I collect domain names like some women collect shoes.
Every time I get a new idea for a website I do a domain name search to see if the name is available. And because I'm usually really excited about the idea, I end up buying more than one domain thinking I'd better get it now or I won't be able to later.
Of course, the domains end up going unused for years. I really should sell some of them...sigh.
I currently own dozens of domain names. Well, technically, domain names are not owned, they are leased by paying an annual fee. So, I lease dozens of domains names.
If I were to sell the rights to them today, I'd probably collect a few thousand dollars for my trouble. At least I don't collect beany babies! My apologies to those of you who still think your beany baby collection is worth something.
At any rate, you are here to get a little more clarity on choosing a domain name for your blog. Without further ado here are your top 10 tech tips when choosing a domain name for your blog.
My main hope here is that this article will allow to figure out what you don't need to worry about when picking a domain so you can focus on the important stuff. At the bottom I give you the short list of what you should be thinking about.
1. You don't need a .com domain name, but it would be nice.
There is no technical reason you need to have a .com domain versus any other top-level domain like .net, .org, .us or .website. However, there are some reasons you should prefer .com over the others. Most domains are .com domains and it provides a level of credibility, however, many blogs and companies have been very successful with .com, .org and others.
The down side of getting a non-.com domain name is that someone might own the .com version and your readers or customers may get confused and type in the .com version of the site. You have the same problem with, say choosing a hypenated .com version of a name. If your name is Sally Merton, but sallymerton.com is taken, you could still get sally-merton.com. Again, the down side is that your readers could be confused. In this case, I would prefer sallymerton.me or sallymerton.us because the different top level domain is more distinctive than the hyphen.
Try to avoid having more than one hyphen in a domain name. It is in the realm of spammy behavior and can be down rated by search engines if your site is not otherwise high quality.
In the end, however, whether you have a .com or some other domain, it is a minor factor in your success. I've seen companies like leadpages.net and businessideas.net succeed quite nicely. Do you remember del.icio.us? It was a very successful link sharing site.
Your email list will be far more valuable than your domain name so I wouldn't stress too much over whether you have a .com domain name, but it's best if you do.
2. Use different companies for domains and web hosting
I recommend using different companies for domains and web hosting. I have used tierra.net for all of my domains for 15 years. I host most of my websites with www.1and1.com. By keeping the two separate I never have to worry about being held hostage by my hosting company or the challenges of trying to transfer my domain between hosts. It's a simple matter to change settings with your domain registrar to point to a different hosting company.
3. Domains cost about $10 to $80/year, but the ones you want are probably closer to $10/year
Annual lease fees are about $10 USD for the common top level domains like .com, .net and .org. Some of the newer top-level domains like .website, .press or .xyz are often more expensive around $15 to $80 per year.
The various top-level domains are managed by different organizations which can choose to set their own base prices. Verisign sets the base pricing on .com and .net which as of this writing are around $8 for .com and $5 for .net. Those are approximate because the prices increase consistently. The price you pay will be higher than the base price because registrars often provide extra services and they need to make a little profit.
There is a secondary market for domains where they can be purchased and transferred. Even though I might lease insurance.com and pay $10/year to lease that name I can resell the right to that name for $35.6 million if I want to. That's the price paid for the right to insurance.com in 2010, currently the highest price ever paid for the rights to a domain name. Once purchased for $35.6 million, the company that bought it still just pays the $10/year lease fee.
Ideally, you will choose to lease a domain name that is already available and not leased by anyone else, but you may be willing to pay a few hundred dollars to buy the rights to the perfect name.
4. It's OK to use your name for your domain, but it's fine if you don't.
There's nothing wrong with using your name for your blog. People relate to people so it's often a good choice. However, you may have the same name as a famous person or such a common name that none of the domain versions of your name are available. In this case, I would try to find a .com domain that represents what your blog is about.
As you can see, I use PieceWorx rather than my name. I've also owned empowerwriting.com and writing-wellness.com. I've allowed these domains to lapse, so if you wanted to pick them up they might be available.
