Choosing your domain name is perhaps the most important decision you will make about your website. Your domain name is the first thing that people will (and must) remember about your site; it lays the foundation for all the other forms of online marketing you will do. And a domain name is a long-term investment; once you buy it, it’s yours for at least a year.
So you want to think carefully before you commit to your domain name. When making your decision, be sure to avoid these five major mistakes:
1. Using hyphens
You may be tempted to add a hyphen if your first choice domain name was already taken, but adding that hyphen could be your downfall. Hyphens typically appear in spammy domain names, and you don’t want anyone thinking your website is full of spam. This can kill your efforts to make money online by getting your site buried in the search results.
Hyphens are also difficult for people to remember. They may put the hyphen in the wrong place or leave it out completely, in which case they will be sent to the wrong website. If your first choice is taken, it’s best to just choose a different domain name with no hyphens.
2. Making it too long
Ever notice how The New York Times’ domain is NYTimes.com, not NewYorkTimes.com? Shorter domain names are better because they are easier to remember, take less time to type, and are easier to share. A domain name that is too long will often get shortened in social media shares and search results, making it more difficult to recognize.
In general, your domain name should be 15 characters or fewer. If it is possible to make your domain name shorter without losing any of your branding potential, do so.
3. Stuffing it full of keywords
Having a keyword in your domain name can help with your SEO, but including keywords should not be your first priority. Your first priority should be to make your domain name the same as or very similar to your brand name. When it comes to domain names, sacrificing branding for keywords will get you nowhere.
A few years ago, Google caught on to the fact that people were purchasing domain names that were exact matches to keywords—such as “cheapphonecases.com”—in order to get high search engine rankings. In response, Google adjusted their ranking system to demote poor quality website with these types of domain names.
If your brand happens to have a keyword in it, that’s great. But if not, don’t try to stuff one in there.
4. Using numbers
Putting numbers in a domain name is too confusing. When people hear a domain name with a number in it, they won’t know whether to use the numeral or spell it out when they type it. Even if they see the domain written out, there’s a chance they won’t remember which way to type the number when they want to go back to it. Your safest bet is to avoid numbers altogether.
5. Choosing a lesser known domain extension when .com is available
The domain extension is the part of the domain name that appears after the “dot” — .com or .org. When available, you should always go for a .com domain first and foremost, because .com is still the gold standard. It’s easy to remember, and people feel familiar and comfortable with it.
If you can’t get .com, .net, .org, and some of the other established extensions are also fine. But the main point here is if the .com domain is available, always take that as your first choice.
In summary, your two most important goals when choosing a domain name should be matching it to your brand name and making it easy to remember. Avoid the five mistakes above, and you’ll set your website up for success.
Eric Brantner is a content marketer who owns several high-traffic blogs in various niches he’s passionate about. His latest website is SleepZoo.com, where he blogs about his tips on optimizing your sleep.