site owners. Therefore, choosing a domain name that has keywords associated with the business or service presented on the website is an excellent way to generate traffic.

    For example, if you’re in the photography business, including images, photos, or photography as part of the domain name will vault you closer to the top of the search engine rankings. Use the DomainName online tool to check for available domain names based on the keyword you enter:

  • Check for similar domain names. If you and/or your client fall in love with a domain name that’s similar to another domain name, do some research to make sure that the similar domain name is not copyrighted.