How long is too long for a website domain name?


15

How long is too long for a website domain name?

3 words?
4 words?

Also, how does the prefix "the" affect the domain. Sorry for such a stereotypical example but from what I have been told, facebook.com used to be thefacebook.com, but then dropped the "the".

Did this make the website name flow better or more memorable?

I am in the process of choosing a domain name and many of my desired ones are taken, so I am exploring other options.

Website Domain

asked Feb 23 '11 at 12:59
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User6528
149 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

8 Answers


31

Here's a down and dirty technique to figure out if your URL is good:

  1. Start talking to someone about your idea
  2. In the first minute of the conversation, tell them your URL
  3. Have a nice, long conversation with the person
  4. At the end of the conversation, ask them if they remember the name of your company/what URL your site is located at

If they don't remember it, you know you're name/url isn't memorable.

Another test you want to do is the spelling test:

Tell someone your company name/url, then ask them to spell it out for you. If they don't get it right on the first try, then chances are everyone else won't get it right when they type it into the address bar.

answered Feb 23 '11 at 13:36
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Andy Cook
2,309 points
  • Andy, what an awesome answer. I'm going to try and bring up some of my domains during conversations and see if people remember the names. – Digital Sea 8 years ago
  • Good tips and input, im going to try those out tomorrow around the office. – User6528 8 years ago
  • Love that answer, especially the spelling test... seen a domain like "greaaaat.com" in the commercials lately, no wonder I can not remember the amount of "a"s... – Simonthesorcerer 6 years ago

10

Here's a pretty good breakdown of the length of domain names and the success companies have had with them.

How to Name Your Startup and Land the Perfect Domain Essentially, it recommends short (8 letters or less), easy to spell, easy to remember names. And definitely use a .com.

Going along those lines, adding "the" to the domain name uses unnecessary letters and makes the name that much more forgettable. I also think there's a little bit of a stigma against using "the" ever since facebook got rid of theirs. It's kind of a cheat, as if you couldn't get the domain you really wanted, so you added "the" to make it work.

I can't say never use it because there are times where using "the" in your domain would work. For example, if you had a brick and mortar store named "The Shop", having the domain theshop.com makes sense. But in general, for a web company, I would recommend not using it.

answered Feb 23 '11 at 13:52
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Good Greif
236 points
  • +1 for great link. – Tiago Cardoso 8 years ago
  • Flawed article. What came first, the short domain name or the company success? In 20 years time will domain name junkies be attributing the success of Facebook to their very recent purchase of www.fb.com? – Nemmy 8 years ago

3

The web is full, the domain names are getting more irrelevant over time.
The important thing is your "Business Name". The web is indexed by Google and search engines: most people doesn't type the domain anymore, they use search engines to type less and click on the result. At least, they use autocomplete browse bars to do the job.

How much times did you see a person typing Facebook on Google to click on it?

I share the idea of Evan Willians, as he posted on this excellent article :

While discussing possible names for a product recently, someone asked me if we were at the point where getting the perfect domain name was less important than it used to be. While I'm still a sucker for a clean .com, it does seem less important, and it will continue to become less important, for at least five reasons:


1) Google There was as time when you knew your friend's and family member's phone numbers. There may have been a time when you knew the addresses of people you emailed a lot. And there was a time when I knew how to get across town without using my navigator. Software has taken over these jobs from our brains, because it's better at it. Domain names are like phone numbers and email addresses—unique identifies that allow computers to disambiguate from the more natural (but likely non-unique) handles our brains like. (Put aside that domain names are actually the human readable system for IP addresses. They're still computery.)


If you start typing "bob" into the To: field in your email client, it will give you some choices of the Bob's you've emailed before, which is almost always good guess. If it's wrong, you go look up the address and then probably copy+paste it in without really paying attention to what it is.


A lot of people use Google this same way. The first time how saw how often people got to Yahoo by typing yahoo.com into Google, I was shocked. And as this famous comment thread shows—where thousands of Facebook users showed up to a blog post talking about Facebook logins and got confused because typing "facebook login" into Google was how they got there—Google is how normal people get around the web. This probably wouldn't be true if Google wasn't so damn fast. But it is. It's the auto-complete of the web. Well, one of them...


2) Auto-Complete Address Bars For those slightly more sophisticated users, the auto-complete/suggest feature in browser address bars saves our brain from remembering domains once we've been there once or twice. In fact, with Chrome, Google has combined the search box and the address bar in such a beautiful way, that you don't really have to remember anything.


3) Mobile Web Browsers and Hidden Address Bars One thing that keeps our awareness on domains is that we see them at the top of every web page we go to. However, this isn't as true when browsing the web from your mobile device. Because of space constraints, the address bar is more often hidden. You also don't have the status bar at the bottom that we're all used to looking at when hovering over a link to see what domain it goes to.


For the sake of simplicity and minimalism, Google may even bring the hidden address bar to the desktop browser. (The more I write this, the more I wonder if Google has a secret plan to kill domain names all together and make sure all navigation goes through them. Note to self: Start a conspiracy about that.)


