How to Pick a Domain Name

Figuring out the domain name for your new website can be one of the most difficult parts of the process. With this guide, it doesn't have to be.

If you're starting a new website, one of the most important aspects is figuring out what your domain name is going to be. So we're all on the same page, your domain name is what you see in the address bar of your browser when someone goes to your site. It's your .com name (or your .org, or .net, or .whatever). Sometimes, you see it as part of your email address, too! Domain names are really important. 

We all have our own ideas of what makes a good domain name. People tend to want them to be short and memorable. Sometimes, it might be helpful to have your domain name match the name of your business or sometimes you want to change things up. Should we include the name of our city in our domain names? There's a ton of questions and no one way to answer all of them. So let's walk through some of the questions and try to set you on the right path to choosing the perfect domain name for your business.

Disclaimer: A lot of the work that Big Heart Marketing, LLC does is in the area of mental health and other helping professionals so this blog is written primarily for them. But, these rules apply for any business or website that you're looking to start!

1. That's a REALLY LONG Domain Name

The most common thing that I hear related to domains is that people want something short and punchy. The don't want people having to type in all of those characters - it's easy to mistype something and get an error page which has a way of turning people off. Sometimes, long domain names feel cumbersome too if people are having to type in email addresses for example - the email line of some business cards I've seen seem to go on forever. 

Ultimately, there's no right length for a domain name but it's true that the shorter ones are long gone now that the Internet is so old. I recommend trying hard to make your domain name as concise as possible, but don't fret too much if you can't get it as short as you would like to. 

Remember, most people only type a couple of domains these days. The main one they type? Google.com. The vast majority of people who find your website aren't going to type in your domain name, regardless of how long or short it might be. Most people are going to type your name or your practice name into Google and click on the link that comes up. They might see a link on Facebook and click there. They're probably not typing the whole thing in. 

And that's OK. It can help you relax a little bit about not having a domain name that's as short as you'd like! If you can keep it to 2-3 words, that's perfectly OK.

2. Business Name? City Name? On Brand? Something Catchy? 

When I work with a therapist looking to launch a new practice and we talk through domain name ideas, a lot of questions come up. When it comes to SEO, we know that including keywords in your domain name is important. We don't know exactly how important (that's a proprietary search engine secret that's kept behind the curtain) but we suspect it counts for a significant portion of your search engine ranking. When you're trying to figure out a domain name to use (and, maybe even naming your business or practice), you need to do some serious thinking.

First, what do you want to be known for? In other words, as specifically as you can, what words or phrases that people type into a search engine do you want your site to show up for? Are you a couples counselor who works with infidelity? What do people who want help in that area search for? 

My husband cheated?

Recovering after an affair?

Couples counseling near me?

All of these search terms can lend some ideas as to a domain name. If you want to be known for helping couples in this situation, maybe you include the word affair somewhere in your domain name (e.g. affairrecoveryservices.com). Maybe your style is more casual and empowering and so you want your domain name to match that flavor (e.g. mycheatinghusband.com). If you're in an area where there is a lot of competition for this population, maybe your target some geographical element in your domain name (e.g. affairrecoverynyc.com). 

We can certainly help you think through what your domain name possibilities are.

But, I always like to give the people I work with a bit of a reality check, too. If you can't find a way to add these keywords to your domain name or if you haven't developed a niche yet, don't worry about it. Simply using your business name without any keywords is completely acceptable. You may not get the SEO boost for those phrases from your domain name, but it's really not necessary. Search engines like Google are constantly changing the things that they think are important for searches and, if you have good content that speaks to the types of people you serve (and you work with someone to make sure the SEO elements on the rest of your site are optimized), then you can totally make up for it in other ways.

The most important thing — increasingly so — is that you have the best answers for the questions that your potential clients are asking.

3. Does it have to be .com?

The domain name space has drastically changed over the past few years. It used to be that you could pick from .com, .org, .net and few other extensions (technically known as top-level domains or TLDs). Then, the people that manage those sorts of things opened up a ton of new extensions that people can use as part of their domain name. So, now you can get great domains with extensions like .care, .center, .institute, .llc, or .tools (there's a complete that Google offers here).

It really opens up some new options for just a little extra in yearly cost. You'd probably be right in thinking something like relationshiptools.com is already taken. But, there's a good chance that these new TLDs are still available. Maybe your site could be something like greatrelationship.tools. It's a cool name for a couples therapy practice or relationship tools and techniques that you might want to launch as a blog or a supplemental website. Equally, if you focus on particular issues as a speciality, you could use something like anxiety.care or tampadepression.institute. 

So, no, it doesn't have to be a .com at all. 

One important caveat, though. The extension itself (the part that comes after the dot), isn't factored into SEO. So, in the couple examples I just gave, .tools, .care, and .institute are irrelevant for SEO.

A second important caveat: while I don't believe that these new extensions matter much from a website perspective, they are new enough that sometimes people might not understand that they don't have to type .com after them. And if they're typing in an email address, something like desmond@greatrelationship.tools just seems weird to some people.

Still, I believe that most people will adjust just fine to these changes and if you find one of these new domain names that you love, the learning curve is not enough for me to recommend against using it.

4. Should I Use Multiple Domains?

Some people get around the limitations in domain names by saying, "I'm just going to buy a bunch of domains and point them all at my website!"

I get the intuition to do that and if you have the budget for that — domains are cheap after all — it sounds like a good plan.

It probably is not. 

Search engines are really sensitive to people trying to game the system and this practice can often be seen as an attempt to do exactly that — to find a way to artificially boost their search ranking. I'd definitely recommend against it.

You can still purchase multiple domains but more from a place of protecting your brand. If you buy greatcouplestherapist.com, it would make sense from a brand protection standpoint to also purchase .org, .net, and any other extension that might make sense. As a rule, just don't actively use them to forward to your website. 

Other Stuff

There are few other important things to remember, too that are worth saying. First of all, try to avoid things like hyphens or numbers in your domain name. They can feel cumbersome and generally hard to deal with. Try to stick with typical spellings, too, including only using widely used abbreviations. NYC for New York City is pretty much standard. However, CLT for Charlotte, NC isn't nearly as widely used and may not be a great solution.

Summing Up

All that to say, while it can feel overwhelming, picking a domain can be straightforward when you keep in mind a few guidelines:

  • Keep things simple — 2-3 of the words that best describe who you are and what you want to be known for.
  • Keep it on brand
  • Explore all your options — including all the new fancy domain extensions
  • Relax — There are LOTS of ways to help improve your SEO beyond your domain name. Don't worry if you can't exactly the domain name you want.