>>12 minute read

 

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably come to the realization that you need a website. That means you’ll need to pick a domain name.

Choosing your domain name is a big decision. Although you’re not entirely tied down to it, it’s still a commitment. It’s going to be part of your brand identity.

It’ll be on all your business cards, your truck wraps, and all of those online directory websites. If you were to change your domain later on down the road, you’d need to set up 301 redirects and come through those old directory sites to update them to the new domain.

With that in mind, it’s important not to simply settle on the first one you can secure. There are a few things you should pay attention to when picking the name of your new website, like who you purchase your domain from and what to avoid.

Jump to section

 

But first, let’s learn the parts to a URL.

 

The Different Parts to a URL

This section is pretty boring and nerdy. If you’re not interested in learning the different parts to a domain, then skip ahead to our top 10 tips for picking the best domain name. But if you’re really trying to understand what you’re getting yourself into when deciding on the address to your website, then keep reading.

Below is a graphic on how URLs are structured. We’ll work our way backward from the Top-Level Domain to the Protocol.

The Different Parts of a URL

Image Credit: https://moz.com/learn/seo/domain

 

1) Top-Level Domain

What is the Best TLD Domain Extension to Get

This is your .com, .org, .net, .gov, etc. There are thousands of TLDs including geographic ones like .ca (Canada) and .uk (United Kingdom). There are even ones that are .fish and .xyz.

 

“2) Domain Name

Picking the Best Domain Name

Your domain name is just the part that you create. It’s typically your company name or service you offer. This is what is going to be the most important part of this post.

 

3) Root Domain

What is a Root Domain

The root domain is a combination of the domain name you chose along with the TLD you decided to go with. Only one website can have a specific root domain. Someone can have the same domain name as you but a different TLD, just like someone can have the same house number as you but live on a different street.

Example: lawnmowers.com versus lawnmowers.org. Both have the same domain name, but different TLDs, therefore they have different root domains.

 

4) Subdomain

What is a Subdomain

Subdomains can be added after the domain is claimed by you. They’re free to add to. You can think of it like adding an additional section to your website. Google has tons of subdomains.

If you’re managing your Google My Business listing, you’ll find yourself going to the business.google.com.

If you’re going to look at your Google Analytics, you’re going to analytics.google.com. It’s all part of the root domain google.com.

The most common use of a subdomain is using www. I prefer to leave this off. It’s pointless and usually ends up just getting redirected to from someone typing in or clicking a link to your site that does not have this subdomain, which can slow down your server response time, which in turn affects your rankings.

Avoid adding the ‘www’ subdomain.

 

5) Protocol

What is a URL Protocol

Your protocol is important but it isn’t something you decide on when getting your domain, so you can skip this section if you’re not feeling particularly nerdy right now.

Like your subdomain, it can be added or altered after the fact. This one through your hosting provider.

Domains come standard with HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol). All this is is how messages and data are sent and transmitted through the web and how servers and browsers (like Chrome or Firefox) should respond to them.

Once you get your domain and have it set up with your host, you’re going to want to get an SSL / TSL certificate to go along with it (Secure Socket Layer / Transport Layer Security).

They’re pretty much the same thing, but they add a layer of security to your HTTP. This is what changes the http:// in your URL to https://.

By the way, it’s a ranking signal and Google cares that you have that SSL / TSL. That’s important.

 

Picking Your Root Domain Name

Now that you’re a URL genius, you know that you’re not just trying to pick your domain name, you need to pick your root domain. No problem, here are my top 10 tips for deciding on the best root domain.

 

1) Get a domain name from a registrar that specializes in domain names.

DON’T get your domain name from Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, BlueHost, or HostGator. Get your domain name from Hover (or GoDaddy, I guess…). You’ll regret getting your domain name from the other places as soon as you want to transfer it out for whatever reason.

Where to Buy Your Domain

 

The domain locks and steps to propagate servers and / or emails absolutely sucks. Especially with Wix. You’ll thank me later (or now in the comments if you’d like…).

With platforms like Wix or SquareSpace, you’re locked into their website builder – eventually, you’re going to want to move away from them and move to something like WordPress.

I’d rather not also have my domain locked up with a company that specializes in restricting you to their website building interface.

Trust me, just get your domain from a no BS registrar like Hover and you’ll be good to go.

 

2) Get a domain name with the correct TLD extension.

First, you need to understand the different associations TLDs have and what people find as credible.

  • .com = Commercial (refers to a business)
  • .org = Organization (charity, non-profit, other organization)
  • .io = Input/Output (actually, it stands for the British Indian Ocean Territories, but tech startups associate this with web software development websites because of the I/O abbreviation)
  • .net = Network

Pick your TLD based on what you are above. If you’re a landscaping contractor then get a .com TLD.

