Four Things to Consider When Reviewing Domain Names


New businesses today often have a digital presence before they have a physical presence, and building that digital presence starts with choosing a domain name.

This process deserves more attention than most people give it, because the wrong domain name can be a significant obstacle to a successful business.

Here are four things to consider when choosing your domain name.

1. Are old top-level domains (like .com) still a winning strategy?

For most of the history of the Internet, businesses have been able to use three main top-level domains (TLDs). You know them as .com, .net, and .org (plus maybe .edu, .gov, and .mil). These are still by far the most common names, but you may have noticed other extensions popping up. You can now use everything from .tv – the country code TLD for Tuvalu – to .horse – a generic TLD that was approved by ICANN in 2014 to join the United Nations.) .io has also seen a massive adoption recently.

The new TLDs have advantages, but you will need to be wary of trade-offs. For one thing, using a unique or fun TLD is a surefire way to grab attention. Newer TLDs also tend to be cheaper – you could be the proud owner of many .life domains for just $2.99 ​​per year. On the other hand, content from sites with newer TLDs is considered by 70% of users to be less reliable or authoritative. If your business is in the business of providing factual information, it’s probably best to go with a proven TLD.

Image credit: Wikimedia

Image credit: Wikimedia (Image credit: Image credit: Santeri Viinamäki / Wikimedia)

2. How do you prevent typosquatting and other domain name shenanigans?

A .com TLD can land you on the website for a legitimate business. Accidentally deleting the “o” in .com could land you on a malicious site. Note the one letter difference. Thirty-six percent of sites with a .cm TLD are designed to spread malware, preying on people whose only crime was to make a typo. Not only do these sites harm visitors, but they also steal your traffic and delegitimize your brand. How to stop them?

Your first step is prevention. Many domain names are cheap, so it makes sense to buy commonly misspelled variants of your domain name before scammers can gain access to them first. You can then harvest traffic from your misspelled domain names with a 301 redirect. Alternatively, you can play the misspelling for laughs – a company called Compare the Market has developed a brand new landing page around a domain called Compare the Meerkat.

If you find that a scammer or “typo-squatter” has beaten you to it, you can often turn to ICANN for redress. The Internet’s governing body has a thorough arbitration process that can help you gain control of a domain (in certain situations) that another malicious party purchased in bad faith.

3. How do domain forwardings play a role in your strategy?

We’ve already mentioned using a 301 redirect to move misspelling traffic from your site to your main site, allowing you to capture traffic that might otherwise have gone to competitors. It turns out there are other ways domain forwarders can benefit your business.

Let’s say you want to expand your audience. You can find websites related to your site and see what kind of traffic they are generating. If their owners agree, you can buy those domains and then redirect them to your homepage, harvesting their traffic. Alternatively, you can maintain their communities and link to your homepage via anchor texts.

This tactic was once a bit of a taboo – studies have shown it can lead to a 15% loss in PageRank – but rule changes in 2016 mean that 301 redirects no longer affect PageRank at all. Be warned, however, bulk homepage redirects and irrelevant redirects will still affect your rankings.

Person looking at website on laptop

Image credit: Pixabay

4. How many domain variations should you consider?

You already know that it’s a good idea to have variations of your domain name in order to thwart domain squatters and attract traffic, but how many variations are enough?

There are two other uses for domain name variations that we haven’t covered. The first variant involves special offers. Special offers are a great way to drive traffic, and they’re easy to implement using domain name variations. If you’re running a Black Friday sale, for example, you can create a domain like mybusinessname.blackfriday, which can contain a special offer or simply redirect users to a special landing page on your main website.

Plus, you can plan ahead and find a location-specific variation of your domain name. If you think you will one day sell products to customers in Latin America, you might want to register country code TLDs (ccTLDs) like mybusinessname.ar, .co, and .mx.

Choosing a new domain name can be daunting, but the strategies outlined above give you the tools to reach new markets and eliminate the factors that are hindering your growth. When you start your business, you might think that the name you choose for your website is carved in stone. Turns out it’s anything but. When you choose a strategy that includes multiple domain names, you open multiple paths to success.

Kathy Brahm, Vice President of Consumer Lodging at DreamHost (opens in a new tab)

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