6 Points on Selecting the Best Domain Name for your Affiliate Website

As I often see people wondering what domain name they should use, I decided that I should have a complete page with various points about what is good and what not so good as far as domain names go.

In a jiffy: I have had some experience and a quick answer is: use a “dot com”, make it simple, readable or abbreviation, but in all cases, memorable is best.

1. Use a “dot com”

First of all, I think it is very important for you to consider using a dot com.

Here are several reasons for that:

Most everyone will try a name with “.com” at the end

Try to call one of your friends and test him or her. Give them a domain name over the phone and hear them finish it with “dot com” on their own…

It may sound unfortunate, but the “dot com” dominates them all.

Browsers Automatically Choose “dot com”

When a name is entered in the location bar of a browser, the browser automatically searches for a “.com” if no extension or an unknown extension was specified.

Some browsers now do an automatic search instead. But both can happen and an automatic search is not unlikely to work best if you have a dot com anyway.

Note that Google (and most certainly others) do not give higher privileges to dot com, it just happens to dominate the market and thus you’re way more likely to see a dot com in the results than any other extensions.

Smartphone Keyboards with “.com” on them

If you have a smartphone, you may have noticed that some of the on-screen keyboards have a .com key. Again, the dominance of the “dot com” gives it a higher priority and thus it appears in many places. This allows for one single touch, much faster than typing “dot restaurant” or some other top level domain name extension.

International

Although most everyone will concede that the .com is more American than anything else, it is still an international domain name extension. Many websites in many countries make use of the dot com because it’s often easier and cheaper to get that domain name than a local domain name.

Actually, in some countries, it is not possible to get a domain name without having a proof of residence or even a proof that you’re a citizen of that country or a proof of ownership of a local company. This has pushed the “dot com” even further since most people don’t want to bother with such burden.

Cheap

There are a few Top Level Domains (TLDs) that are cheap, the dot com domains are one of them. Others we’ve seen are the .info, .net, and .biz. In most cases, though, what I’ve noticed is that the new TLDs are more expensive across the board. So if you can purchase a .com for $10/year, you are likely to be charged $50/year for a more specialized domain that people won’t even find… (Why can’t they know about it? Because there are literally thousands of TLDs now. I know, I wrote the libtld library to detect them and the number is still growing!)

It’s not so much the financial saving unless you are so totally broke and can’t gather $50/year…. but again, if you are in this business to make money, you should use the right domain extension. The one everyone knows about and is likely to test with when thinking about your website.

2. Avoid Dashes

Unless you have a really good reason for it, do NOT purchase a domain name with dashes in the name.

One of the main reasons people have been purchasing domain names with dashes is because the one without dashes is already taken. This is the worst mistake you can make for two reasons:

Reason One: The existing website, if major enough, is not unlikely to sue you for infringement on their brand name. Think about it. A name is a name and adding dashes doesn’t really change it. I know you can purchase two separate “dot com”, one with and one without dashes, but that is not enough to distinguish your website from a well-known brand. On the other hand, who are you to try to compete with a well-known brand? Chances are even without suing you, you’ll just disappear on your own.

Reason Two: When your visitors try to come back… they won’t include the dashes and if they do they may put them in the wrong place. But if they don’t and that other domain exists, they end up on that other page and won’t try again with dashes to find your specific page. Although their browser should have your domain in their history, chances that they miss the history are high.

Another reason for adding dashes is to separate the words in your domain name. There are two reasons for ignoring that problem altogether. First of all, whether your keywords are in your domain name is not really that important. What is way more important when you build a website for SEO is… SEO, which means the content on your website, what search engines really use in their index to make things work.

The structure of your website. The fact that the content is well written (enough for the readers to enjoy your writing). The repetition of your keywords on most pages. Good links (i.e. especially, no links to totally crappy websites.) A pleasing theme that doesn’t do too much or too little. Etc. All of these will make the domain name quite irrelevant.

Actually, there are some websites that do not have a domain name which represents their brand other than the fact that the domain name is their company name. One example comes to mind: moz.com. They have a powerful website because new content is added there every single day and all of that content is always very rich (very long and detailed.) This is really pushing their domain name to a very high rank, in part because many people link to their website posts. The domain name is short so easy to remember and that is a key to what you should choose and not so much your keywords and especially not dashes.

