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How to Choose Your Domain Name

Domain Name Extensions

So you're finally ready to start down the road of creating your own website. It's time to think up a unique domain name, which is what your visitors will type after [http://www]. The first point I'll make is that you should stick with the popular naming conventions of .com, .net or .org. Do NOT purchase a .info domain name. Think about it.. when's the last time you did a Google search and a .info site came up in the results? It just doesn't happen. When .info first became available, the domain names were billed as a cheap alternative to the .com extension. Selling at only $1 each, spammers soon started buying them by the hundreds and the name extension lost all credibility in the SERPs.

Also, understand that your domain name does not have to be where your websites are hosted. The domain name is just a registered name that you can point to any host on the web. All of my domain names are purchased through Hostway, but all of my websites are hosted by Webfaction (I highly recommend both). I point the domain names to Webfactions servers, where all of my content is stored.

What should I name my new website?

So now that we've decided what name extensions are good, you'll want to consider a site name that's easy to remember, easy to type and.. (the hardest part) still available! Think simplicity and something that's easy to say. People remember a name when it's "catchy".



Is your website targeted to your local region or are you trying to capture traffic from all over? If it's local, consider not using dashes or numbers in the domain name. It's always better to spell a number than to use one, unless the number is also part of your business name. My reasoning for this is that your local website will be given out all over and spread around by word of mouth. If you include dashes and numbers in the name, you'll find yourself repeatedly spelling it over and over, and people will still tend to forget hours later after a conversation. For local websites, I recommend sticking with an easy to spell, one or two word domain name (three names at the most). If you're targeting a larger area for your website, dashes and numbers are fine to use. Google will bring most of your traffic and they don't penalize for dashes or numbers. They look at your content and your traffic.

How do I know if the name I want is available?
You can easily go to Google and type in 'new domain name'. The top results are the biggest players in the game. GoDaddy.com is a very popular registrar, as is networksolutions.com and register.com. Beware of pricing plans. A very popular trick is to charge less the first year and the fine print will read that the charge is much more the following year(s). Average pricing for a .com domain right now is about $9 a year. If the contract says it's $8 the first year and $20 every year after, leave that site as fast as you can! I've even seen consecutive years being billed as high as $30! That's ridiculous and a perfect example of a domain registrar that is trying to scam you. There's simply no reason to pay more than $10 a year (at most) for a domain name. Don't get fooled by companies offering additional instructional downloads and such either. After registering your domain name, you only need to point it to your web host, which takes about 30 seconds. After that, you should never have to deal with your domain name again, aside from paying your annual fee. If you use Google's "Chrome" browser, I recommend the 'Domain Availability Checker' add-on by seoheap.com. It sits at the top of my browser and looking for a domain name is as simple as clicking the icon and typing it in. Firefox has similar add-ons as well.

There are a lot of great domain names still available. Think on it for a few days and grab the one that is going to work the best for you for years to come.

Amy Kastner is a Web-Designer, Online Marketing and Search Engine Optimization Specialist. You can usually find her on twitter, where she occasionally writes about interesting stuff.

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