Exciting, right, you’re ready to choose a domain name for your photography website. There is a lot to consider here so I’m going to go over a lot of questions and scenarios you might encounter.
Scenario 1: You’re starting from scratch and looking for a fresh unique name for your business.
Great, this is easy, you can pick any name you want. Well, sort of, because here’s the thing. You’re going to dream up a great name and then march on over to see if it’s available as a .com and find out someone already has it. You’re going to do this over and over again until you decide to get really crazy unique.
“This is it,” you think. “Surely, nobody has this one.”
Searching Internet domain registrar….
“WHAT, NO WAY, I can’t believe someone has it!”
Yes, believe it, it’s hard to find a great .com that’s still available these days. Here are some useful tips for choosing the perfect domain name as well as how to uncover a hidden gem.
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How to Pick the Perfect Domain Name
Tip 1: Always get the .COM whenever possible.
Always pick the .COM extension when you choose a domain name. The .COM is what people are familiar with, it’s what they trust. It’s also the default extension they are going to use when they enter your website name into the address bar. Will you be there or are you just sending traffic to someone else?
Seriously, your starting fresh here so there’s really no reason for you to settle for anything less than a .COM. If you are set on a name that is already taken then please see scenario 2 below to review your options.
Tip 2: Short and simple is better
You want a domain name that is short and memorable. When people go to type it in their browser address bar you want it to fly off their fingertips like lighting. Choose a domain name that is catchy! If someone is willing to share your website by word of mouth you don’t want any room for miscommunication. So just remember, short, simple, and memorable.
Tip 3: Use Keywords but don’t get carried away.
OK, you don’t always have to use keywords, think Amazon or Apple. Many businesses don’t use any keywords but are able to successfully brand a word or phrase. When you think Amazon, you think online shopping. When you think Apple, well sometimes you think of a healthy fruit but it depends on the context. You know what I’m saying.
Now, these are big companies with a lot of money to throw into advertising, brand awareness, etc. For us little guys it doesn’t hurt to throw in some keywords. We want people who encounter us for the first time to instantly recognize the service being offered.
Some keywords you might consider are bokeh, exposure, flash, focal, focus, imagery, lens, photo, photography, picture, portrait, pose, shutter, studio, and tripod. This is a very short list but you could google “photography terms” to find even more options.
Using the list above, I quickly came up with the following photography website domain names. As of me typing this now they are still available.
bravenewtripod.com (Travel landscape photography?)
focalbizarre.com (Fashion Photography?)
kissingbokeh.com or bokehkiss.com (Wedding Photographer maybe?)
darkworldphotography.com (Maybe for a photographer that takes nightscapes?)
arisingimagery.com (Possible for many Photography Genres?)
Let me know if you use and develop any of the above domain names. I will turn each one into a link when it’s used to help you out. I would also like to follow along with you.
Should you choose a domain name that is an exact match for a keyphrase?
Now, I want to add one caveat to using keywords. Don’t get carried away! Once upon a time in a place not long ago we used to buy something called exact match domain names. I made them red because they are ugly and kind of scary.
What is an exact match domain name? So let’s say you have a website and you specialize in reviewing, discussing, selling “backpacking tents.” Instead of buying a brandable domain like “Clever Hiker”, “Mountain Gear” or even “Mike’s Backpacking Supplies”, you buy something like “cheap backpacking tents” or “best backpacking tents” or even worse “best budget backpacking tents”.
Buying these types of domain names used to be common practice. They were valuable because they were the precise match to a common search query. If you had the domain name for that search query chances were good that you could rank high in the search results.
Back in 2012 however, Google released an algorithm change that would really put an end to this practice. The aim was to reduce the amount of low-quality exact match domains in search results. A majority of these sites seen their google rankings tank. If you did survive it was because your site had strong brand recognition and high-quality content.
