Article first published as How to Pick Your Domain Name on Technorati.
Before you run off and create any website or blog, take some quality time to research the domain name. You may want it to sound catchy, but it’s wise to simply convey aspects of you or your business. It helps dramatically with search engines if the words within the URL are related to search terms for someone looking for what you have to offer (e.g., solarbirdbath.com). That would help a bunch if someone wanted a solar-powered birdbath with a fountain and heated water, and so they went searching online by typing the phrase “solar birdbath.” It’s actually a term which gets typed into Google 22,200 times per month as of September of 2010. As for the plural of the phrase, “solar birdbaths,” that only gets searched 1,900 times a month in comparison, or about 9% as much. Based on this data, it would be smarter to name your site solarbirdbath.com than solarbirdbaths.com.
How do I know? By using Google Keyword Tool External. Keywords are essential for search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing to link your sites with certain words, terms and phrases. It’s best to add keywords to every site, blog, article and location that has boxes for them–keywords that describe the content of what your site is about. And, as shown above, you can even figure out ways to include keywords in your domain name.
The first step is to visit Google Keyword Tool External. There you can input phrases individually or altogether and get valuable feedback from Google on which search terms are used the most and how much competition exists from other advertisers. By comparing each of your terms plus the synonyms, or similar terms Google will automatically provide, it becomes clear which keywords should work the best over time.
Here’s a detailed example. I just wrote a book on how to make free websites and needed to choose the title and URL. By comparing extremely similar phrases like “create free website,” to “build free website” and “make free website,” Google told me that “make free website” was a more common search term than the others. I also learned that “website” is much more commonly searched than “site” and “blog.” Another revelation was that “your” was more commonly searched than “my” when mixed with these other phrases. I also wanted to include the word “own” because it implies ownership and only slightly reduced the number of searches per month. Turns out “your free website” gets searched 165,000 times per month while “your own free website” gets 110,000 searches. That’s a difference I can live with for a word that helps the title have more power for the consumer. Making sense?
In less than an hour I had narrowed my book title and website URL down to these possibilities:
Make your own free website
How to make your own free website
Your own free website
I checked the competition from other advertisers which is also included in the Keyword Tool results. It turns out when comparing “make your own free website” to “your own free website,” the second phrase had 50,000 more searches per month and less competition from other advertisers.
Then I checked name availability at both Godaddy and the websites where I wanted to create free examples for the book. Although this domain name was not available at Godaddy as a pure dot com, it was available at the venues to create my examples. And so I went ahead and registered it as yourownfreewebsite.webs.com and yourownfreewebsite.yolasite.com. (Know this; it doesn’t matter if you have a long domain name. People click links to visit sites so your domain can be long.)
Additionally I battled with whether to use dashes, underscores or nothing to separate the words in the URL. Should the site be called your-own-free-website, or your_own_free_website or simply yourownfreewebsite? All of the research indicated that Google would find my site just fine in any case since they have such a complex algorithm with over 200 variables for detecting keywords, so this really boils down to personal preference. In the end I liked it this way, your-own-free-website.com because I believe it’s the easiest way to read. Remember, you don’t have to use dashes or underscores for Google to find the keywords in a URL. For that site I spent a few bucks to have the custom domain name without the extra suffix, though for demonstration purposes I also created your-own-free-website.webs.com to show others not to worry about the extra suffix.
Finally, I wanted to name the book, How to Make Your Own Free Website. I went to Amazon and typed that exact phrase into a book search. I was delighted to see that no one had a book with that title. Surprisingly, there were very few titles even close to that, so I knew this would be a great name for people to find not only my website but my Amazon book as well. I included the subtitle for those who wanted more info on blogs, and the title became, How to Make Your Own Free Website: And Your Free Blog Too. This way my keywords are part of my URL address and my book title, and over time people will certainly find me with search engine terms.
If you have questions on domain names and your own URL options, just contact me through this website.