• Buying the perfect domain name: twelve things to consider

    by  • May 1, 2008 • Branding, Usability • 15 Comments

    In this day and age, it is becoming much more difficult to find a never-registered domain name, especially for top level domains. So the reality is that many of us are having to purchase domain names instead. So if you are considering purchasing a domain name, here are some tips you should follow, check and research to make sure your chosen “perfect” domain name really is as perfect as you want to believe it is.

    Keyword research
    If you are planning to buy a domain name – especially if it is in a market area you are new to – definitely take the time to do some keyword research to see what the most advantageous keywords are to have in your domain name. Check the keyword research section of my blog if this isn’t your strong suit and you need a primer.

    Does the name have brand appeal? You want people to not just remember the site, but to link to it to. And domain names that are brandable will do better. Think about it.. what is better, Google.com or Truly-The-Best-Search-Engine-Ever.com? Google has definite brand appeal – even if how they came up with the name was unusual… and shows that sometimes those spur of the moment domain name ideas that many of us come up with on a whim can really work out well in the end.

    Check Archive.org
    Did your desired domain name have a previous life as a XXX porn portal? Or feature hardcore spam with thousands of doorway pages? Do be aware that some site’s histories take so much work to rise above the past life that it makes much more sense to go with a domain with a clean history. Do be aware that some sellers might hide the previous life by banning the archive bot, so you’ll need to do further super sleuthing to discover what was there in the past. This also applies to domains that you are buying “brand new” because it could have been previously owned and the owner let it expire.

    Avoid hyphens whenever possible
    Hyphens are associated with old time spam, when you used to see buy-keyword-keyword-keyword-keyword-keyword-keyword-now.com (and no, that unfortunately isn’t an exaggeration!) If you absolutely have to use a hyphen, limit it to two or less, but preferably one. Every hyphen adds a level of spamminess perception, even if the intended site will be as white as the driven snow.

    Domain length
    A shorter domain name is better than a longer one, especially if you will be getting type in traffic. Avoid really long domain names whenever possible and try to stay under 15 characters if you can. If you have two domain names that are equal in your eyes except for the fact one is 18 characters and the other is 9, I’d go for the one with 9.

    Go with a quality top level domain.
    Whether it is a .com in the US or a .co.uk in England, go with a top level domain (TLD) whenever possible. No matter how you slice and dice it, Example.com or Example.co.uk sounds so much better than Example.biz

    If you are not TLD, check what is on it
    Many years ago a friend started a business targeting moms and their kids and went and registered her website with a .ca extension. She had the URL advertised on her vehicle, on mail outs, on her business cards, etc. Except there was a small problem… people kept forgetting it was .ca and went to the .com version instead, which happened to be a spyware ridden hardcore porn site. So if you can’t get the most common domain extension for your target market, check to see what it on it before you make your final decision to go for the alternative TLD.

    What about misspellings and variations
    Don’t forget there are differences with how people spell certain words in different countries. It is “search engine optimization” in the US but “search engine optimisation” in the UK. So if you are targeting worldwide, it can be worth the extra expense to buy those common spelling variations that type-ins might do.

    Check backlinks
    Not all blacklinks are created equal. Are there a bunch of incoming spam links? Or hate links? Or anything that could raise suspicions that something isn’t all right with this domain name?

    Check for pages indexed
    Any pages indexed, whether currently on the domain or still previously indexed? Generally, indexed pages is a good sign, then see if those pages rank for anything as an added bonus.

    A surprising number of domains are for sale because there are potential trademark or legal issues that the owner just doesn’t want to deal with. A quick search in the US trademark database will show up any trademarks that could be problematic in the future. You don’t want to achieve rankings and traffic only to lose the domain to a trademark holder, unless you are willing to take that risk because the benefits outweigh the risks in your eyes.