So the takeaway is this. When choosing your domain name don’t worry about trying to incorporate a bunch of keywords into your domain name. Do it naturally and focus on choosing a name that is brandable. You wouldn’t walk around with a shirt that says “best budget backpacking tents” would you? No, that’s not a brand!
Tip 4: Get local by targeting your geographic region
Detroit Photo Company specializes in weddings and is a great example of using locality to help build their brand and attract new clients. Of course, you can find them at https://detroitphotocompany.com/. So yeah, when you choose a domain name use location to your advantage when appropriate.
Tip 5: Avoid Numbers and Hyphens
Here’s the thing with hyphens and numbers. They are bad. They are especially bad for you, a local photography business that’s going to rely on word of mouth for exposure. Imagine your clients trying to pass along your info to a friend. “No, it’s not Royal Oak Photography it’s Royal hyphen Oak hyphen Photography. You have to put the dashes in there.” Repeat with numbers and you get the idea.
Tip 6: Avoid Trademark Infringement
Definitely, make sure you are not buying a domain name that is going to land you in a legal battle. I’m no expert on the laws governing trademarks but I know enough not to include well-known brands in my domain names.
For example, if you were to register the domain smugmuglite.com and offer a similar web building service then you are probably asking for trouble. Imagine your get your site up and running and a year later you get a cease and desist demand. What a headache!
For more information on Domain Name Trademark Infringement, you can visit https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/domain-name-infringement.html
Tip 7: Putting it together and Uncovering the Hidden Gems
Now that you know what you’re looking for, let’s put it into action and find a hidden gem domain name that calls to you. This is how I do it and this is how I came up with the list of domain names under tip 3.
First, I ask myself, what do I want people to think of when they think about my brand or business? Let’s say you choose “positive” as your word. Go to google and type “list of positive adjectives.”
Next, go look at a list of descriptive words for photography. Here is a great one I found https://descriptivewords.org/descriptive-words-for-photography/
Scan over both of these lists and find words that call to you. If you don’t like these lists then search for alternative lists. Eventually, you will come up with a combination of words that speaks to your heart.
In one of the names I came up with in tip 3, I first settled on “ascending imagery”. Sounded good, but damn, it was taken. I didn’t give up though. Instead, I tried some variations. I went to google and typed in “ascending synonyms”. Hey, here is one, arising.
Woohoo, arisingimagery.com is available as of me writing this post.
Before you Buy your Domain Name
Tip 8: Research your Domain Name to make sure it wasn’t blacklisted or penalized in some way.
OK, it’s available, you’re almost there but we should do a few quick checks first. Your domain may come with a history. What kind of history? We want to know things like what the website was used for before. Did it incur any penalties or become blacklisted on google due to unscrupulous business or SEO practices.
Checking the history of a domain isn’t always easy but I’ll give you some places to start. First, using the Way Back Machine you can see screen captures of the domains past web pages. This will immediately let you know what the website was used for.
For example, in the case of one URL I own the domain was bought but in January of 2013 but never developed. Someone started to create a website but for whatever reason didn’t get past the beginning stages. The domain was later put up for sale for $2395 but didn’t sell. It likely wasn’t renewed with the domain registrar and became available to buy. I bought it for $9.00 dollars, happy me!
Choose a Domain Name with a Clean History
So you see, with that type of history there are no red flags so to speak. If I discovered that once upon a time it was a porn, gambling, or some other spammy looking website then I might give pause. Here are some additional tools I would use to continue my research.
https://mxtoolbox.com/domain – Pay attention to the Blacklisted tab at this point. You’re going to see all kinds of flags on the DNS and server tabs because the domain is not live.
https://ahrefs.com/backlink-checker – They say you can judge a person by the company they keep. The same is true for domain names. If your domain name has a history then check to see what kind of websites are linking to it. If you find a bunch of low-quality spam URL’s linking to the domain in question then maybe you should keep looking.
Scenario 2: You already have a business name, brand, and are building a website to accompany that.
