See tips for creating the most web-friendly name for your site.
It might seem like a low priority when starting up a website or online business, but a pronounceable, memorable and appropriate domain name is crucial to web accessibility.
Before you commit to a domain name, you may want to consider the following points. It can be a tedious and damaging process to change your domain name after you've been running for a while, so it's something you want to get right the first time around.
Domain names vs. website names
If possible, you should try to make your domain name the same as either your name, your company's name or your website's name. This isn't always an easy task, especially if you're in a competitive field or don't have a very unique name. The domain extension (.com, .net, .me, etc.) is also very important.
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Naming your site after your domain may seem like the obvious thing to do, but it's not uncommon to do it differently. It's important for the single reason that when people think of your website, they'll naturally think of it by name. If your name is also your URL, they'll automatically know where to go. Some people will actually try looking for a person or company by typing the business name followed by ".com" into their browser before using a search engine. Google has picked up on this habit and combined its search and address bar into one field in Chrome.
If you choose not to name your URL after your website for whatever reason, you're relying on users to return to your site by either bookmarking it or searching for it again in a search engine. For this reason, it really pays to have a domain name that reflects your site or business, because there are fewer things for your visitors to remember.
Correct length for a domain name
Technically, a domain name can be any combination of up to 63 alphanumeric characters, including or excluding hyphens, followed by an extension. Acronyms and abbreviations can be easy to remember if they have a ring to them, as can longer domains if they flow nicely. Which is easier to remember, YTMND.com or YoureTheManNowDog.com? I'll bet your answers would split evenly here. There is no right or wrong length for your domain name; what it really boils down to is how simple it is to use and remember.
Double characters for separate words
When your name or business name is made up of more than one word and the last letter of the first word is the same as the first letter of the next word, users can become confused as to what the exact domain name is. Let's take a look at this example. Imagine our trading name is Business Seven – what would be the best domain name to use?
While under normal circumstances, it's considered best practice to avoid hyphens because they break the user's natural typing process, this particular case would be an exception, because it's more important to avoid having three of the same letter in a row.
Using a combination of numbers and letters in domain names has become quite a fashion in recent years. However, it's only a good idea to use this technique if that accurately reflects your company's name – e.g., "Business7," not "Business Seven." Therefore, the best choice would be Option 2, as it is the easiest to type while also representing the business most accurately.
Hyphens in domains with multiple words
Hyphenated domain names are often frowned upon for solid reasons. However, there are some advantages to them, and they're often unavoidable if your other options are already taken. Should you get a hyphenated name for your website? There are a few things to consider …
It's easy to forget the hyphens when typing a name. Most website names do not have hyphens, so users are used to typing out multiple words without spaces or hyphens. In some cases, your users could actually leave out the hyphens when typing in your address and end up at your competitor's site or somewhere completely irrelevant and get the wrong impression of you and your service.
It's also difficult to communicate a hyphenated domain name offline. Imagine telling someone your website address over the phone or in person if it had a couple of hyphens in it – not so easy.
On the other hand, although it's not as great an issue anymore with modern search engines being much more sophisticated, it can be easier for the engines to distinguish the keywords used in your domain name and thus return your site more prominently in search results for those keywords if you do use a hyphen.
Over-the-top creative license
Creative license is great, but you can always have too much of a good thing. Many business or website names are made up of commonly used words with spelling modifications. This can give you a funky-looking name for sure, but how easy is it for your users to remember at the end of the day? It's a lot easier to navigate to GraphicDesign.com than GraffikDezyne.com, isn't it? And it didn't take Delicious long to change its domain name from Del.icio.us to Delicious.com. You certainly wouldn't want your users and search engines to become confused and associate you with the wrong subject matter.
On the other end of the scale, you don't want your domain name to be too similar to your competitors' or your users could accidentally navigate away from your site and on to theirs. This is why it's a good idea, if possible, to purchase common extensions like the ".info" or ".net" versions of your domain if possible. You can then set up a domain redirection (see below) and point them all to the one "master" site. This will help with SEO results and make life a little bit easier for your users.
Redirecting domain names
It should come as no surprise that many clients have asked me how to get their old domain name to automatically redirect to their new one after launching a site, or to have five or so different domains all point to the one address.
Let's say you own the following domains:
There are many reasons why you would be in this situation – SEO, international site variations or to stop imitation. Obviously, you're not going to want to manage three copies of the exact same website. Redirecting them all to lead to one website is simple to do, will save you money and time, and will even help your search engine results, not to mention just being web-friendly.
Method 1: 301 redirect via .htaccess
The best redirecting method by far is altering the .htaccess file, a directory-level configuration file that allows management of the web server. This is known as a 301 redirect (301 being the HTTP status code for "moved permanently"). For the purpose of this tutorial, I'll only be explaining the simplest scenario.
Open or create the .htaccess file at the public root of your web server directory (you may have to enable invisible files). Enter the following line of code, replacing the directory you want to redirect from and the full URL you want to redirect to with your desired locations: Redirect 301 /notebook http://51bits.com/articles
That's all there is to it. The .htaccess file is one of the first files requested from the server, so load time is minimal and the user will hardly notice anything is happening before the redirection takes place.
Method 2: Meta content refresh
If you don't have access to the root of your server, you may have to resort to a different method such as this. By placing a single line of code in the header of your webpage, you can redirect users in much the same way:
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;url=http://redirecthere.com"/>
<title>You are being redirected…</title>
The advantage of this method is that you can add a delay to the redirection so your users are aware they are being redirected. By changing the index value within the content attribute of the meta tag, you can change the timing of the delay accordingly.
It's important to note that there is no "correct" domain name, but rather a set of guidelines and common sense to ensure the maximum accessibility to your site and the success of the ultimate offering. Try to keep your domain as simple as possible, at a comfortable length and with relevant keywords. If possible, purchase commonly used extension variants just to be safe, and avoid being too similar to your direct competition. If you can check all of those boxes, your chances of having a web-friendly and accessible site will be much greater.