One of the first steps on your journey to launching your online real estate empire is choosing a domain name that works for your business. Unfortunately, there are nearly unlimited possibilities, so choosing a real estate domain name can be a bit intimidating.
With over 1 billion websites live on the web, you may think that you will never find a domain name that works. We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t need to be that hard, but you should put some thought into the process of choosing a real estate domain name before you dish out the cash and invest.
Things to Consider
There are a number of factors you should consider when choosing a real estate domain name, here are a few of them:
- Short and sweet - With many options already taken, it may be hard to find the perfect domain name. Don't go over the top. While ArizonaHomes.com might be the direction you’d like to go, don’t get carried away, because it’s taken and choose something like OnlyTheBestArizonaHomesSoldHere.com. Keep your domain name short. You want your domain name to stand out. You also want it to be easy to remember and a shorter domain is easier to remember. Also, think about how your domain name will look on your real estate business cards.
- Avoid words that are hard to spell - For convenience, avoid words that are hard to spell. Some people refer to websites through conversation. You don’t want to create barriers when trying to bring in business. If your domain includes words that are hard to say or are often misspelled, it's harder to direct people to your website. Give your domain name the conversation test: Say your domain out loud to a friend. If they don't understand on the first go or ask how it's spelled, try something else.
- Avoid using your name in your URL - There are some valid arguments for owning your own name, but it might not be ideal for your real estate domain name. Why? Because it’s not descriptive of what you do. When you think of your prospects, consider how they search for homes. They don't search for you, necessarily, they search for homes in the neighborhood.
- Don’t use your brokerage name in your URL - Along the same train of thought, don’t include your brokerage when choosing a real estate domain name. While you might currently be the happiest agent where you’re at and you think that you’ll never leave, sometimes things happen. Jane Doe, who chose janedoeexamplebrokerage.com, might one day leave and find herself somewhere else. A domain name is not something you can change, so she has to start over from scratch with a new domain name.
- Focus on your local niche - Many real estate web searches include specific details relevant to the buyer or seller. If they are looking for a certain type of home in a specific neighborhood, they use those keywords in their search. If someone is looking for a home on a lake, it's likely they will search “lakefront homes." Having those keywords listed in your domain increases your ranking with search engines.
- Hyphens are bad - This should go without saying when considering the last two points, but this topic seems to resurface every now and then when helping an agent pick a domain name. An argument can be made that keyword-rich, hyphenated URLs help your SEO rankings, but they are clunky. They aren't as user-friendly either.
- Use a .com extension - When you think of your favorite website, what do you think of? Chances are, many of those sites have a .com extension. Even with the proliferation of new extensions, .com is still the most recognizable and memorable among your choices. It's the standard. When you choose an alternative extension, you may be losing out on traffic to the .com alternative. A popular question we get is if we recommend choosing a .realtor extension. We still consider .com extensions to be stronger for the reasons listed above, but if you have your heart set on a .realtor site, there is a certain power in branding yourself this way.
- Avoid using “REALTOR” or “MLS” when choosing a real estate domain name -- There are certain regulations around each of these trademarked terms that are best avoided for compliance purposes. Review the NRA Trademark Rules when considering using the word “REALTOR” in your domain. While each MLS is different, consider these rules about using MLS in your domain. Your website must be in compliance, or you be asked to take it down and lose all the hard work you’ve put into building your presence online.
Do Your Research
As you are coming up with possibilities for your domain name, you should also do a bit of research. A quick search on Google for the names you are considering could yield some interesting results. Some common things to research are as follows:
- Are you choosing a term that is protected by copyright? - It is possible that a company owns a copyright on a term or name that is not identical to their website domain. It’s important to do a search for the term you are using.
- Past use of your potential domain name - Has another company used the same domain name in the past and had something terrible happen? That is not something you want to be associated with. Again, a simple web search answers this question.
- Consider doing a Google Keyword analysis for your area - Google’s Keyword Planner can be a valuable tool when looking at options for your domain name. By examining popular terms within your area, you get a better idea of what people in your location search for. Consider using some of the top hits as part of your domain name.
Available? Register It
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few choices, it’s important to make sure those choices are available. There are a few simple sites that allow you to check on the availability of domain names.
Services like Check Domain and Instant Domain Search allow you to simply enter a URL and check to see if that domain is available for purchase. Consider using these services as you are sorting out ideas for your new domain name.
When you’ve settled on a name that is descriptive of your business and follows the rules above, it’s time to purchase and register it. Again, there are multiple services you can use to do this: GoDaddy, Register, NameCheap and HostGator.
These companies walk you through the steps of registering your domain name. Most of these companies try to sell you on additional products, including hosting, email and website building.
These services are not required for you to own your domain name. It's often that if you have a website built for you, these services come included.
One option that you should take into consideration from your registrar is the length of time you wish to own the domain without renewal.
Generally, you can lock the price of your domain for a number of years and then asked to renew after that period.
It is possible that the price of your domain name may go up after that period. It is your decision to make, but be sure to read the fine print and understand all the terms and conditions before accepting.
Once you have picked a name, signed up and paid for your domain name, you should be in contact with your web developer or the company you are doing business with for instructions to get your website up and running on your new domain.
There are a number of things to consider when choosing a real estate domain name, but what it often comes down to is personal preference.
Choose something that describes your business and that you like, because this is home base for online activity. You’re ultimately the one who needs to live with it.