How to Pick a Domain Name – The Brand vs. Keyword Decision

web-address-barOne of the first decisions you have to tackle when it comes to  online business is choosing your domain. A website will be your basic foundation and give you a chance to stand above the crowd with your unique brand. But you may be wondering how to go about making such a crucial choice.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to how to pick a domain name – some people will tell you to buy a keyword rich domain and others will say to choose something brandable. Ultimately it really comes down to what you want out of your business.

Keyword vs. Branding

 

What’s a keyword domain?

A keyword domain, also referred to as an exact match domain, is a domain that is essentially a good keyword you want your website to revolve around and rank for. They’re often times long and clunky and never personal. When you see websites with names like ipodreviews.com, bestteethwhiteningsystem.com, howtoloseweightfast.com -those are keyword domains. Often times they can be clunky and impersonal.

The theory behind keyword domains is that people assume they’ll rank better within search engines. Back in the day it was true that you could buy a keyword domain and get it to rank high in search without much effort. But Google has since put a stop to that. That being said, it isn’t a punishable offense to have one. It’s just you’re going to need to have a quality website to go along with it.

I will note that Microsoft’s search (Bing and Yahoo) is still a bit more lenient within the realms of EMDs. You can still get one to rank a little easier than you would with Google, but it’s still within your benefit to create a quality site if you want lasting results.

This is why many companies are choosing brandable domains. 

What are brandable domains?

A brandable domain is a unique name that is catchy and memorable, and will grow to be the personal brand of your business. It isn’t focused on a keyword and can really be whatever you choose.

Think of some of the largest internet businesses around today

  • Google.com
  • Amazon.com
  • Facebook.com
  • Craigslist.com
  • Ebay.com

None of these companies decided to target a keyword as their business name. Google is not called bestsearchengine.com, Amazon is not named bestplacetobuyproductsonline.com – yet they are thriving multi-billion dollar industries.

A brand doesn’t even have to be abstract. It can define your business within the name, but you can make it catchy or personable.

For example, let’s say I were to create a website within the dessert niche:

Brandable domains could be something like…

  • Sugarholic.com
  • SweetCraves.com
  • SugarRush.com

Notice how there is a lot more room within brandable domains to really build out a business. If you’re wanting to build your site into a large authority, a branded domain could be to your benefit. When you’re picking an exact match domain you tend to get locked into your keyword. For example, if you were to choose a keyword as narrow as “best chocolate chip cookie recipes” your entire site would need to be dedicated to chocolate chip cookie recipes. There’s not really much room for growth there… but if you were to choose a brandable option such as Sugarholic.com, you have the opportunity to grow into an authority and really expand your site in whatever direction you choose.

Tips for choosing brandable domains

When choosing a brandable domain:

  • Make sure it’s easy to say and spell
  • It’s easy to remember
  • It’s not too long or clunky

Tips for purchasing domains

Obviously you can’t choose whatever name you want, slap a .com at the end and call it yours. You’ll first need to head over to a registar like Namecheap and check to see if a name is available for purchasing. Your first idea may already be taken, so try to come up with a list of ideas.

  • Sometimes private owners will hoard a domain and try to sell it for a ridiculous price, or sometimes you’ll see “premium” domains that are available for thousands of dollars. There is NO need to shell out that kind of cash. You can easily buy a domain for around $12 -$15 for a year, and I would recommend sticking to that limit. Note: the example site above, sugarholic.com, at the time of posting this blog, is “up for sale”. When you visit the website, you can click “buy this domain” and be redirected to a place for offering a price. I would avoid this and alter your name choice to something already available.
  • If possible, always go for the .com option. There are a few reasons for this. First off, they rank easiest within search. People have also come to assume a website will be “.com” and tend to prefer it and will naturally type in “.com” when told a website name. If you REALLY want a particular name and it’s available with a .org or .net extention, you can select one of those.
  • They’ve recently released more options for domain extentions such as  .kitchen, .technology, .sexy , and many more. Personally I wouldn’t opt for one. It’s most likely a fleeting trend and will never replace a .com or .org.
  • I prefer to buy from Namecheap as their prices are good. Some registars may let you buy an extremely cheap domain for the first year, but if you plan to keep it for any longer they can charge you double or triple the price of what it should be. You’re also given free privacy protection for the first year, a free email address, and their customer service is excellent.

So what’s the verdict?

A keyword domain would work better for a very small targeted niche site. Large authority sites are better off branding. However, the decision ultimately remains up to you.

Keep in mind ANY domain can rank. Ultimately it’s the content that will rank your site, not your domain. No matter which option you choose, you’re still going to have to produce content. You can’t slap up a one page website with a matching keyword domain and watch it shoot to number 1 with absolutely no effort. The internet doesn’t work like that anymore.

Choose what is best for your business. Personally I’d say go with a brand!

Any questions or confusion about picking a domain name? Drop a comment down below and I’d be more than happy to help you out!

-Wendy
Owner, SurvivingAfterCollege.com

About the Author Wendy

Wife, Mother, Entrepreneur. I've been making money online for the past 5 years with online marketing and blogging, and I love helping others learn to do the same. You can read my full story here

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