If the matching .com domain name is available then you are all set. Unfortunately, a lot of .com domains are already taken. So what are your options if you are in that unlucky camp and the matching domain name is taken?
Option 1: Add location or keywords to your domain name.
So let’s say your photography business is called precious moments. Good luck buying that .com. So one option you could use is the addition of useful informative keywords.
Basically, you just add the service you are providing. For example, you might try preciousmomentsphotography.com, preciousmomentsphoto.com, or preciousmomentsweddings.com. The later would be great if you specialize in weddings.
What about location? You could add your location as well. Think about how many times you have googled the name of a service followed by the city. For example, you’re looking for a plumber so you quickly go to google and type “Plumber Detroit Michigan”.
Using our initial example we could look to register preciousmomentsdetroit.com. Your Home Page Title would be something like this “Precious Moments Photography – Detroit Michigan”. This may help you show up in the results when someone is searching for “photographer Detroit”.
More so, if someone knows of your business but can’t find you on the first page of Google for the search term “precious moments” they will probably turn to location for additional keywords. Trust me, almost always their next search is going to be “precious moments photography Detroit”.
Note: We are adding keywords to secure a variation of the domain name we are after. Don’t go adding a bunch of keywords just to add keywords. In general, short and memorable names are the best.
Option 2: Use a different extension than .com
Of course, you could use another extension like .net but did you know there are industry-specific extensions? Here are a few that pertain to photography.
So yes, using the same example we could register preciousmoments.photography. Seems kind of cool right? Here is the thing though, when your clients share your website domain by word of mouth, people are going to say, huh?
People are not used to it, they are used to .com and there is a chance that when they go to input your web address they are going to end up on the .com version. In some way or form the .com version is going to steal some of your traffic. Usually, this is in the form of direct type-in traffic (typing the address in the address bar).
Traffic from a referral, be it google search, social media, etc. should not be impacted. Still, there is a chance that some people may view the domain as spammy and untrustworthy. Here’s something to consider though.
As a photography service, a lot of your clientele is going to come through word of mouth. The people looking you up already trust you based on a friend’s recommendation and the results that you offered them.
Second, if they know about you then they probably know you are local. If they do end up on the .com version there is a good chance that they will realize that they are on the wrong site. Things like the location being served, photography genre, and style should all be a dead giveaway. This hopefully prompts your potential client to pursue an alternate manner of finding you.
At the end of the day, I do much prefer .com extensions. If your site is just for your own personal photography portfolio and not a business it really doesn’t matter much. Besides, things change and evolve, ten years from now industry-specific domain names might be commonplace.
Option 3: Try to buy it from whoever owns it
A lot of times people buy domains and just sit on them and there is no website associated with the domain address. Who knows what happened, maybe they had a great idea but have their hands in too many pots. Maybe they know it’s a good domain name and are looking to sell it for a profit. Whatever the case maybe you can buy it.
Type the domain name in your address bar and see what comes up. If it’s a live website being regularly updated your chances of buying it for cheap are pretty low.
However, if it looks like this or this (pictures) then you are in luck.
If you see anything similar to the two images above your best course of action is to contact the domain owner directly. Look for contact information on the site. If you can’t find anything try going to https://www.whois.com and looking up the domain.
See if you can find out who the current Registrant is. This information should be listed under the section “Registrant Contact”. If you see something like “WhoisGuard Protected” then you are probably going to have to use a domain name broker for further inquiry. Be aware, it can get expensive but I wish you the best of luck!
Option 4: Use a Hyphen
I mentioned this above, I don’t like this option. You can do it but imagine trying to tell someone how to get to your website. How do you say it? Do you say “Precious hyphen Moments dot com, don’t forget the little dash thingy.” It just sounds so compromising, like I couldn’t get the normal version so I have this second rate interpretation instead. I’ll leave it to you though.
Did this article help you Choose a Domain Name?
That’s it, I hope by now you have some great ideas regarding how to choose a domain name. Let me know if you found this post helpful in the comments below.
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