Choosing a domain name is no easy task. It’s one of the most important branding decisions you’ll have to make for your website, and factors like availability, pricing, and keyword targeting make the decision more complex than meets the eye. If you’re not sure where to start, follow these basic guidelines to help select a domain name that will serve you for years to come.
Before you can choose a domain name, you’re going to need to do some research to see what’s available. The most appealing domain names are often bought by investors hoping to sell them at auction for a profit, so finding an available domain name at standard pricing can be quite a challenge. Pricing is fairly reasonable for an available domain, typically $5 to $15 per year, while domains at auction are frequently listed for tens of thousands of dollars. Your top 10 domain name picks may not be available at a reasonable price, so you’re going to need plenty of time and patience to find something you like. Most of the big domain name registrars have search tools for domain name availability and discovery. GoDaddy is one of the most well known registrars, and their domain name search tools work very well, even suggesting available domain names based on your searches. Google has also thrown their hat into the domain registration business at domains.google.
When choosing a domain name, there are some key guidelines that shouldn’t be ignored. Mess up here, and you’ll be spelling out your URL for years to come.
The big question for most people is whether you should use your own name or focus on keywords in your domain name. There are pros and cons to either approach, so ultimately, you have to weigh what works best for you, your business, and your brand.
Using your own name allows you to maximize your personal brand, but problems can occur if you have a long, complicated name or even a very common name. JohnSmith.com is likely already taken and you’ll be competing with every other person who has the same name. A long or unusually spelled name makes you unique, but it also makes it hard for potential customers or leads to recall and type accurately.
If you want a domain name that clarifies the location you work in, the type of real estate you sell, and what you want to be known for, a keyword focused name is the way to go. Domain names like TarrantCountyRealEstate.net or PARealEstatePro.com make it clear what you’re selling.
For the best of both worlds, consider combining your name and localized keywords. HilarySellsHavasu.com or JoSellsAlaska.com. You’re able to incorporate part of your name and localize your URL at the same time. It won’t work for everyone, and your domain name should still follow the basic rules of being short, easy to remember, and easy to spell.
The ending of your website, the dot and what follows – .com, .org, .info are called top level domains or TLDs. The .com and .net TLDs are the most common and widely used by websites and users. That means that if someone can’t remember your entire URL but remembers HilarySellsHavasu, they’ll likely add .com because that’s what makes sense to them.
This doesn’t mean you have to pick a .com or .net option. There are dozens of options available now, including .realtor (only available for members of the National Association of Realtors) and even .realestate. Should you stick with the most common or try one of these new versions? It depends on your commitment to branding your website. Being able to use the domain JohnSmith.Realtor certainly gets the point across, but you may spend a lot of your time repeating your URL – online, over the phone, and everywhere else – since many people are not familiar with the .Realtor TLD.
If you’re having trouble deciding which of your top choices to purchase for your website, consider buying multiple domains! Choose one of them as your primary domain name, and set the additional domains to “forward” to the primary domain (using a 301 redirect). Only the primary domain will be indexed by search engines, but the other domains will still send traffic to your website if someone types them into the web browser. Note that this is the safest multiple domain solution for search engine optimization.
Still not sure what to choose for your real estate website’s domain name? Let us help! Call 866-645-7702 to be connected to one of our Web Marketing Consultants.
Former Communications Director for a local Realtor Association and a big cheerleader for all things real estate related, Michaela is now a full-time freelance writer specializing in real estate and other business industries. When she's not writing the serious business-y stuff, she's likely to be found writing about the hilarity of being a Mom to two rowdy boys.