How To Choose An Effective Domain Name (That Isn’t Taken!)

You know the feeling; upon creating your new business or receiving a client request for a website, you eagerly search for that perfect web address you’ve cooked up, only to find out that it’s unavailable. For extra frustration points, you find that whoever took that domain off the market isn’t even using it! Unless you’re willing to fork over a ton of money or enter in a bidding war, coming up with creative alternatives is your most likely option. If you’re in this position, consider the following tips when choosing your domain name:

Should I consider an alternate Top Level Domain Name?
The Top-Level Domain (TLD) name is the last part of your web, .com, etc. One of the first options you’ll have after an initial web address comes back unavailable will be to choose a different TLD name. The most widely used (and quickest to sell) is .com, and for good reason: most people, by default, assume a website ends in .com.

That means a good percentage of your visitors may end up on the wrong website if your website ends in .info and there is another similarly-named website address with the more popular .com extension. For that reason, if you do opt for an alternate TLD, it would be wise to check out the similar dot com site and see what your future visitors might behold. You may decide that it would be better to come up with a new name with a .com extension.

Which alternate Top Level Domain is the best for me?
If you’re set on keeping your desired web address and choosing an alternate extension, you have quite a few choices in front of you. The best TLD for you depends on what type of site you are running. Businesses may choose .net (even though it was intended for network-based businesses), .info, or .biz. Nonprofit organizations often use .org, sometimes choosing it over a .com extension. The same is true for .edu (United States accredited educational institutions), and .gov (United States government institutions).

Another option is choosing a country-code TLD, such as .ca for Canada, or .de for Germany. If your target region is familiar with the extension and are likely to use it frequently, this option could work for you. On the other hand, it could also be more difficult for international visitors to find. If you’re not targeting a specific region, your site will be easiest to find with a non-country-code TLD.

What is an appropriate length for a web address?
While a domain name can technically be between two and 63 characters (not including the extension), there is much to be said for keeping things concise. Ideally, you want the address to be easy to recall, so isn’t going to be a good pick (for the record, that was still 20 characters short of the limit). Ideally, you should aim below 20 characters, and less is usually better.

That being said, I wouldn’t recommend shortening your brand name just for the sake of shortening it. Unless your organization is well known by an acronym or abbreviation (like NCAA), you’re better off including the brand name as it is spoken. That’s what people will be searching for, that’s what the search engine spiders will be looking for, so that’s usually the best option (and if your business name is longer than 63 characters, you’ve got other problems on your hands!).

How do I choose the perfect domain name?
Ideally, your domain name is your brand name, plain and simple. But, if you’re one of the unfortunate many that don’t get their first pick of domain names, there are alternatives. One option is to add a keyword – for instance, could be We all know keywords can’t hurt search engine rankings, so if you can keep it short and relevant, this is a great option. If your site depends on getting discovered through organic searches, adding keywords could help drive more search engine traffic to your site. And the hyphen? Make it a last resort, as many people forget to type it, and could end up on the wrong site.

Lin Edwards is a content and technical writer for Small Business Domain, an online resource for coupons, promo codes, editor reviews, ratings and more for e-commerce, web hosting and domain name companies. Find Yahoo domains coupons, reveiws and more!

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