Choosing a Domain Name: Avoid the 5 Biggest Mistakes

Your domain name is one of your core points of branding and identity for your business or organisation on the web so it's well worth putting in even a little bit of time and thought in making a decision that you're mostly stuck with for years to come. These few pointers are to help you avoid some of the most common errors.

The Video, Choosing A Domain Name: Essentials to Consider, follows the tips.

Choosing the Wrong Suffix

DotCom (Image: sxc.hu)

Your choice of suffix or Top Level Domain (TLD) extension is key. Generally you can't go too far wrong with .com and to a lesser extent .net or .org, but be extremely wary of oddities like .cc and .co.com due to being uber cheap some of these are heavily associated with spammers and questionable practices. Read more about avoiding risky domain extensions here.

If you're a national business, country specific domains can add to that sense of nationality and locality eg. .fr for France, .co.uk for the UK, .ie for Ireland and so on. But buying .ie and attempting to attract audiences from elsewhere in the world could prove tricky as you're removing a level of trust or familiarity away from the visitor.

Here are some TLD's you may be less familiar with:

  • .com is the leading TLD, but all one word and most two words in the English language are already taken.
  • .biz was created as an alternative for businesses to .com, but is less commonly used these days.
  • .net was originally for networks only, but can be a good option if your .com is not available.
  • .me tend to only be suitable for sites about you, usually resume or CV sites.
  • .edu is restricted to educational institutions and links from these to your site are quite valuable.
  • .gov is similarly restricted but used by government entities in the USA.
  • .info usually indicates information sites, but Google are wary of it as many spammers used to use it .
  • .org is for organisations and often for non-profits and can be suitable if your .com is not available.
  • .mobi focuses on mobile ready or mobile only versions of websites.

Making it Difficult to Spell or Type


If your domain name has a bizarre spelling this can seriously damage how easy it is for your potential audience to remember it and visit you. You hear it on the radio or mentioned by a friend and go to type it in, "is that Moob-a-blu, or mobe-a-blue, or moob-e-bloo??". Then you give up and look at Facebook instead.

In the video below there is a discussion on Keyword Domain Name vs Brandable Domain name. Crazy, difficult to spell domain names can be the down side of choosing a brandable domain name.

Not Keeping it Short

Domain names that are 20 or more characters long are not so cool and with every extra character you make it more unlikely that people will be able to recall your address.  Just like in the previous example it's another obstacle to potential visitors remembering it. Think as concisely as possible. Three short words, like 'Self Assembly Sites', might be at the heavy end but we chose them as they gives a strong indication of what we do and for the alliteration of the repeated 's' sound which rolls off the tongue.

(Image: sxc.hu)

Using Numbers Poorly

Examples like Done4u.com or Go2Shop.net are highly outdated at this point and hark back to a time when all things web related were new and cool.  However a good use of numbers could be when they don't act to replace the written word 'to' or 'for' but 'two' or 'four'  eg. online365.com, PartyPlanner247, 50WaysToFitness or 37signals.com

Using Hyphens

Some used to see this as a clever way to get the exact keywords they wanted when they were already taken. Why not just stick a hyphen in there and do exactly what you say on the tin? There are several big reasons. (Read all the reasons we suggest you avoid the hyphen here) Like making it difficult to spell, people will often mis-type your domain name and omit the hyphen bringing your potential visitor straight to your rival who got the domain you wanted.

Secondly Google really don't like it, possibly because it seems less professional, trustworthy and dependable. The search engine giant has reduced the influence of exact keyword match domains in recent years anyway, but it never really took to the hyphen and even less so now.

It's better to opt for your ideal keyword choice but with .org or .net instead of resorting to the dreaded hyphen.

View the Video

Here's a video below on more of the factors to consider to get the right domain name for you. These tips could prove very useful.

This video is an example of our Expert Answers series, which tend to focus more on strategy and elements that need to be weighed up before you can accurately make an informed decision. Most points supplement the points written above. Here, Alastair discusses some of the key factors to consider when choosing a domain name:

  • keyword vs brandable names
  • Top Level Domain (TLD): .com, .org, or your national identifier e.g. .co.uk / .fr / .de /.ie
  • Tips on how to test your potential domain name for impact & memorability with friends and family
  • Is Your Website Locally, Nationally or Internationally Focused?
  • Keyword Specific Domains & Google Ranking
  • The Radio Test for your Domain Name
  • The Process of Choosing a Domain: What To Do

SelfAssemblySites:

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About Alistair McBride

Al is the non-techie of the SelfAssemblySites' founding duo. His first businesses were in cultural tours, then later art dealing and consulting. He was SelfAssemblySites' first user and believes if he can do it, anyone can.

He has a wide and diverse range of interests and passions, core of which are usually art, psychology and innovation, and works on both profit and non-profit projects.

Alistair truly believes that a website can be a catalyst to making any idea reality in the 21st Century. You can create all sorts of non-profit and for profit projects take-off with a good website as your launch pad.

Follow him on Twitter at @WebsiteCoaching.

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