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Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.


How To Select A Domain Name

June 28th, 2007

Selecting the best domain name for your new website is often the task that new website clients tackle first. Since there are a nearly infinite number of possible website domain names to choose from, how does a prospective website client go about choosing just the right domain name for his or her small business website or personal project?

There are three general strategies to consider when selecting a domain name for a new website:

  1. using keywords,
  2. using branding, and
  3. using something easy to remember.

When you select to use keywords in your domain name, you are doing it for search engine optimization purposes. You get “credit” with search engines for every keyword that appears in your website, and the domain name carries quite a bit of weight. If for example you are a dog trainer in Seattle, you might want “ ” as your domain name so that folks who are using those three words find your website.

When you select to use branding in your domain name, you are trying to establish some kind of identity online, like “” . With this strategy, it’s assumed that people will find your website because they either know the domain name by heart (aka or because you’ve done marketing to get your company’s domain name known to potential customers.

When you select something easy to remember in your domain name, you are using neither keywords nor your company name, but often a clever, short, memorable domain name like “” for a business that has nothing to do with dogs. (If you don’t believe me, check out their website!)

You can also come up with a combination strategy, like I did for my domain “”, using both my business name and two keywords that are super-relevant to my business. There are great websites that help you choose a domain name, and I’d recommend using to help come up with alternatives you might not have otherwise thought of.

You may be asking, “Why is this choosing a domain name such a big deal when they only cost $10 a year? “. This is a great question! Domain name registrations are certainly inexpensive, and probably deceptively so, from a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective. There are many, many different factors that search engines like Google consider when their super complex algorithm assigns your website ranking for specific keywords. The factor that matters in considering selecting a domain name, is domain age. When you register a domain name, it gets time stamped, and the search engines know how long you’ve had it. Some people claim that the longer you register your domain name for, the better, implying that you should pre-pay for your domain name for 10 years versus 1 year.

Some of the search engines, like MSN don’t care about domain age, but Google does. In an effort to have new fly-by-night websites get lower rankings than established websites, Google uses something known as the “Google Sandbox”. The sandbox is where Google sends your “new” website (domain name) to play until it ages enough to play with the older websites. I can tell you from personal experience with my own website that this happens, and there’s no telling how long new websites will be in the sandbox – it depends on what keywords you’re trying to get ranking for. For example, for my own website, I got good ranking for my last name, which is unusual, within a month or two. But for “website design seattle” I had to wait 8 months to emerge from the sandbox.

Here’s my point: select your domain name carefully, because changing it after your website is well established will be extremely detrimental to your website traffic. Your new domain name will go straight into the Google sandbox for many, many months. Again I speak from experience as I recently changed my domain name from “” to “”. Very painful, believe me. Read about my own experience with changing my domain name while attempting to keep my search engine rankings high.

Try not to just select a domain name that’s something quick and easy because domain names are only $10/year. Put some time and thought into selecting your domain name and you’ll be much happier in the long run!

J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.

5 Responses to “How To Select A Domain Name”

  1. Rasco Says:

    If we have, let us, a person name is: Jone Smeth (first, family name) So:
    Which domain do you think is better for a personal website?
    Example 1:
    Example 2:

    If you have selected Example 1 as the best choice, would you like to present it in your contact information as
    choice A)
    choice B)

    Please explain your point of views for the best professional looking to the people. Thanks a lot

  2. Jill Olkoski Says:

    If someone has an unusual last name, I’d try to get just the last name domain, like in your example
    If you need to use the first and last name for the domain, I’d probably opt for the one without the hyphen, just because it makes it easier to spell. Although the one with the hyphen is easier to read. It’s a bit of a tossup, but I’d opt for no hyhpens or underscores.

    Your second question, I would always use capitalization to help make it easier for people to read. So I’d select as the way to communicate the domain name in writing. In fact, this is also the recommendation of Google Ad Words Optimizer tool…when you make your URL for your ad, and click “optimize” they will always capitalize words to make the domain name easier to read.

  3. Ben Says:

    I’m interested in registering a domain name in my last name but it’s already taken by someone else. Any suggestions? I was thinking adding a number, say 1, to it. I’m not interested in using both first and last name. Thanks!

  4. Jill Olkoski Says:

    Hi Ben,
    You could certainly try adding a “1” or some other letter or number. Remember you can also use “-” dashes/hyphens in domain names, or perhaps you could get it via .net or .biz, although .com would be preferable. Or maybe your first initial? Keep thinking along the lines you’re going and try a small permutation to see if you can get close enough. But also remember, that people might find the other domain name instead of yours, and as long as it’s not a porno site or something offensive, getting a domain very close to it shouldn’t be a problem.

  5. Ben Says:

    Hi Jill,

    Thanks for your advise. English is not my native language, so I’m not sure whether it should be or 1LastName? I’ve tried all the domain extensions but none was available:)



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