5. Don't worry if your name is not available as a domain
If your name is taken you probably have no recourse. Anyone can lease yourname.com and since there are many people with that name there are many who might have a claim to it. In some cases, companies will try to claim that others do not have the right to own their company name. For example, if I somehow was able to register Microsoft.com because, say, they accidentally allowed their lease to lapse, the courts would probably not allow me to sell it back to them for a million dollars.
There's a famous case in which a Canadian high school student named Mike Rowe registered MikeRoweSoft.com. Microsoft, the company, sent him a cease and desist letter. The case was settled and never went to court, but if it had, it's not clear who would have won. Mike Rowe clearly had a right to his own name, however Microsoft has a right to defend its trademark which includes misrepresentations of its name.
Most of the time, it's squatters who register variations on company names in order to extort companies into buying the domains to protect their brand. Mike Rowe just had the wrong name at the wrong time.
6. Short domain names are good, memorable ones are better
While shorter domain names are generally better, a memorable name is more important than a short name. Shorter names have more credibility, but if your readers can't remember whether it was tylm.com or tyml.com that's not good. Better to have tylermadison.com or toylandmerchandise.com than a confusing short name. From a technology perspective, there's no reason to prefer a short or a long name. Domains are not penalized or given any distinct advantage based on length. Many other factors are more important like the quality of your content, update frequencies, links to and from other websites, etc.
7. You can (and should) forget about Search Engine Optimization when choosing a domain name
In general, the domain name you choose will not affect your search engine ranking, at least not noticeably. However, there are a couple things to be aware of. Search engines do evaluate the key words found in a domain for relevance, but these days they may actually devalue names like www.buy-cheap-cars-fast.com. If you try to optimize the keywords in your domain you could actually be hurting yourself. However, the domain name is a fairly small weight and if your site provides regular valuable content, that will outweigh anything related to the domain name.
8. Should I Buy a Domain Name from a Squatter
Squatters are companies which purchase hundreds or thousands of domains for the sole purpose of re-selling the rights to those domains. This is a legal practice, but also annoying because instead of being able to register an unused domain name for $10/year, I would have to pay the squatter $300, or whatever price they agree upon, to transfer the domain to me.
Note that a squatter can also be someone like me who just collects cool domain names and then decides to sell them someday.
Still, I would avoid buying a domain from an unknown entity. Stick with a website like www.sedo.com which is a marketplace for domains. Personally, I've never purchased the rights to a domain from a squatter. I've only leased domains that were already available.
But if I decided to buy or sell a domain I would go through a reputable site like www.sedo.com.
9. Lease your domain from a reputable registrar
There are many and I mean many registrars. There are a handful of really big companies, but there are also a lot of great lesser known registrars.
I use tierra.net and, as I said before, have used them for 15 years and been very happy. But sites like networksolutions.com, godaddy.com and 1and1.com also work. I prefer tierra.net because they allow me to have a separate domain company from my hosting companies. I'd rather host with the big guys and have my domains somewhere else.
10. Lease your domain by the year initially, but if you're sure you love it go ahead and pay for several years up front?
Depending on your registrar you can often purchase your domain for multiple years. I have paid for up to ten years in advance.
I have suspected that this may help search engine ranking, but I have no hard evidence of that. You can imagine that a company would invest in its brand for the long haul, while squatters, who intend to resell the domain, would never lease for more than one year at a time.
A much greater factor than the expiration date of your lease would be how long you have owned the domain and how long it has provided useful, dynamic content. This will definitely affect your presence in search engines.
A Domain Name is Not As Important As Most People Think
In the end, picking a domain name is easy and, honestly, not as important as some people think.
Having a great domain name will not guarantee you success and having a bad one will not prevent success.
The search engines have learned to detect when people are trying to game them. In the world of the web, content is king. If you provide value to your readers you'll do fine.
The 4 Things You Need to Remember
Now you can forget most of what I wrote above. After distilling everything, here are the four key points to remember when choosing and registering a domain name:
- Make it memorable
- Get a .com domain if you can
- Choose different companies for your domain names and web hosting
- Don't worry about search engine optimization
Now go for it! Get that domain name and get moving so you can start helping people with your blog. They're waiting for you.