Choosing a domain name for a new parts ecommerce website can be a challenge. There are a million possibilities, and no clear or obvious guidelines. Our goal with this post is to provide a framework that will help you narrow down the name of your new auto parts ecommerce website.
The Different Types of Domain Names
Selecting a domain name starts with understanding the different types of domains that ecommerce retailers are using. At Spork, we tend to sort domains into one of four buckets.
Keyword focus domain names prominently feature a popular keyword or search string. For example, CheapAutoParts.com incorporates the search term “cheap auto parts.” C7CorvetteParts.com* incorporates the search term “C7 corvette parts,” etc.
Brand focus domain names feature an interesting or memorable term. A good example would be Jegs.com. The word “jegs” has no obvious relationship to auto parts, but the name is very brandable. Same goes for JCWhitney.com, ClassicIndustries.com, YearOne.com, and so on.
Location focus domain names include a locality along with either a brandable name or a keyword. The location is usually added to the end of the domain, like TruckPartsUSA.com. The location can be very broad (like “USA,” “world,” or “online”), or it can be hyper local (like “Phoenix” or “Manhattan”).
Hybrid focus domain names, which use a mix of location, keyword, and/or brandable terms. BroncoGraveyard.com is a great example of a brandable/keyword hybrid. “Bronco” signifies the website has something to do with the Ford Bronco, while “Graveyard” is a very brandable term.
*NOTE: Domains which contain trademarked brand names – like the example C7CorvetteParts.com, which contains the trademark “Corvette” – are often a bad investment. Trademark owners can usually “take” these domains via litigation. We don’t recommend investing in any domain with a trademark, unless your company has a right to use that trademark (and even then, domain ownership changes can be forced).
Which Type of Domain Is Best?
While there is no ideal type of domain name, each type has it’s pro’s and cons.
Keyword focused domain names are great for websites focused on a very specific niche. If your site is only going to sell truck tonneau covers, for example, than TruckTonneauCovers.com might be a great domain for your business. Google and Bing will probably rank your site higher for the search term “truck tonneau covers,” as well as related terms, because the search term is in your domain name.
But keyword focused domain names have some negatives:
- Keyword focused domains can be limiting. If your domain name is TruckTonneauCovers.com, consumers are likely to assume that your site only offers tonneau covers. That will make it harder for you to expand your business beyond tonneau covers, assuming that’s something you might want to do someday.
- Keyword focused domains don’t automatically rank on Google. While owning a domain that exactly matches a search term is usually a formula for ranking #1 on Google, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, a search term is so competitive that your exact match domain name isn’t enough to get to #1.
- The search ranking benefits aren’t guaranteed. Even if your domain ranks #1 for a valuable search term, there’s no guarantee this will continue. Google and Bing could decide to devalue exact match domain names at some point in the future, and if they do, your rankings could disappear.
- Most of the great keyword domain names are already registered. While it’s certainly possible to find an unregistered domain name that matches a popular search term, it’s more likely that the domain name you want is registered to a competing business or a domain speculator. That makes the cost of acquiring these domains very high (if they can even be acquired).
Brandable, location, and hybrid focus domains have the same positives and negatives:
- Unregistered brandable, location, and hybrid domains are relatively easy to find. With some effort and creativity, it’s easy to come up with a brandable, location, or hybrid domain name. There are even some online tools that help you find unregistered domain names, like NameMesh.com, Shopify’s Business Name Generator, and DomainsBot.com.
- Sometimes you can outsmart yourself. It’s easy to go “outside the box” when your goal is to find a brandable domain, but if you go too far outside the box, your customers might not see the connection between your domain name and your business.
- Brandable and hybrid domains require marketing and advertising investment. While a keyword focused domain name can start to get traffic and sales as soon as the site is live – by virtue of the keyword(s) in the domain name – most other domains require some investment to get them off the ground. While this isn’t a huge negative (every site requires marketing and advertising investment), it’s worth contemplating your marketing costs when evaluating the cost of a keyword focused domain.
- Brandable, location, and hybrid domain names are easy to co-opt. If you’ve come up with a great brandable domain name, some other business might come along and play off your name/idea.
What About .com, .net., .parts, etc.?
There’s a lot of variety in domain name endings (which are called “TLDs”), with the old standbys (.com, .net, and .org), the TLDs that never quite caught on (.co, .us, .biz, .info), as well as a huge variety of new TLDs (.parts, .bargains, .ecom, .deals, .shop).
At this point in time (mid 2016), there’s very little evidence to suggest that new domain TLDs like .parts or .ecom are going to be any more successful than .co, .us, .info, or .biz. These new TLDs might become very popular, but history suggests most of these new TLDs will never have much momentum.
Therefore, we suggest investing in a .com or .net domain name. An imperfect .com is probably better than a “perfect” .parts (or whatever), as most consumers have never heard of these new domain name TLDs before.
Some Domain Name Best Practices
Last but not least, there are some domain name best practices to consider.
- Buy your business name. Even if you don’t want to use your business name as your primary domain, you definitely want to own YourBusinessName.com (if it’s available).
- Avoid using dashes in your domain name. Dashes are associated with spam.
- Shorter is always better. If you’ve narrowed your options down to two domains and can’t choose between them, pick the shorter one. Shorter domains are easier to remember and easier for your customers to type into their browser (particularly on their mobile phone or tablet).
- Beware of misspellings. Some words are commonly misspelled. If you use one of these words in your domain name, be sure to buy the misspelled versions of the domain name as well.
- Beware repeated letters. DomainName.com, for example, has two n’s next to each other. Consumers will often forget to type in a repeated letter, so be sure to buy the typo version of the domain.
- Don’t buy domains with trademarked words in them. We covered this above, but it bears repeating: If you buy a domain name that contains someone’s trademark, odds are good they can force you to give up the domain at some point in the future.
- Buy domains you’re considering before you start asking the public for opinions. If you’re trying to pick the perfect domain name, it’s a great idea to survey potential customers, friends, and family about your ideas. Just make sure you buy the domains you’re considering before you start mentioning them to the public.
- Check social media profiles that match your domain name choice before you buy. Once you choose a domain, make sure to see if the Twitter ID that matches your domain, Instagram profile, etc. are available.
- Search the official US trademark database for your domain name before you buy. That way, you won’t accidentally buy a domain that infringes on someone’s trademark.
Finally, here’s our most important domain name selection tip: You can always change your domain name later. It’s not something that you want to do if you can help it, but it’s not a huge problem either.