Your domain name can have a big impact on the success of your affiliate website. It’s also something you want to get right the first time. Although you can always change your domain name, the stress that comes with this around setting up redirects and rebranding is something you really want to avoid.
So here you’ll find my 2 cents when it comes to picking a domain name for an affiliate website. Some of these lessons I’ve unfortunately had to learn the hard way.
5 tips on selecting a domain name
Keep it as broad as you can
When starting a new affiliate website, you probably want to focus on a specific niche. This is a good idea as it allows you to establish topical authority and rank quicker.
However, it might be that over time you want to branch out into other niches. These might be closely related to your original niche, but perhaps they turn out to be quite different.
For this reason, you want to pick a domain name that allows you to write about other topics once the need arises.
For instance, if your affiliate site initially revolves around motorcycle helmets, you might consider a domain name like motorcyclehelmets.com. However, let’s say after 6 months you’ve written pretty much everything about motorcycle helmets there is to write, and you want to add content on motorcycle gloves. At that point you’ve painted yourself in a corner. Yes, you could still write about motorcycle gloves, but your domain name won’t properly cover the topic of your site anymore.
So, for this example, a broader domain name such as motorcycleheros.com would have been a much better choice, which brings me to my next point.
Make it brandable
Try to pick a domain name for your affiliate website which you can turn into a brand. This is something which I failed to do on one occasion. I chose a domain name which consists of “best” + [name of category].
At the time I thought this was quite neat as the domain name covered on of my main keywords, but now I regret it.
The domain name comes off as spammy. No serious website in the world would ever put “best” in its domain name. This makes link outreach harder and might repel more savvy internet users, which impacts click-through rates.
On top of that, the lack of a brandable domain name will make it harder to sell a website down the line.
So instead, choose a name which you’d associate with a reputable, authoritative website. Here’s some examples of successful affiliate sites that really nailed this:
- Quick Sprout
Keep it short and simple
As a rule of thumb, try to keep your domain name under 16 characters. Avoid hyphens as visitors associate them with spammy websites. Try to stick to two-word domain names at most.
Also, avoid numbers in most cases. “Well, what about Affiliate24?” you might wonder. That’s a fair point. I think the “24” is acceptable as it refers commonly to 24/7. These days you’ll find a ton of websites with a domain name that ends in 24. However, pick a more random sequence of numbers, and people might not have that association and therefore might trust your URL less.
Go with something timeless
Same as with picking website colors or designing a website logo, your domain name should be as timeless as possible. Try not to be overly trendy. Domain names that will last for years and become more valuable over time are those that are clear and timeless. Stay away from fads in favor of something which will stand the test of time.
Don’t get hung up on .com TLDs
Searching for a .com domain name can be a painful experience. Indeed, most of the great .com domain names have been snatched up in the past few decades. Either by legitimate businesses or “domain squatters” which will sell the domain name for often high premiums.
Sometimes it makes sense to drop a few thousand euros on a great .com domain name. The truth is that .com remains the most coveted and trustworthy of all top-level domains (TLDs). It’s great to have one.
Having said that, there’s some great alternatives to .com which will be just fine for your affiliate website.
My favorite .com alternative is .org. Although traditionally this TLD is associated with non-profit organizations, there are plenty of affiliate sites and commercial entities in general (like CraigsList) that use .org. One successful affiliate site with a .org domain is WebsiteSetup.org.
There are other great alternatives to .com however. The bottom line here is: yes, a .com domain name is great, but if you can’t find a suitable one, don’t hesitate to explore the alternatives.
What about exact match domains, do they still work?
At some point exact match domains (EMDs) were very popular. Historically they ranked very well. Many entrepreneurs and domain squatters have been purchasing them en masse: the idea here was that Google would recognize your site as being relevant to that niche quicker. An example of an EMD is proteinpowder.com.
However, already back in 2012 Google’s Matt Cutts (then in charge of fighting spam on Google) announced a pushback on low-quality, spammy EMD’s.
They sharpened their policy around this up a bit after some legit websites got hit though.
Even though these types of domains can still work, you probably want to think twice before using them for affiliate marketing. One problem is that they often are extremely expensive. Another is that they often limit the topics you can talk about on your site, a problem I touched upon earlier in this article. Finally, the lack of flexibility makes them harder to sell.
Settling on a domain name for your affiliate website isn’t a decision you should take lightly. In fact, it has a direct impact on the trustworthiness of your site, the number of niches and topics you can cover, and the potential to sell it.
Use the tips in this article to choose the right domain name for your affiliate website.
Would you like to beef up your affiliate marketing knowledge? Then check out my article on my favorite YouTube channels on affiliate marketing.
Are you looking to launch an affiliate site as soon possible? Then you might be interested in a WordPress setup that lets you pass Core Web Vitals instantly and comes with the exact lay-out you need for an affiliate site. In that case, check out my affiliate starter templates to kick-start your project.