But, Is Google Not Checking for Keywords in your Domain Name?

I think they are with or without the dashes.

The fact is that if they find a word in your domain name, they most certainly record it in some way and if that word is often found in your website or even in your main titles, then that will be an extra match. It probably does influence your page ranking, but the difference is probably so small that I would not worry about it.

Now, I’m sure that they can find the keywords in the domain name with or without the dashes. In software, this is one very simple statement (here shown in the C language, but in all the languages I know of, which is well over 20, it would still be one line of code):

if(strstr(keyword, domain_name) != NULL)
{
    /* keyword was found in the domain name! */    ...
}

So there is no reason to worry about how complicated it could be for Google to find out whether your domain name includes a keyword.

3. Do Not Include “Offensive Words”

This one may require a little bit of psychology on your part.

Whenever someone sees certain words, they run away. Frankly, many if not most people won’t really read your domain name at first. They are much more likely to find you in Google and just follow the link.

Yet, at some point, generally when the user is now ready to act, they are not unlikely to check you out deeper and one of the details people have easy access to is your domain name. If that domain is considered offensive to them then they are quite likely to leave before doing the purchase.

What do I mean by offensive here?

You’d be surprised how easy it is to offend someone who has a very different point of view than yours. For example, someone with a very strong faith who reads your domain that says “BellsForAtheists.com” is not unlikely going to walk away. Yet, whether you are religious or atheist, wouldn’t it be great to sell those bells to both sides? Wouldn’t you make more money in the end? Wouldn’t a name such as “AboutBrassBells.com” sound better to both sides?

Some other words are those that implies you are going to sell to the visitor. So if you include the word “buy” or “sell” in the domain name, it’s going to be offensive to anyone who wants to read about your products and not feel like buying. If you have good and interesting writing about what they are looking for, and it’s just one click to purchase it, then they are likely to move forward and you’ll get your Internet Affiliate bonus.

I think that anything that would be negative or that implies that you are trying to sell to someone is going to be included in this offensive category. Just ask your friends and family if you have a doubt. It’s much easier to start with the right domain name from the get-go, even if it is possible to change your domain later.

4. Impact on Search Engine Optimization

Your domain name, by itself, will have a very little impact on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Many people say that you should have your keywords in your domain name and I agree with that to a certain extent, but mainly because in most cases your domain name should reflect what your website is about.

If you sell candles and you call your website CatsAndDogs.com, you probably will have a problem. Who is going to click on a link that says CatsAndDogs.com to look into candles?! Now, it could be that your candles are in the shape of cats and dogs:

A candle in the shape of a cat, the candle was sculpted with straight sides.A candle in the shape of a dog, the candle was sculpted with straight sides.

Warning: clicking on those candles will take you to Amazon where I’m an affiliate.

A better name, in this case, would be to include the word candle in your domain name. So something like CatAndDogCandles.com would work better.

However, be careful not to get stuck in a corner. If you want to be able to offer all sorts of candles at some point, limiting your domain name to just cats and dogs is probably going to be a problem (similar to not having the word “candle” in your domain name.) A better name could be CandlesOfAllShapes.com which would express that you can find candles of cats and dogs and other animals or objects.

5. Simplify As Much As Possible

In some cases, your business name is long. If there is something that is a problem it is long names. Most people don’t want to enter a long name in their location bar (well… very few who can type fast like me are more or less fine, but even then, it’s so easy to make a mistake.)

Abbreviations

In some cases, you can just use an abbreviation. My software company is named Made to Order Software Corporation. It’s pretty long! We have several domain names in part to protect our brand, but our main website uses m2osw, which is the abbreviation of the full name (without the word “Corporation”.)

One really great thing about this abbreviation is that it’s very different from any other name. So far, we have not had anyone create a site with a domain name that comes close to our m2osw. So we are unique.

Random Name

Pretty much everyone who has been on the Internet for some time has heard of Google, even if they don’t use it much (i.e. in Asian countries, there is Baidu which is much better than Google in searching for Asian websites. They have a better handle on those languages than Google.)

