Blog covering a variety of Search Engine Optimization topics.

Friday, January 05, 2007

1.1 - Choosing a Domain Name

So you've got an idea for creating a website, maybe it's for your up-and-coming lawn business, your real estate agency, or your men's league softball team. No matter the idea or the purpose for the site, first and foremost you must register a domain. And domain names can be very key to how your experience of creating and growing your website goes. Your domain name should be simple, yet also indicative of the kind of site you have. It also should be easiliy prounouncable and have a certain "flow" to it, and typically, the shorter the domain name the better.

Unfortunately, you are not getting into this whole "internet" thing in its early stages (relatively speaking). Meaning, most domains that are common English words or are 1-2 words in length have already been snatched up. You will find that some of them are hosting real websites that are being updated, while others are being "parked" either for future use or more likely by nefarious characters looking to earn a profit.

There are a few options when running into the problem that a domain you want has already been registered. For one, you can attempt to contact the owner of the domain and try to purchase it. In this situation it's all about cost/benefit. If you are planning on generating a lot of money from the web then maybe it's worth $50,000 to secure that ideal domain name. (Later on in the guide, I will provide a rubric for better determining the monetary value of a given domain name.) If, on the other hand, it's going to be used simply for recreational use, then you probably won't be willing to sink much into it. Either way, it depends on how badly you want the ideal domain. If you feel like you can accomplish the same things with the website by choosing a name that is still available, go that route.

Another quick thing of note when going after registered domains is that if you are a company and you have a trademark on a name you should be able to legally obtain the domain from its current registrar. For most of us, though, you just have to bit the bullet and try and work with what you can get.

Domain registrars such as GoDaddy and Network Solutions are popular choices for registering your domain. Simply head over to one of those sites and enter in your desired domain name to check on its availability. You can save money by registering for 2 years or more - I generally do 2 years at first and then if I stick with a site I go and extend it. Search engines are able to see the length of time a domain in registered for, so it can't hurt to register your domain for 4 years (if you think you'll use it for that long). It may or may not help with your "reputation" as a trusted site with Google, but it can do nothing but help your chances of getting indexed.

The importance of a certain domain name cannot be understated, though. Aside from the benefit of having something short, relevant, and memorable (like a, there is another benefit worth mentioning - search power. Search engines have evolved to the point where domain names that have been registered and hosted for a year or longer are most likely "trusted" domains that have had time to establish a rapport with a Google or Yahoo.

Generally, Google is the industry giant and the one where the majority of online businesses generate visits and income. It is also the search engine with the most stringent domain age and trust factors. That's where the importance of securing an established domain can come in. If you have aspirations of showing up in the search engine results pages (SERPs) within 9 months, you have a lot better chance of doing so if you obtain a domain name that's been around for a few years and already is hosting pages of content relevant to your business or site purpose.

So, what if you have a spankin' new domain name and no search love? There are a few things you can try. First of all, you could possibly bypass the wait by taking / purchasing an established site related to your site and 301 redirecting it to your new domain. Another option is to break through with some exciting new product, news story, or tool that gets picked up by so many other websites that the search engines automatically index and "trust" your site. Granted, most people are not lucky enough to have an innovative idea or anything at all viral about their new website that would cause thousands to begin visiting and/or linking to it, but the more creative and compelling a given site is the better the chance it has to be referenced or linked to by others.

If all you have is a common idea for a website - fear not, as this guide continues, I will shed light on other ways to generate traffic as well as all the steps to follow to ensure that your new domain does in fact begin to show up near the top of the SERPs with time. But first things first, head over to GoDaddy and get your site registered. You'll be the proud papa of your own webspace in no time.


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