Does Domain Name Size Matter? Yes, But Not As Much As Readability

The length of a domain name is important, but its readability more so, so says SIDN, the registry for .nl domain names. Shorter domain names do get the big dollars when it comes to sales, but with the growing importance of social media, it’s not the be all and end all.

The post on the SIDN website notes how domain names are getting longer, as are top level domains. Among the city TLDs that have been coming online, some 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.”

But why?

“Clearly, length is not the big issue it used to be. That's mainly because the way we use the internet has changed: people don't type domain names as often as they used to. Now, there's much more emphasis on 'reading'. 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 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.”

For many mobile phones, a URL of up to 30 characters will easily fit on the screen. Above 40 characters and the post notes readability quickly declines.

“So, if you're after a new domain name, 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? Such questions are certainly worth putting to the test.”