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As much as the things we’ve discussed thus far are important, there are also a few things that you will want to avoid when picking your new domain name that are just as important.
Don’t pick a domain name that you have to explain
I mentioned this previously when discussing the brand name I used previously for my web design and development business. It gets tiresome and just really isn’t a good brand if you have to do a bunch of explaining every time you talk to someone about your website.
You don’t want to have to be explaining how to spell it, why you spelled it the way you did, what that combination of characters you chose is supposed to mean over and over again. Pick something you don’t have to explain all the time.
Stay away from unclear meanings
A couple years ago it seems there was a mad rush to grab domains that and try to build them into brands. While the letters were pronounceable, they made no sense and were related to no word in the English language, or most others either.
Another pitfall you want to avoid is unfortunate word combinations. Here are a couple examples of unfortunate combinations to illustrate the point. Yes – these were real – or still are – real sites.
- Pen Island
- Speed Of Art
- Experts Exchange
- Therapist Finder
- Teachers Talking
All you have to do is combine those words together, put a .com at the end, and see how they look in your browser to see what the problem is. So, make sure you write it out and see what it looks like. Sometimes when you combine words you can end up with some rather unfortunate and offensive results.
Hyphens and numerals are a bad idea
Numbers and hyphens are a bad idea when it comes to domains. They’re hard to communicate, and violate the criteria discussed above. In addition, they really don’t look good on a business card and they carry with them the stigma of not being very well thought out.
Think about how your potential visitor would view such a domain. It’s got hyphens, and it’s long. Does that present the professional image you want your new site to demonstrate? Probably not.
Numbers are an even bigger problem. Do you spell them out, or just use numerals? Do you have to explain them when you’re trying to communicate them verbally? It’s better to stay away if you can avoid them.
The only exception I can think of is if the numerals are part of your brand like 48 Days, Blink 182, or 37 Signals. If your business is branded like this, then numerals make perfect sense, and it would be intuitive for users to find your domain that way.
Avoid trademarked domains
It should go without saying that registering a domain that uses someone else’s intellectual property is off limits. However it happens. And often. If the phrase you want to register is trademarked, copyrighted, or has any other kind of legal protection on their name it’s best to save yourself the trouble and stay away.
If you’re not sure take the time to do your homework. I have a client who registered a domain for a phrase that you might think would have been fine to use for his project, only to find out that was not the case. He received a cease and desist order via mail that required him to surrender the domain to the trademark holder. Luckily, that was all.
Exact match domain names are not always good
This one is a bit tricky. Exact match domains are those domain names where you have a word-for-word exact match for a keyword target. At one time, this was a huge win. If you had an exact match domain name for your primary keyword on your site the search engines saw you in an extremely favorable light and it was easy to rank.
However, that is no longer the case, and in some instances, an exact match domain may not be helpful, but could actually be hurtful to your site.
The main point here is that you’d rather have a domain that matches up with the best practices mentioned above, and that isn’t necessarily going to lend itself to an exact match domain name.
However, the tricky part comes when an exact match domain is your legitimate business name. If you have high quality content on your site and your brand is an exact match, then it may be ok, but I think that picking a domain that is brandable, memorable, and easy to communicate would be a better option.
Stay away from long domains
I’ve seen long domain names that basically spell out a sentence or a phrase. There may be a time or place for these, like if you’re running a promotion and the phrase is a perfect fit and it’s easier to communicate than than saying something like “find more info at mydomain.com/our-promotions/latest-promotion.html.”
But otherwise, long domains can be a serious pain. They aren’t easy or clear to communicate and it’s easy to forget a simple preposition in the phrase which could send your potential visitor somewhere else entirely.
They’re also a problem in instances where you have character limitations, like social media.
Avoid long domains in favor of something that’s short.