One of the most common mistakes I see when doing site reviews at conferences is issues with urls. It’s not always SEO issues, but issues with the actual domain name. People think what they have makes a good domain name for their site, but the reality is that they are actually hurting themselves by making common mistakes. Some people can’t find the exact match domain so they break it up with hyphens and others try to be cute by using numbers and misspellings. That is somewhat ok to do when you have an actual brand with hundreds of thousands of fans, but until then you need to think about a few things before you buy your url. Here are 5 things to remember when buying a url or domain name.
If you want to know what makes a good domain name, it doesn’t have to be an exact match. Good domain names are brandable ones that are easy to remember, can easily be printed on handouts and materials like pens, shirts, etc… and ones that can match a fun logo or design once you are ready for one. Instead of worrying about having the keywords in your url, if you do your SEO the right way, you’ll still be able to rank for the terms you want and your site will become a brand that people can remember. By having this memorable url, when they see it in the SERPs, they might choose you instead of someone else because they remember your site and that you provided value to them. By building a brand instead of worrying about an exact match domain you can have a lot more success and easily get word of mouth referrals.
2. No letters or numbers for words
The next issue I see is that people use letters and numbers instead of actual words. Then when we check online if its a live site review, they don’t own the common misspellings and sometimes the urls are still available for the word versions. If you want your brand to have a number in it like 2 instead of too or C instead of see, make sure you buy all misspellings that people would type in and redirect them to the main url. This is part of building your brand. You want to make sure that everyone who hears it can type it in and find your site which is why using letters and numbers is tricky. Some people will say the first word, then 2 as in the number 2 and then dot com and others will just say the name without describing how to type it in or spell it when sharing your url with a friend. That is where you can lose traffic to someone else or just not have that visitor be able to find your site.
3. Leave the hyphens out and keep words to a minimum
The next error I see is people using hyphens so they can get every keyword they want in their url. Not only is this ridiculously hard to type in, but who is going to remember it? One person gave me a site with 5 hyphens in it during a live review a while ago and a couple of the words were combined without hyphens. It was one of the longest, keyword stuffed urls I had seen. Not only was he doomed for failure, but the url probably wouldn’t even fit in the SERPs, especially if he would install a blog and set his Permalinks (urls) to be the title of the post or have the keywords in them, nothing would fit and his brand is gone. Try to keep your urls short and simple or at least easy to remember and type in. Don’t use hyphens to try and get every keyword. They just make it harder to remember your domain name and it makes it much harder to type.
4. Plural vs. Non Plural and Past Tense
One of my favorite sites to work on unfortunately has one of the worst domain names. I loved the url when I bought it, and still do, but should have asked myself what makes a good domain name first. The problem is that I had a regular present tense version available, but I went for branding forgetting that ed is hard to hear, say and not easy to remember. An example is the word review. If you have reviews then that is easy to remember and sticks out in someone’s head. If you use reviewed it becomes brandable, but harder to remember and hard for people to hear. Whenever I mention the site I actually have to repeat the ending and say something so they get it right. I’m still amazed how many people actually get the url wrong, even when I say it and tell them how it is spelled. Although at the time I thought (and still do think) it was a great name for a site, it is a pain in the butt to get people to figure out the ending. Look at your own domains and think about if it is plural and past or present tense. Then see if the other versions are available and set redirects to them so you can have your brandable domain show up and people can start to remember it.
5. Friend test the url
The last thing I do when I am buying a new url and need to figure out what makes a good domain name is to friend test it. I call about 5 friends and then skype a few after. I tell them the url I bought and ask them to write it down. I then have them read back what they wrote. If less than 8 out of ten get it right, you have a problem. 9 out of 10 isn’t bad and 10 out of 10 is awesome. I usually do this after I have bought the urls and variations, mainly because I don’t want to lose one, especially if it is an awesome idea and could be a good domain name. Asking other people to write out the url can also help you find more common misspellings that people may make if someone tells them about your site and lets you know the other ones you may want to buy. Running a friend test can definitely help you to know which one to buy and use for your main site.
When you are trying to figure out what makes a good domain name for an Affiliate site, ecommerce site or even a new blog, remember to think about branding so it can be memorable. Try not to go overboard with hyphens because you want every keyword you can think of or an exact match styled domain, and don’t try to be cute with letters and numbers. Then think about how it sounds when you say it and if you have to explain it because of tense or if it is plural or not and no one can write it down correctly when you say it, you probably don’t have a good one. Think about these things when you want to launch your next site and they’ll help you figure out what makes a good domain name or url for your site, blog or ecommerce shop. Feel free to leave your own tips or advice below.