Selecting and registering a domain name

With the topic of my first web site decided, I now need to figure out what to call it. Like any business, picking a name is a critical decision. Unless you have a huge marketing budget to give meaning to a somewhat nonsense word like Dell or Amazon, my thoughts are that your name needs to tell people exactly what your site is about. For example, if presented with a name like Festigle or Discount Pet Food, both in the same line of business, which one is easier to figure out? Exactly.

In the Internet world, of course, your business name is also your domain name. And just as in the real world, your business name needs to be unique in your market. As the Internet is global, that means your market is global, which makes it much more difficult to find a unique domain name that accurately describes your niche that hasn’t already been taken.

Choosing the right keywords

Fortunately there are a lot of methods that can help you select a domain name. The first area that I like to focus on is keywords. Keywords are the basic building blocks that define the topic of your web site. For me, the keyword that describes my general topic is jobs. There are a lot of keywords that describe my niche, including ESL, EFL, TESL, TEFL, and TESOL. A combination of these keywords would make for an ideal domain name.

Of course, not all keywords are equal. Some will be more popular that others, meaning they are more commonly used when people use search engines like Google or Yahoo. Using a more popular keyword will be more helpful in attracting visitors to my web site, as its more likely it will be the keyword someone uses when they search.

There are a number of tools that will show you the popularity of keywords. One, The Keyword Suggestion Tool, will show you the rank of a series of keywords across the major search engines, in addition to a lot of other information. Entering in ESL jobs, EFL jobs, TESL jobs, TEFL jobs, and TESOL jobs, I discover that ESL jobs is far more popular than the rest. As a result, I’ll try to create a domain name that includes those two keywords.

Considering top level domains, hyphens, numbers and length

One factor in choosing a domain is selecting its top level domain, or TLD. There are a number of TLD’s, including .com, .net., org, and .info. I’m a huge fan of the .com TLD for a commercial site, although the others are valid for certain niches. On balance, though, I’d always go with a .com. The .com TLD most strongly resonates with people, and demonstrates–at least in my opinion–that your web site is legit. If my ideal domain name was taken in .com and available as .net or .org, I’d forego the ideal name and look for another that was available as a .com.

Another consideration is the use of numbers or hyphens. For examples, it would be possible to register www.esl-jobs.com or www.esljobs1.com. Again, I’m a fan of keeping it simple, and unless there’s a compelling reason to use hyphens or numbers, I steer clear of them. I’ll keep looking for a unique domain name that doesn’t use either of these elements. There’s nothing wrong with using them, but from a style perspective, they don’t resonate with me.

Finally, the length of the domain name is a factor. The last thing someone wants to do is type in a horrendously long domain name. Granted, most traffic coming to a web site is via links, and so domain name length isn’t a deal breaker, but as a general rule, shorter is better.

Evaluating possible domain names

With keywords in hand and some guiding principles, it’s time to discover what domain names are available. In a perfect world, I would just try different www.keywordkeyword.com combinations in my web browser and a perfect domain name would be available. No such luck for me, as both www.esljobs.com and www.jobsesl.com are taken. That means I’m going to need to get a little creative.

I’m going to need to add a word or two to ESL and jobs in order to find a domain name that hasn’t been registered yet. One resource I like to use is The Most Common Words in English. My reasoning is that adding a common word will help ensure my domain name is easier to remember and spell correctly. It also feels better than just pulling out words at random. Of course the word needs to relate to my general topic, or the combined keywords are going to be confusing. Spinning through the list, I settle on word #195: world.

Going back to my browser, I’m pleased to find that www.esljobsworld.com is available! My search for a domain name is complete, and now its time for the next step, registration.

Registering the domain name

This is the first step where it’s going to cost a bit of money. Fortunately, domain name registration is not that expensive, and there are ways to make it even less so. There’s a huge amount of competition in the market, and that means there are always deals around.

I feel it’s important to stick with a name brand registrar like Network Solutions or GoDaddy, two companies with solid reputations that have been around for ages. I personally prefer GoDaddy, as they’re a bit less expensive, and are very active in distributing promo codes that you can use to reduce the price of many of their services. A helpful list of promo codes is available in a discussion thread in the forum at DigitalPoint. Jump to the end of the thread and work your way backwards; you’ll find a number of promo codes that you can use.

The only thing left to do is actually register the domain name, and fortunately that step is by far the easiest. From the GoDaddy home page, just type in the domain name in the form at the top, and follow the steps. Be careful, though, as they will relentlessly try to sell you additional services. Just decline them as you go along, and in less than a minute or two, you’ll complete the process.

So after a lot of research and trial and error, I’ve succeeded in registering my domain name. My next step will be to fined someplace for it to live, a hosting provider!