A website is fundamental to your online course success. Fortunately, getting a website up and running is relatively easy these days. Your first step when launching a website is buying a domain name, choosing the right web address requires some thoughtful planning to ensure the name best represents your course. We’ve put together the key things to keep in mind when choosing your perfect domain name.

Format is Key

Use our tips for best practices concerning length, pronunciation, and spelling of your domain name. If you don’t, you’ll undermine its effectiveness and decrease the chances that students will find you online. Never forget that your web address is widely accessible across the internet, as well as marketing collateral, class notes and signage.

  • Keep it short and sweet. The shorter your name is, the easier it’ll be to remember. The ideal length of a domain name should be below 20 characters, but it can go up to 67. If your current course name has a long name, like “Catering for a generation,” remove the unnecessary verbiage. In this case, choose a domain name like “Catering” or “GenXFood.”
  • Watch your spelling. Student can become easily confused by unusual spelling. They’re also likely to forget your URL and type in the correct spelling instead. Before you start, write down your domain name on paper and look for alternate interpretations. You don’t want to accidentally register something awkward, such as a URL for IT Scrap as “itscrap”.
  • Avoid abbreviations and numbers. If your course name is long or another institution already registered your ideal domain, don’t attempt to shorten it, using “4U” or “Ur” in a domain name looks unprofessional. Numbers are also problematic — people who hear your course name won’t know whether they need to spell out the number or use the numeral.
  • Avoid hyphens. When people are talking about your name or typing it in to their browser, hyphens become challenging. While it may be tempting to use them to replicate an already-claimed URL, don’t give into the urge. Hyphens can even damage your SEO rankings. Experiment with alternative extensions, like .courses or .study to see if they’re available instead.

The aim is to create a domain that people can talk about and easily type into a browser without difficulty. Whether you’re sharing it in-person or saying it on the phone, you want to be proud of your URL.

Determine your strategy

It’s important to have a domain name strategy, do you want to have a unique and distinctive brand name? Or do you want to use keywords to describe your course and improve your site rankings?

Keyword focus: Keyword-based domain names are great for niche and specialised courses that intend to focus on a particular market to build their website traffic.

For example, if your course is only about teaching the drums, then use those words in your domain name. You might try something like “LearnDrums.” Using keywords is one way to get an instant boost in the search engines.

Branded focus: If your course encompasses much more than a single specialty — say, you’re teaching an online health and fitness program — then it’s best to skip the keyword approach.

Instead, aim for a unique domain name, along the lines of Coursera, Udemy, and edX. If you go this route, make sure that you set aside energy for other accompanying branding efforts. When your name isn’t intuitive, you’ll need to educate students about what your course provides.

Choose a domain extension

One of the biggest frustrations when looking to register a URL is that domain names ending with established extensions, like .com, .net, and .biz, are often off the market because someone already owns them. Luckily, hundreds of new domain extensions are now available, and they’ve opened up the possibilities for acquiring relevant domain names. Here’s how some of the newest extensions are being used:

  • .courses: Connect students directly to your education courses
  • .nyc: Perfect for businesses in the New York area
  • .co: A great, global option for startups and entrepreneurs

Newer extensions are changing the way people seek out and find information online, these extensions are a great opportunity to grab a domain name that might not be available in the crowded .com space.

A great domain is a long-term investment

Thinking up a domain name can be a challenging task. To make it easier, schedule a brainstorming session with your team to develop ideas. Then, use a domain name search engine to make sure it’s not already taken.

And before purchasing your domain, don’t forget to make sure that the name isn’t trademarked, copyrighted, or being used by anyone else. This will ensure you avoid costly issues with infringement down the road. By putting in time early on to choose the right domain name, you will reap the rewards for years to come.