Another one is Yahoo!

Such names are just random as far as the service offered by those companies. Now you know what Google and Yahoo! are, but really Google is much more than just searching and Yahoo! much more than just search, emails or news. Yet their names had nothing to do with their business.

I’m not saying that you should/could choose a random name for your website. What people want, actually, is a name they can remember. Google was probably not exactly a name that could easily be remembered. However, any random name that people can easily remember because it is one or two words they can pronounce is usually the best. If it is expressing something in link with what your website is offering, even better.

There are companies that at times get tricked in their name selection. One website I use all the time is called Stack Overflow. At first, it was to help programmers ask questions and get answers. Many of the stacks today, though, have nothing to do with programming. There are many about languages (English, Japanese, Arabic, etc.), many about religion/atheism, things that are about a specific subject such as bicycles or cooking, and also about science like physics and mathematics.

Yet, that name works just as well for all those other subjects.

New Word

Similar to the concept of a Random Name, but using an existing word and working on it to get a domain name.

Two well-known domain names that used that technique are Twitter and Instagram. The first is in link with Birds Tweeting and the second is about sending Instant Messages.

I think that this is one of the best ways to get a domain if you can’t use existing dictionary words. After all, people can easily memorize something that’s very close to an existing concept if it’s just extended a bit and the likelihood that such a domain is already taken is very low.

Short Name

As mentioned above, using an abbreviation is good, especially if your business name is long.

Now, this is not always a good idea because abbreviations are not likely to be easy to read as a word. It works great for some businesses. For example, IBM (International Business Machines) and IKEA (Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd) are abbreviations.

Yet, if you can include a normal word in your language target, then you will stand a better chance for people to remember your name. However, that should be short enough. So in most cases, you’ll need to include two or three words. You should still keep it as short as possible and eventually spend some time to see whether other websites exist with nearly the same name. If so, skip and use a different name.

Note that with my InternetAffiliate.com name, I’m not too short… (and some people may want to put an “s” to affiliate.) However, I used well-known words. I think that two words of a fair size or three small words still work as a short domain name.

Your Name

Some people like to use their name. For example, I have an Alexis Wilke website (which is totally underused.)

This one is somewhat tricky. I think it’s a good idea if your business is in link with who you are. For example, if you are a Real Estate Agent or offer a service where you, in person, are going to help your customers (At least at first until you have… a name—a.k.a. a brand that many have heard of.)

However, there is one reason why I would not use my name. If you’ve seen the name of the IKEA store above and you are not a Swedish person, you probably already forgot what those names were. Yet you remember IKEA easily enough. So… if your name is easy enough to remember by the majority of the 7 billion people of planet Earth, or at least in your target market, then go with it if you’d like to do that. Otherwise, either forget it or look into using an alias instead.

6. Don’t Care Domain Name (e-Commerce)

My previous points were about having a domain name for an Internet Affiliate website. If you are thinking about having an e-Commerce site instead, then you certainly do not need to follow all of my previous instructions.

The reason for a pure e-Commerce website is just and only to sell to customers. This is doable just by having a Shopify website, for example. The main reason for the domain name to be much less important is because most people won’t have to remember it. This is because you have two different cards in your pocket:

(a) you’re likely to use a form advertising such as ads on Facebook or AdWord to bring people to your website, the domain name is really not relevant in that case

(b) you’ll be able to collect their email address as they make their first purchase from your website and when that happens, you can start email marketing campaigns (note that you can try to gather email addresses using a popup, but popups don’t work as well as collecting those same email addresses when a first purchase happens)

In both cases, people are going to click on links and they probably won’t look too closely at your domain name (read point #3 above: Do Not Include Offensive Words.) Be nice to your prospects so they become your customers.

In this case, a longer domain name, or something that can’t be pronounced is less of a problem. However, avoid totally random names (i.e. “nqabkgsetq.com”) as those are used by hackers and thus will (should) certainly scare your visitors. It’s just that a pure e-Commerce website has more freedom in the selection of its domain name. Of course, one of the biggest e-Commerce websites is Amazon and that proves that a simple name is again best if you want to grow for a long time and create a brand for yourself.

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