Choosing the right domain name can be tricky. In terms of traffic, picking the right one is a non-negotiable. Domains that are difficult to remember or type directly affect how easy it is for users to get to your site, and ones that inaccurately portray your content may deter visitors from search results.
There's a lot of great information out there on picking the right domain, so I've put together a compilation of particularly important or interesting points.
Domain Name Relevance
This may seem obvious, but sometimes new website owners get so caught up in coming up with a clever domain name that they forget what the website is really about--their identity, content, or service. A domain that doesn't represent these things will likely only confuse visitors.
Moz suggests brainstorming several keywords that represent your website first. If you run a nail salon, do some research. At Schweb, we can help get the juices flowing with our keyword research, where we compare keyword statistics from multiple tools to get the right keywords for your site. If you want to do it on your own, think about terms commonly associated with your brand or service. And don't be afraid to be obvious--if you own a nail salon, put nail salon in the domain name!
Entrepreneur.com recommends placing your geographic location in your domain name. For small businesses whose location is important, a town or county name, or even local prominent landmark names, can mean the difference between showing up first and showing up last for searches in your area. For instance, if you're a small brewery near a small steel factory town named Johanna, that might be an iconic reference to include. This makes your domain memorable, and it can also help you develop your identity, including things like your logo and symbols to use on your website.
And remember not to get too caught up in clever keywords, warns an article on the Huffington Post. Aim for memorable and relevant, not something that attempts to jam in as many keywords as possible for SEO's sake.
Easy to Remember and Understand
If your domain name is likely to be mistyped, it's likely to lose traffic. Or, at the least, confuse users, which hurts your user experience and affects how users view your brand.
Common mistakes in this area include things like dashes, which aren't often pronounced and are easily forgotten, and things like numbers which will often be confused for their actual word version. Also, don't make the domain name so long that a spelling error is more likely to occur (or otherwise be forgotten or confused). The article at Moz writes, "If a domain name requires considerable attention to type correctly, due to spelling, length or the use of un-memorable words or sounds, you've lost a good portion of your branding and marketing value."
A good way to test for this? Get a close friend that isn't your dog (unless he's a remarkable dog) and tell them--orally--what your domain name is. Then ask them to type it out or write it down. You can repeat this process, but chances are if one person got it wrong, then it's not going to stand the test of the internet.
Don't Be Too Clever
Although the temptation to follow in the footsteps of traffic giants like Tumblr and Flickr may be great, try to avoid getting too clever with your domain name. It's good to be memorable, and quirky things like spelling and crafty word choice can help with that, but consider how those choices might impact your users. It's taken some brands years to build up their current traffic under brands like that--odds are, your small business or personal website will not faire as well comparatively speaking.
Also, you might be tempted to pick one of those shiny TLDs (top-level domains) like .ly or .co, but the reality is that while these certainly have their uses, it makes more sense to go with what users are expecting. And that, according to 2014 data by Verisign (right), is a .com ending. Of the 288 million domain registrations of 2014, something like 120 million of them (judging by their chart) ended in .com.
Domain names are a critical part of not only your website, but your identity. If they don't represent your company accurately, are difficult to type, or aren't easy to remember, users will have trouble finding your site and understanding its purpose, making them less likely to recommend your website or service, or to return, period. So, make sure it makes sense and keep it simple. But not too simple.