When Choosing A Domain Name, Readability Matters More Than Size

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Choosing a domain name for your business, or even your personal hobby, is important. Once chosen and implemented it’s often a costly exercise to change. It takes time to deal with the technical issues involved and it can even cost in lower search engine rankings and lost business.

It has been considered that a shorter domain name is best. But this isn’t necessarily so. Recently the operator of the Dutch country code .nl published a blog post that questioned the wisdom of choosing a shorter domain name. The blog post from SIDN said that having a “readable” domain name is more important.

Sure, a short domain name is easier to type and remember. And it’s the short .com domain names that regularly sell for high six-figure, and even seven-figure sums. But does say zf.ie make any sense to people searching for your business name is Blacknight?

SIDN gives the example of the new extensions, or new generic top level domains (new gTLDs), for cities such as Amsterdam and Barcelona.

“When applications went in for these new gTLDs, some cities opted to use their whole names as extensions. Examples include .amsterdam and .hamburg. Others opted for abbreviations, such as New York’s .nyc and Barcelona’s .bcn. And, now that they are up and running, the longer extensions seem to be doing better than the short ones. Admittedly, .nyc is bucking the trend, but that abbreviation was already in everyday use.”

The reason for the move from short domain names to more readable domain names SIDN believes is mainly due to how the way we use the internet has changed. People don’t type domain names as often.

“In 2012, PCs and laptops were still the main devices that people used to go on line. Back then, 69% of all internet users said that they regularly typed domain names to open websites. By 2016, the smartphone was dominant and only 33% of users were still typing domain names. Meanwhile, 95% of respondents in a global survey reported judging search results partly on the basis of websites’ names and extensions.”

“When you read a domain name, what matters most is how recognisable it is, not how long it is. So windmill.amsterdam works better than wml.ams, despite being much longer. For the simple reason that you can see what it means straight away. That’s not so say, however, that a domain name’s length doesn’t matter at all any more. A name isn’t easy to read if it doesn’t fit on a phone screen, for example.”

On a mobile phone, an internet address of around 30 characters will easily fit on the screen of most. Above 40 characters and readability quickly declines as the complete internet address goes over the edge of the screen.

SIDN’s advice when choosing a domain name is “don’t dismiss an idea just because it’s long. Ask yourself how easy it is to read. What will it look like on a smartphone? Would it work better if you added a hyphen or two? Or would that simply complicate it?”

What do you think?

Let us know in the comments.

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