Don’t settle for a .org, .land, .biz, .us, or anything else because you couldn’t find a .com. TLDs don’t hold any value in terms of rank, but over 47% of all domains use a .com TLD. It’s said that they seem more trustworthy and increase click-through-rates for businesses, so that’s what I would try to get for your business.

 

 

3) Don’t worry about adding keywords in your domain.

Domain name ranking signals really aren’t a thing anymore, and they haven’t been for years, despite what people tell you. You’ll just waste your time. Instead, find a domain name that incorporates your company name plus .com at the end.

In fact, Google actually shows preference to branded domain names versus keyword-based domain names.

Here’s what Google’s John Mueller said in 2018 on using keywords in domains:

“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords. And that’s something that’s been the case for a really, really long time.”

The bottom line is, use your brand name in your domain, it’s going to be a lot more memorable and it will be a part of your identity.

 

4) Make Your Domain Easy to Type

If your company name is difficult to type or long then think about shortening it up with the domain name. You’ll be surprised what people have a hard time spelling in a URL without autocorrect.

Lukas from Henningsen Property Maintenance decided to go with the domain name hpmlawncare.com. The HPM standing for Henningsen Property Maintenance, of course. Although the “lawn care” part is a little redundant, it’s not directly known given just the domain.

If someone searched “lawn care services in mukwonago”, adding that “lawncare” at the end really builds the industry credibility and increases click-through-rates. Lukas did a killer job coming up with that domain name. It’s short, easy to type, and memorable.

Another example is Douglas, owner of Sweet Lawn and Landscaping Inc and Audio Enlightenment DJs. He needed a domain for his DJ business.

If he would have put the entire business name into it, it would be way too long and people would have a hell of a time spelling “enlightenment”. Douglas was able to snatch up aedjs.com. Much shorter and much easier to spell.

He also did the same thing with his landscaping business. Instead of, he chose to go with sweetlawninc.com. Definitely easier to remember and type. I don’t have to remember which comes first in the name – landscaping or lawn care.

 

5) Avoid hyphens, double letters, and numbers.

It’s hard to make hyphens and numbers look good in domain names and it’s not the first thing people think about adding in when you tell them what your website is. You usually have to spell it out there.

If you’re ever doing a radio commercial or even an interview, you’ll need to pause and let the audience know that there is a hyphen or a number instead of the spelled-out version in the name. Suddenly, your domain name isn’t so memorable.

As for double letters, I mean don’t have a word that ends with the same letter the next word starts with.

Example, lawncutting.com is fine. “Cutting” naturally has two ‘t’s in it. Avoid names like landscapinggeorgia.com.

For one, it’s ugly. Two, words that begin with the same letter the prior one ended with are very often mistyped. It’s better to avoid customer frustration and just find a domain name that’s better suited. I would rather have a hyphen before I had two double letters.

 

6) Make sure your domain name is obvious and industry-relevant.

I know what I said earlier, keywords in domain hold little value now if any at all. EMDs in terms of ranking are a thing of the past. However, that doesn’t mean you should completely avoid having industry-related keywords in your domain.

If you’re a landscaper, you should still have “landscaping” or “landscapes” in your domain name.

Back to my earlier example, Lukas at Henningsen Property Maintenance did this. Instead of settling on something like hennpm.com or henningsenpm.com, he went with hpmlawncare.com.

From the perspective of someone who’s never heard of the company before, it’s pretty obvious what they do before clicking to the site. That’s what you want.

 

7) Research the domain’s history!

This is when it comes in handy to have access to advanced SEO tools like Majestic, Ahrefs, Moz, Raven Tools, or a friend that can run a backlink check for you on a potential domain (email me at jake@evergrowmarketing.com and I’ll help you with this if you’re looking to get a new domain for your lawn care or landscaping business)

We use Raven Tools at Evergrow. Their base package is $79/mo, which is why it’s nice to have a friend in marketing that already has access to the tool.

 

How to Find Domain Backlinks

 

All we have to do is add the URL we want to check and see what sites are linked to it. We don’t want spammy websites linking to a potential domain. We want quality backlinks.

If that’s the case, run for the hills – or else you’re going to have a long road ahead of you disavowing those links through Google’s Search Console.

In order to check if the website that’s linking to that domain is spammy, run that through Moz’s free Link Explorer tool and select “Spam Score”.

Who to Find if Domain is Spammy

 

You’ll see that our spam score is 1%. It’s very unlikely that you’re going to be 0%. Spam Score is the score your site receives when other websites who engage in spammy backlink practices link to yours.

SEOs used to do this back in the day by creating Private Backlink Networks (PBN) to take advantage of Google’s PageRank algorithm. This is part of what Google refers to as “Link Schemes”.

