By Laura Christianson
Laurie is a soon-to-be blogger who’s diligently searching for the perfect web address to represent her new author brand. Or, as she puts it, “I’m banging my head against my desk. Repeatedly.”
The head-banging is because the domain Laurie wants – her first name plus last name .com – got snapped up by someone else. Grrrrrr.
Laurie must now decide whether to tack “author” or “writer” onto the end of her name so she can get a .com. Or whether to go with a .net, .info, .life, .biz, .me or .whatever.
The quest for a decent web address is not for the faint of heart. If you’re feeling brave, I’m going to show you five strategies for researching domains. Before we dive in, you’ll want to review the previous posts in this series, where we discussed:
- When to create your website and begin blogging
- Why your website and blog should “get married”
- How to accomplish the first step in building a self-hosted website
Strategy #1: Buy domains you might use.
My last name (Christianson) can be spelled several ways, so I’m always on the lookout for domains that feature various spellings of my name. I also watch for domains that mirror the title of a book or product I’m working on. If I think I might use the domain, I buy it immediately. I’d rather spend $12 a year to reserve a domain and not use it than wait and discover it’s not available when I need it.
Strategy #2: Check out the competition.
Before you buy a domain, search for it and see what pops up in Google’s results.
For example, I searched for “Jane Smith” and found a university professor, a golf pro, an advertising agency, a doll collector, an investigative journalist, an author and a realtor. All named Jane Smith.
But what if I’d found an unsavory website that used some combo of “JaneSmith”? Would I still want to buy JaneSmith.com, knowing that people would land on the icky website instead of my site? Or that people would associate my name with the unsavory website’s brand? Probably not.
Strategy #3: Beware of domains that are almost identical to the one you want.
Let’s say that your name is Misa America. Search for that and you’ll discover missamerica.com, a website that I’m pretty sure gets a ton of traffic.
Notice how misaamerica.com and missamerica.com vary by only one letter? Plus, the “s” and “a” keys are next to each other on a keyboard, making it easy to mistype “Misa’s” name and end up on the wrong website.
Check out domains that differ by a letter or two from the name you want. Don’t buy a domain that will cause confusion for people who are searching for you.
Also be aware of trademarked names. “Miss America” is a registered trademark. If the domain you want is similar to a trademarked brand name, don’t buy it (unless you enjoy getting sued).
Strategy #4: Avoid domains that can be misinterpreted.
Type your desired domain in all lowercase, as one word. How does it look with the words squished together?
Here’s an example:
Hmmm… is that supposed to be Speedo Fart or Speed of Art?
When people glance at a domain, it’s hard to tell where one word ends and the next begins. It becomes particularly difficult when domains include double-letter combos or words-within-words.
Before you buy a domain, type it out (as one word, all lowercase) and show it to random strangers. How do they “read” the name?
Strategy #5: Own your brand.
One way to help people remember your brand is to use the same name across all online channels.
My business name is Blogging Bistro. My website domain is BloggingBistro.com. My username on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+ is “bloggingbistro.”
Before you buy a domain, check whether it’s available for use on a website and on social channels. Go to namecheckr, Namechk, or namecheck. Type in the name you want (leave off the extension, such as .com, .org, or .net). The search results will show which domain extensions are available and on which social media channels that username is available.
If you discover that the .com, .net, and .org are available, consider buying them all. That way, a competitor can’t claim those other extensions of your domain name.
When you set up your website, make the .com your primary domain and point the .net and .org to the .com. That way, when people type in any of the extensions you own, they’ll end up at your website.
Get six more tips for finding a domain!
Request my Cheatsheet: 11 Top Tips for Choosing a Domain Name. The cheatsheet recaps the five tips in this blog post, plus you’ll get six additional tips:
- Why you should buy a .com
- Domains to consider buying when the .com is taken
- How to research keyword-driven domain names
- Why short domains are best
- How numerals and hyphens cause confusion
- Why an easy-to-pronounce domain is a must
Laura Christianson helps entrepreneurs transform their online presence from bland to bold. She owns Blogging Bistro, a business that builds custom websites/blogs and provides website education and blog coaching. Laura has authored several books and thousands of articles. She serves as Marketing Director for West Coast Christian Writers.