4) Apps Above, I'm still talking about web usage on the phone. But a reason a lot of people are less concerned about domains these days is, of course, installable apps. Personally, I'm not a "the future is all about apps" sort of guy. But clearly their usage is significant, and it eats into web usage. While almost every app has a web site of some sort, the domain name is very unimportant when most of app discovery is through stores.


5) Alternative Successes The last reason getting the perfect .com is less important than it used to be is simply because others have proven you can succeed without it. A good domain name is a signal of legitimacy. As far as I know, there have been no big internet properties with .biz or .cc names. You know when you see one that it's suspect. However, you no longer necessarily suspect some alternative domains.


Del.icio.us was a pioneer of the domain hack and had lots of geek cred (though Yahoo, wisely, ponied up for the real deal, cuz that this was hard to type). Bit.ly popularized the .ly space, now used by a bunch of startups. About.me embraced the alternative domain as part of its name, as did Last.fm and the new hotness, turntable.fm. (I'm sure I'm forgetting many other examples.)


The non-perfect .com is also acceptable these days. After all, Facebook used to be at thefacebook.com. Dropbox was getdropbox.com. While those have since upgraded, their success was not predicated on that, obviously. 37 Signals was one of the earliest well-respected players to say, Screw it, the product is called Basecamp, but the domain is basecamphq.com. You see this kind of thing on well-designed, well-branded products more and more.


Because of these examples, the expectations change.


I don't know what will happen with the new TLDs that are to be issued. I suspect we'll just see more non-dot-com successes, which will open up the possibilities more. Which is a good thing for creators and entrepreneurs who don't have the dough to pay for the perfect .com even if wasn't being used and they could track down the owner and go through some onerous negotiation process. (Shouldn't it be easier?)


Conclusion: Names are more important than domain names.
While a good .com name is still worth a lot, it's not as crucial to success on the internet as it used to be. And the forces that have made it less important will continue to make it less important over time (especially the mobile-related ones). I'd still opt (and pay up) for a nice, clean .com if I could get one, but I wouldn't consider it a must have.


Product and brand names, on the other hand, are just as important as ever (or more so in an increasingly crowded internet). Too many startups have suffered a stupid name to get the domain that fit. Hopefully, entrepreneurs will feel less pressure to do that as the world becomes more auto-complete/app/mobile driven and less-dot-com based.

answered Aug 21 '12 at 05:43
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Ed Pichler
201 points

1

Try to get short and sweet startup names as people can remember those easily or you would get very less direct traffic and have to rely on SEO/PPC always. This will be useful to you How long domain name should be?

answered Aug 22 '12 at 16:14
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Smithsan
21 points

1

This answer is less in direct response to the question as the comments and answers it has generated.

Wow-- really? There are people in the business of buying domains to sell them to you. Are there any "real words" left? Are there any simple domain names left? Combine the process of choosing the domain along with choosing the name of the business and then start searching the trademark databases? How many possible configurations of 6 letters or less are there -- are any of these actually still available to purchase on GoDaddy?

Maybe {.biz/.info/.us/.wp etc} says your not serious (Like those folks at del.icio.us--it helped them build big enough to afford the desired domain) but sometimes that is the option when names, brands, trademarks and available domains collide.

I don't think this is an easy task at all. I honor that all of your chosen names -- my bet is your first, second and third choice were all taken.

Different markets have different expectations as well. The consumer market is different from B2B. Different B2B markets have different expectations. Some of my sites are simple and clean domains. Other of my clients sites have longer multisyllabic words. Many of them have made up words.

The critical issue is making sure that the domain fits with the overall branding of the company.

answered Apr 6 '11 at 07:29
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Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points

1

Appart from making your domain name "memorable" you should also consider the SEO aspect of the domain name. Describing your product/service name in the domain name can have its benefits from a SEO point of view.

answered Feb 24 '11 at 03:32
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Karl Alfredsson
18 points

0

I would suggest some domain name tips for you:

  1. It should be short and easy to remember by the website visitors.
  2. It should be related with the website content.
  3. Domain name keyword is more important to increase SEO in popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.
  4. Avoid using a hyphen and using "the" as a prefix in your domain to make your domain name more memorable.
  5. For a domain name, domain extension is more essential. .com is most preferable for domain name.
answered Apr 6 '13 at 19:54
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User1908924
1 point

0

Based on my statistics (over the list of all .com domains) I would say that 2 words is optimal and 3 is the maximum acceptable. I personally will avoid "the" in the name.

Side note: You are mistaking URL with Domain Name. URL is Domain Name plus some directory structure and parameters. For URL the good criterion of maximum length is domain name + 2-3 levels of directory structure and 2-3 parameters. Total length not exceeding the size of visible part of address bar on browser set at 600x800 page size.

answered Feb 23 '11 at 18:11
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Ross
2,288 points
  • 600 by 800? That's a bit small based on monitor size and resolution that most people have. – Elie 8 years ago
  • This is just estimate don't get it literally. – Ross 8 years ago

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