Google caught onto the practice in April of 2012 with their Penguin Update and started penalizing websites that do this, including removing them from their search engine.

PBNs do still exist, but when they’re caught, Google issues manual actions on them such as a time-sensitive warning or removing from their search engine.

Other issues with bad domains include being blacklisted from other websites. We recently had this issue with a new client of ours we picked up with Facebook.

Prior to being on board with us, the company that created their website didn’t make sure the website was secure. The website was hacked and every other time you visited it, it redirected you to one of those “Congratulations, you won!” sites.

This was a direct infection from the website and not the browser being used.

Since the website was infected, Facebook saw this and blacklisted the website’s domain. Which means it can’t be posted to Facebook, Instagram, or even be used to drive Facebook and Instagram ad traffic to the website.

Facebook Blocks Domain

We’ve contacted Facebook multiple times and submitted the domain to be rechecked multiple times and still nothing. You can read more about the issue with this domain on Cody See’s blog.

Research your domain! I can’t stress that enough.

 

8) Snag any and all close variations of your domains that you can.

If your company name is Jake’s Hardscaping Services, try to nail down jakeshardscapes.com, jakeshardscapingservices.com, jakeshardscaping.com. We want to do this for two reasons.

1) You’re securing domain names in case you want to change it in the future but still incorporate your brand name, this way no one can steal them.

2) It would suck to have a competitor buy a similar domain name to yours and direct traffic to their website.

Imagine choosing jakeshardscapes.com as your domain, but your competitor bought the exact match domain (EMD) of jakeshardscapingservices.com and set up a redirect (301) to their website. It’d probably piss you off. Well, it’s very real and it happens. Secure your domains.

 

9) Don’t give up, think of alternative names.

If you feel like you’ve exhausted all options and all of the domain names are taken, don’t forget the small prefixes and suffixes you can add to your domain name. If daveslandscaping.com is taken, try:

  • daveslandscapes.com
  • daveslawnandlandscapes.com
  • landscapesbydave.com
  • daveslandscapingllc.com
  • daveslandscaping.com
  • daveslandscapingco.com

When I was creating Evergrow Marketing, I picked the business name based on what domain name was available I know, it’s a little backward, but the whole premise is digital marketing, so I need to practice what I preach.

I wanted my brand name in the domain, I wanted it industry-relevant, I wanted .com, and I didn’t want any hyphens.

If your business is just an idea at this point, you don’t have it registered, or you’re willing to change your company name, I might suggest going this route.

If you’ve exhausted all those options, I might suggest adding your state abbreviation to the end such as daveslandscapingks.com.

But I don’t really like adding thinks like state abbreviations, LLC, or inc after domain names simply because those may not be permanent in your business. If you pick that, you’re stuck with it – and you don’t want to have to deal with a domain rebrand when it comes time to change to a more relevant domain in the future.

If you work on the border of two states, then having an abbreviation at the end of one kind of excludes the other.

If you plan on extending your service area out of where you’re located or set up shop somewhere else, you could be looking at wanting to get a domina that matches that location as well. If you just had one domain that could encompass all areas then you wouldn’t ever have to worry about it.

 

10) Buy Your Domain Name Even if You’re Not Ready to Build Your Website

I can’t stress this one enough. Even if you don’t have a web designer in mind or platform you want to build your website on, buy your domain right now. Do it before someone takes it. Buy it and sit on it until you’re ready to move forward.

You don’t have to do anything with it after you buy it, but at least you’ll have it and won’t have to worry about it.

 

Summary

You’re a domain-name-picking expert now. All you have to do is remember the 10 tips for picking your domain name:

  • Get your domain from a domain registrar company, not a hosting company that also registers domains.
  • Get a .com TLD extension. Try as hard as you can.
  • Focus on your brand name, don’t worry about adding keywords to your domain.
  • Make it easy to type. If you have a long business name, find a way to shorten it up, like HPMLawnCare instead of HenningsenPropertyMaintenance.
  • Don’t use hyphens, numbers, or words that end with the same letter as the next one begins with. They’re hard to type and have to be explained over the phone, radio, or a podcast.
  • Make it obvious and industry-relevant. You want potential customers to know exactly who you are and what you do by looking at your domain.
  • Research your prospective domain’s history! If a domain was used by someone in the past with shady SEO tactics or has a history of getting blacklisted by sites like Facebook, you don’t want that domain!
  • Get all the variations close to your domain as possible. You don’t want a competitor stealing a very close domain variation of yours and directing traffic to their site.
  • Don’t give up on figuring out your domain name and fall to one of the opposites of these tips. Keep trying and think of other variations. You can email me if you would like some help.
  • Buy your domain today while you still can! You don’t need a website to lock it down!