Picking a domain name – otherwise known as a web address – for your business is something that can take a surprising amount of time if you’re a typical tour operator.
In fact, a 4-5 hour brainstorming session is more or less typical for this kind of thing. Given that length of time, and the fact that this could be the address of your business for 10 years or more, it’s worth making sure you get it right.
I’ve been doing online marketing in some form or another for 10 years or more, and I’ve seen it all. Here are some tips to make sure you get it right:
1. Don’t pick a domain extension from a country that is not relevant to your business. Melbournetouri.st, NewYorkTou.rs are nice and creative, but too creative.
.st is the domain name extension of Sao Tome and Principe, and .rs is the domain extension of Serbia. Google is actively trying to protect the integrity of country domain names, so while the name is certainly cool, it will most likely see you wallowing at the bottom of page 46.
2. Pick the domain extension that is working in Google. Are you in England but selling in French? You’re probably wondering if you should use a .co.uk or a .fr.
It’s a tough dilemma: is someone more likely to trust a domain extension based on where they’re going, or do they trust a local business?
Then you also have to consider the search engine optimization component. If someone searches in French, what is more likely to come up – the .fr or the .co.uk?
Then there’s also the nature of the business. If you run a business which is at a fixed site – such as accommodation or a local tourism attraction – using a foreign extension will be kind of weird.
There is no hard and fast rule for this, so general advice is this: go see what’s already working in Google.
Unless you’re offering dune boarding in Antarctica, someone will already have a business in your space. Google the keyword ‘tours nueva york’ (in English: ‘New York tours’) in Google Spain, and you’ll see that all the results for local businesses are using .com. Therefore, I’d recommend using .com. However, if you search for ‘tours estados unidos’ (in English: ‘United States tours’), you’ll find that the top three results are .es domains from Spain.
3. Don’t use .travel, .tours or any other funky domain name extension you may find. While there’s no direct negative impact on your Google rankings that come about from doing this, what you’ll find is that people could have trouble remembering your domain or may commonly misspell it. For example, someone linking to your website might put spaintravel .com instead of spain.travel, and you would lose all those potential visitors.
4. Choose something that is easy to spell and, more importantly, spell out loud. It sounds obvious, but a lot of businesses get this wrong.
5. Don’t be overly concerned with inserting keywords into the domain name for search engine optimization. That’s the line from Google.
Simple searching, however, will show you that many of Google’s listings in tourism are dominated by people who use keywords in the domain name. While that is the case, what influence is there will continue to wane, and you should tread very carefully, as there are also many businesses who have been penalized by Google for spammy practices regarding this space.
6. Keep it short. Every additional letter is a chance for someone to screw it up.
7. Should you use .net, .org or .com? I’m a huge fan of just sticking with the .com or using the local version for your country: .co.uk, .co.nz, .com.au or whatever it may be. This is the one that is understood – and remembered – best by internet users.
8. Should you use hyphens? This is an interesting question, but just think it through. If you want to follow the general guiding principles above, you’ll notice that they all involve memorability and simplicity. For this reason, I’m not a fan of hyphens, but I don’t think you should see any real problems in terms of SEO.
9. Be careful of multiple potential spelling variations. The question that triggered this post had to do with a company from Sao Paulo. Despite the fact that I have been to Sao Paulo, I thought it was spelled Sao Paolo. It just seems to make more sense in my mind. You can get around this issue by buying a new domain name and then redirecting it to the correct spelling, so it’s not a huge issue, but you need to be aware of it.
Deliberately misspelling words, on the other hand, used to be a nice idea in pre-internet days. While many tech startups still engage in this practice, should you? I don’t believe you should.
Where should you register your domain?
My recommendation is NameCheap.com. GoDaddy is popular but will try to trick you into signing up for all sorts of things that you don’t actually need.
As a customer of ours, we’re more than happy to give you our input into your final domain name selection.
I repeat. Focus on simplicity. Like all marketing materials, your domain needs to be ‘brick-in-the-face’ easy to understand. Marketing in general is not a drive for creativity; it’s a drive to demonstrate value in the most intuitive way possible for understanding. Picking your domain name is part of that.
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