Many online users, especially those who are about to register their first domain name, believe that if a name shows up as available during the pre-purchase search, it has to be brand-new, and it’s never been used.
Unfortunately, many domains that you find, especially those that are surprisingly good such as .com domains with a solid name, have been used before.
It’s not a big deal if the domain has been registered and never used, but sometimes people buy a domain that carries a Google penalty, because it has been massively spammed with low-quality backlinks or they end up with a domain that violates trademark laws.
That’s why, before you wire your money to the domain registrar, you should check at least some of the following 9 things:
1. Check the search engine results
One of the first things that you can do when choosing a domain is search for the domain name and check the Google results. If there’s nothing, the domain is most likely brand-new or has been abandoned by the previous owner before it became popular enough.
Similarly, make sure that Google doesn’t mistake your chosen domain name for a typo as it can hurt your site. Many people still type company names in Google to find the sites; if your domain name is a typo, they will not even see it as Google will show them different search results, with a word that it considers correct.
Another thing that you can check is to see what other websites appear when you type in the domain name (with and without the chosen .tld). If your name is too close to a web page of an authority site, it may be harder to outrank it as Google may decide to leave the authority page on top.
2. Is your chosen name copyright and trademark free?
Before you hit the “register” button and pay a registration fee, make sure your chosen domain name does not belong to another company. Even if your choice is quite innocent, you may be in trouble. Starting a website about e-commerce under “eBayHelp.com” is not the best idea unless you like getting emails from corporate lawyers.
3. Can you brand it easily?
Is the domain name brand-able? A catchy domain can be much easier to remember for your customers and hence word-of-mouth may spread faster. Since exact-match domains lost their value in the eyes of Google, you are free to experiment with the domain name. Likewise, you may want to put your main keyword in the name, but make sure you think about your SEO strategy before you do that.
4. Check the spelling and associations of your domain
Before you register domain names, one of the most obvious things to start with is checking the spelling and potential domain associations. You should pay special attention to spelling in two cases – when the domain of your choice seems too good to be true and when certain words in your domain are spelled differently depending on the version of English you are using. In the latter case, you should make sure that it fits your target audience.
Domain associations are important because sometimes you may choose a name which in everyday conversations doesn’t carry any negative associations, while in the Internet slang or urban slang (or in the way your target audience talks) it may have very negative connotations. On the other hand, it’s great if you find a domain which can be positively associated with something that your target audience values.
5. Check foreign meaning of your domain name
This is important especially if you are targeting the international audience. Some words may have different meanings in various languages. It’s not a big deal if the foreign meaning is not misleading, but some names may hurt your brand and sabotage your marketing efforts.
6. Check the history of your chosen domain
When selecting a domain name, registrars usually don’t tell you right away if your chosen domain name is brand new or an expired domain. Many times, especially those ‘fancy-looking’ .com domains that you find available, may be expired and blacklisted domains which have been abandoned after they have been spammed to death.
Other times, the domain has been dropped by the owner because his project didn’t work out well or he simply abandoned it. Whatever the case, you can easily find out whether the domain has been expired by either checking the Whois history (look for changes in ownership, date of first registration), the domain metrics, or any backlinks pointing to the site.
7. Check domain metrics and backlinks quality
This goes together with the above point. When thinking of a domain, it’s good to check at least the Domain Authority (DA), PageRank (PR), Backlinks (BL). If you want to learn even more about the domain, you can also check Citation Flow and Trust Flow using Domain Majestic Tool – this metric will show you the quality of links and their power as not all the links are equal, and some are more valuable than other.
8. If there was a website on it in the past, check its niche and reputation.
Sometimes, you may find a domain which already had a website on it for some time, and the site may have had some genuine, quality backlinks pointing to it. In this case, it may sound like a great deal, but there’s one other thing that you should consider. Check what kind website was hosted on it before and what the reputation of the previous site was (if any). If there was a business similar to yours but it had terrible reputation (a lot of negative opinions in Google results) you may want to re-think your choice.
9. Age of the domain
Apart from all the metrics and backlinks, age may play a significant role. First of all, if one person or company has owned the domain for x consecutive years, there’s a chance it has a quality backlink profile and some reputation. If the domain has changed its owner frequently, there’s a chance it’s been used by spammers, who left the domain with low-quality backlinks or even blacklisted. Check the domain first registration date and expiration date before making a purchase.
When checking a backlink profile or metrics of the domain of your choice, it’s good to use multiple tools as the results may vary. Similarly, do some manual due diligence, especially if you are planning to optimize your new websites in Google search results or to set up a business on it (in this case, a domain with a beautiful backlink profile but a bad reputation is not a good choice).
Following most of the above points should help you secure a great and valuable domain name.