How to name a website

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Choosing the right website name is step one to online success
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Knowing how to name a website and the right URL can make all the difference

Titles have always mattered. Authors and song writers struggle to find the right titles for books and song, while reporters try to craft that perfect headline. But no where is a title more critical than when you're ready to pick a URL and name a website.

A website's URL not only matters for users, it also makes a huge difference in how the search engines will see your site. Before you buy that URL or start working on your homepage, consider these best practices and tips for making the right choice.

What is your website about?

For years, marketers have leaned towards made up names for products and companies. Giants like Wii, Plaxo and Kodak have successfully built companies on entirely made up brand names. The pluses are that these words are typically easy to trademark, and the URL's are usually available to buy.

But using a made up name for your online business can be risky. Unless you have a large marketing budget to let the world know that Xcyrd or Zebriom is the hottest thing in running shoes or software it's going to be much harder to show up in search results or get people to visit your site when it does.

Choosing a URL that includes highly searched keywords not only tells visitors exactly what your site is about, it also allows search engine spiders to make the connection between the name and the content.  The two elements together can result in better search performance, more traffic and lower bounce rates.

You want me to type what?

In some industries, the product or service description can include hard to spell words. If searchers are likely to make spelling mistakes when entering your company's name in search, it's probably a good idea to choose a different URL.

Length is another critical factor when you're ready to name a website. Even if every word and letter in a possible name is a great keyword, no one wants to type a 40 or 50 character name. Not only is it too time consuming, it offers more chances for typos and that can be frustrating for potential customers (especially if they have to enter your site's name from the tiny print on a business card or print ad!)

And the other website is called ... ?

Before you select a name for your website, do some research on possible competitors with similar URLs. If there's an established website with a name only a letter or two different from yours, you might want to rethink your choice.  All of your SEO work could end up driving traffic to them if they appear higher in the search results!

Another element to check is how people online see names like yours. Using keyword tools like Google Trends or Ad Words, plus basic searches of your own, see what industries and other words are associated with the name you're considering.

If, for instance, you're trying to name an employee training company, but the name you've chosen is linked to pages for potty training or dog training, go back to the drawing board. Of course you might be able to overcome those associations, but odds are there's a better choice waiting out there and you won't have to start out with an uphill battle.

Test your choices

Big companies use consumer panels and opinion polls to evaluate new products, services and names.  Even if you don't have access to a professional evaluation service, you can still test your website name ideas.

Show friends, coworkers or neighbors your name choices and ask them what kinds of businesses they would associate with each. Or give them your top five, and ask them to rank them for a trustworthiness, information value and ease of use. That information can help you see potential pit falls and issues you might not have noticed.

If possible, buy up the almosts, too

If you have a few names that seem to work well, it's a good idea to buy them all if possible.  You may want to use some of them for content pages, blogs or even redirects down the road. It's also a good idea to buy the other extensions of your chosen name (for instance, if you use a .com, buy the same name in .org and .net)  Not only will it give you future options, it will prevent competitors from moving on your future success.

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