    Double entendres
    The often mentioned fictional Pen Island is a classic example. Pen Island.com sounds innocent enough. But put it all together in a lower case domain name, and suddenly you get penisland.com… Good old Penis Land. Another one, expertsexchange.com (Experts Exchange) is often mentioned when it comes to making sure you consider all double entrendres with that “perfect” domain name. It is better to discover the problems before you buy than to have someone point it out after you have invested time, effort and money into it.

    When you are buying a domain name – especially when it could be a pricey one – you want to make sure you are not going to fall victim to a critical problem that could cause issues with your “perfect” domain name down the road. By following these steps, you should ensure that you have as few problems as possible.


    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    15 Responses to Buying the perfect domain name: twelve things to consider

    1. May 1, 2008 at 3:42 am

      Nice one Jen. Lots of common sense tips that catch so many people out until they have that forehead-slapping D’oh! moment when it’s all too late.

      Oh and, hee hee, you said Penis Land. *snigger* 😉

    2. May 1, 2008 at 8:27 am

      Excellent artilce tips on domain names.

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    4. May 1, 2008 at 9:04 am

      “what is better, Google.com or Truly-The-Best-Search-Engine-Ever.com?”

      How is Findit.com?

    5. May 1, 2008 at 10:51 am

      Couple of other ideas as well:

      1) If you buy a domain that could have a plural, purchase the plural as well, such as baseball.com – make sure you get baseballs.com as well.

      2) I try to purchase the .net and .org for U.S. domains as that keeps anyone from purchasing them, such as competitors or cybersquatters.

      3) If starting a business, spend the extra money on mispellings of the name, just in case people mispell when they type the URL in, ie: lillies4sale.com lilies4sale.com


    6. May 1, 2008 at 11:34 am

      Good article, Jennifer! Another thing to consider with dashed domains… I recommend against purchasing domains that are hyphenated if the non-hyphenated version is live on an established site. Besides brand confusion with a competitor having the non-dashed domain, most folks don’t remember the dashed version, get online and type in the non-dashed and find your competitors. Why deal with the hassle?

    7. May 1, 2008 at 11:58 am

      Really nice set of tips. Bye, I’m going to Pen Island tonight.

    8. nmw
      May 1, 2008 at 2:00 pm

      Nice summary! (though I might disagree on some minor points, I generally like what you write.

      I think browsers will continue to develop. I think one of the browsers “offers” a drop-down list (com, net, org) for type-ins. Likewise — I expect there to be a time when “most searched info” will resolve to http://most-searched.info. And I also expect that Chinese will at some point develop search engines such that a search for “职位 net” will resolve to 职位.net (that’s something the Google guys apparently still haven’t figured out).

      Note that the fact that there are “competing languages” on the Internet will increasingly complicate the “penisland” issue. In the “long run” (when we’re all dead) people will no longer say they “speak German” or “speak French” but rather that they “surf .DE” or “surf .FR”.

      Finally, it’s important to think about which community will actually congregate at a site (note that I differentiate between sites — the address / location [i.e. the “content” that goes into the location field] and websites [the content that is navigated to as a result of “entering” the location]). People interested in commercial hotels may very will visit hotels.com, people interested in sneezing networks may visit sneezing.net, but what is the “community focus” of say meanwhile.org?

      :) nmw

    9. JohnMu
      May 4, 2008 at 11:27 pm

      Regarding “check archive.org”: At least with Google this is not so much of a problem that should keep you from using a good domain name. If you are worried about the history of a domain name causing you trouble, just verify ownership in Webmaster Tools and submit a reconsideration request there (explaining the new ownership). It’s hard enough to find good domain names, what happened before you got it shouldn’t be a show-stopper.

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    11. May 12, 2008 at 2:44 pm

      Great tips on an often missed, important aspect of SEO and online marketing in general :-)

      Thank you!
      Maria Reyes-McDavis

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    15. January 31, 2009 at 2:07 pm

      Very interesting article you have written. Thanks for the info! Cheers

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