How To Choose a Domain Name – An Author’s Guide

by Mark Levine

how to choose a domainFor many authors, the domain name they choose to use for a website or blog is often done without much thought.  It shouldn’t be.  It’s really the basis of your marketing strategy.  You build a website around the domain and your social media around your website, and so on.

A great place to start doing a search for an available domain name is DomainTools.com.   If a name is taken, you can see who owns it (unless the name is privately registered), when it expires, and if it’s for sale.  If a domain name is not registered, there will be a link to Godaddy.com, where you can buy the name. Many names with a “.com” extension are already gone.  Keep searching until you find one that isn’t.  A “.com” is still the gold standard of domains, and unless you have a lot of internet marketing experience, a .com is the best way to go.  It’s the easiest for your potential readers (and customers) to find and remember.

Domain Name Characteristics for Authors

If you’re new to the domain name world, keep it simple. You want something easy for people to remember and type into a search engine browser.  I always tell the authors I work with that they need to envision themselves doing a radio interview and announcing their domain name on the air.  The shorter, the better.  The less confusing the spelling, the better.  And whatever you do, don’t have dashes or numbers in your domain if you can help it.  If a radio host says, “Tell our listeners where they can find your book,” it is going to be a lot easier for the listeners to remember “MyBookTitle.com” than it will be do remember “My-Book-Title.com” (which on air will sound like — “my dash book dash title dot com”).

So, stick to .com’s and no numbers or dashes.  Got it?  Now, the next thing to decide is do you want a domain name that identifies you as an author (e.g. JohnDoe.com or JohnDoeBooks.com)?  Maybe, you want a domain name that identifies your book (e.g. TitleofMyBook.com).  How about a domain name that identifies the type of book you’ve written (e.g. SoulPurposeBook.com)?

All three make sense, and I’d suggest buying up 5 to 10 domain names — a few that contain part or all of your title, a few that contain your name, and a few that identify the type of book. Domain names that have never been registered and/or that have reverted back to the registration pool are cheap.  About $8—$10 each (don’t ever pay more).  There are many domain registrars around.  The biggest (and easiest) to use is Godaddy.com.   The prices are low and almost any web person you work with should know his or her way around Godaddy.  If you end up using Godaddy.com to register your domains, go to http://livecodes.blogspot.com/ first.  It’s where Godaddy.com provides discount codes for everyday use.

Where to Find Great Domain Names

After a few searches, you may discover that every name you like is gone.  But, many of those domain names and thousands like it are being sold by their owners or just dropped altogether (someone choosing not to pay the yearly registration fee).  There are sites that sell and auction domains.  Sometimes you can find the perfect domain that someone is trying to sell.  I use Namejet.comSnapnames.com, and auctions.godaddy.com to search for names that are being auctioned off or sold.  The prices are higher than just buying an unregistered name.  If the perfect domain is available for $100, it might be worth it.  But, if you aren’t experienced with buying and selling domain names, this is an area you should tread cautiously.   A few hundred dollars is one thing, but when the prices start going up from there, you really need to know if such an investment is worth it.

Buying All Available Extensions of a Domain Name

Today, there are literally hundreds of domain extensions. If you are buying a domain name just for your book title or your name, the .com alone is sufficient.  Consider the .net and .org, but it’s not crucial.  For businesses, there are more reasons why securing many extensions of your name may make sense (that’s another article).

What if a .Com Isn’t Available?

Find one that is.  Keep coming up with names or do whatever you have to do to get a .com. Don’t settle for a .net because it’s there.  If you and/or your book start to get a real following, you’ll wish you had a .com.  People will assume you have the dot come and will be searching for it that way. You don’t want someone else getting your traffic.

Making Sure Your Twitter and Facebook Handles are Available

When you choose a domain name, it’s a good idea to check Facebook and Twitter to see if the name is also available as a handle on those sites.  It’s not a huge deal if they aren’t, but it sure can make life a lot easier.  Obviously, if your domain name is longer than Twitter or Facebook allow, that won’t be possible.

The above is really just a primer on how to choose a domain name. There are many options and your spending can get out of control quickly. So, stick to the basics.

[box border=”full”]Mark Levine is the CEO of Hillcrest Media Group, Inc., a Minneapolis-based book publisher. Hillcrest owns more than 1,300 book publishing, book genre and related domains, including Fiction.com.[/box]

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