Choosing the best possible name site is absolutely critical. Your domain name is something that deserves hours, if not days, of thought, and it’s no exaggeration to say that, in some circumstances, making the wrong choice can break a business. In short: Choosing a domain name is something every website owner needs to ensure they get right — ideally before they do anything else, and ESPECIALLY if the website will be serving a commercial purpose.
You have to put some thought into choosing a domain name for your website. The goal of the tips below is not to meet every criterion (that would be impossible), but to give you some guidelines to consider in the process. And then I’ll tell you where to register your domain (and hosting if you are looking for that).
1. Choose a .com
Even in 2018, .com is still the best option for a domain. Why does .com matter so much when there are so many Top Level Domain (TLD) extension options? The answer is, .com is the most recognized and most accessible TLD.
Most of the time internet users assume .com when browsing. Having a .net, .info, .tv or any other extension puts another potential roadblock in the process of finding you. Having said that, there are plenty of successful sites that use a .net extension (or something else), but a .com is ideal. Also, .com is still the primary TLD. If you want to build up a very brandable domain that can do well, you want a .com. Probably, eventually, if you are very successful, you’re going to have to try and go capture it anyway, and so I would bias you to get it if you can.
If by chance it’s unavailable, our suggestion would be to go with the .net, .co, or a known ccTLD (country code top-level domain). Those are your best bets. A known ccTLD might be something like .pe in Peru or .de in Germany.
2. Choose a brandable name site
In the early days of the internet, no one knew what Google, Yahoo!, or Facebook was going to be. But now they do, and those domains are highly brandable. It does not hurt to get creative with your name site in anticipation of future branding. We all know that branding is crucial to long-term success, but what exactly makes a domain name brandable? There are many factors that come into play here, but the most important ones are as follows:
- A brandable name has no specific meaning (eg ‘Google’ is not a word, ‘YouTube isn’t one either).
- It’s unique — your competition doesn’t use anything similar.
- It’s easy to memorize — not too wordy, no complex vowel combinations.
- It’s easy to pronounce and dictate over the phone.
- It sounds trustworthy — some names can be a little shady by definition, for instance,
SnowRemovalCompany.commay be too bold, but snowio
.comsounds way better.
To make the brainstorming process easier, you can experiment with some combinations of actual words and random suffixes, like I did with the example above (
snowio.com). The main goal here is to create a potential for the domain name to build brand value over time.
In other words, as much as possible, try making sure the name has a good ring to it. It should be fun to say out loud, and not difficult to memorize immediately. Think about the likes of Uber: It’s short and snappy, and there’s no confusion as to how to spell it — even when mentioned in passing in a conversation.
Consider using your own name
We highly recommend registering your name as a domain even if you have no plans to do anything with it. Why? Because you never know if you just might become a household name in the future. And then you’ll be glad you have it. If you plan on using your blog to sell a service you provide or if you hope to speak or become a published writer, your name might be perfect.
If you have a really difficult name to say or spell, consider using your first and middle, or a nickname, or make up a new name altogether (yes, people really do that).
Second, this combination is great for both personal and business purposes. It carries your name and you can use it as a hub for both your professional achievements and things that interest you personally. And third, if people google you, you want your website to be the first thing they see right?
3. Make it short
The fewer characters a name site has, the easier it is to type, say, share, and the less it gets shortened on social media sharing platforms and search results. Shorter is better.
4. Make it easy to type
If you have to spell out your domain name more than once for it to be understood, then it won’t work. Keep the name simple to remember and easy to enter in an address bar or search field.
Why is simplicity important? Because you don’t want your future visitors to incorrectly type in your name and be directed to a different site. A classic example is the popular social media site, Flickr.com, introduced in 2005. Four years later, the company had to acquire Flicker.com for a large sum of money in order to redirect the many visitors who misspelled their name. If you’re determined to have that oddly spelled name, make sure common misspellings are also available so you can register them and redirect visitors to the main domain.
5. Make it intuitive
A good name site gives people a strong idea of what a website will be about. Being able to look at a domain name and say, “Oh, they probably do this. This is probably what that company is up to.” is a big win.
webdesignfor.me, for example, is pretty obvious, intuitively about website, design, and anyone could figure that out.
6. Use keywords on your name site
Keywords in a domain name can help with the cognitive fluency biases, but also from an SEO perspective. Google has been biasing away from these exact match and partial match domains, but the anchor text you get from people linking to your domain can help.
If you can get a keyword mention in your domain name that helps make it obvious what you’re website is about, go for it. But if you’re trying to secure a keyword rich or a keyword targeted domain, I would stay away from those in 2018. They don’t carry the weight that they used to and have negative associations (with users and search engines) that you should avoid.
Your domain could be one of the best places to use a keyword or two. And the more compact and closer to the beginning of your domain, the better. For example, if “fly fishing” is your keyword, FlyFishingAdventures.com is better than AdventuresInFlyFishing.com.
On the other hand, think about Amazon.com or Google.com, which clearly has no association with what it is. These are very well-branded but don’t have keyword richness to them.
It’s more of a creative association, just like “gusto” means “taste” in Italian. So I might be tempted to go in that direction instead.
7. No numbers or hyphens
Numbers and hyphens (especially hyphens) cause confusion. Stay away from them at all costs. Even something as clever as the number1website.com will cause confusion. Make the name site speak for itself.
8. Avoid trademark infringement
You have to be careful because it’s not whether you think your domain name could be confused. It’s whether you think a judge in a jurisdiction, where a company might take legal action against you, would consider your domain name confusable.
This can also create brand confusion, which is hard for your ‘brandability’.
You should talk to an attorney or a legal professional if you have real concerns.
Trademark owners can attempt to sue a domain name owner, who’s owning the domain legitimately and using it for business purposes, and that sucks.
9. Beware of trends
Anything that deals with something trendy will, like the trend, fade away. Stick with a classic name that will span the generations and not be tied down to a trend or fad. Deciding whether something is a trend or here to stay, is a matter of personal judgment, but it’s usually not too hard to tell.
Check the Domain History before
Note: This one is worth checking even if you’re getting (what you think is) a new domain name. In some cases, the domain name you’re trying to register may have been registered in the past but then abandoned by the owner. It’s still good to have a look at what was on it.
There are a couple of ways in which you can look up a domain name’s history. One of the more popular ones, and one that’s also within anyone’s reach (read: Not too technical), involves Wayback Machine.
This is one of the first tools of its kind. Quite simply, it lets you enter a time machine, so to speak, and have a look at how any website used to look in the past.
When I say ‘any website’, it’s not actually any website. But you can expect to find most websites that had any noticeable traffic at any point in time. In our case, doing a check via Wayback Machine allows us to see whether the domain we’re interested in has ever been used for anything significant, and, if so, whether it was all ‘kosher’ or not.
Check the Domain History via who.is
Right after Wayback Machine, who.is is your other go-to tool for getting to know the history of a given domain name. This one is very useful for at least two reasons:
- First, you can see the current domain info — stuff like who the owner is (provided they don’t have ID protection — more on that later) — who the registrar is, and so on. There’s no point in me listing everything here — just go to who.is, input your favorite website and see what’s up.
- Second, who.is gives you access to a ‘whois history report’. This is a paid service — $10 — but the price tag is rather small in relation to what you get in return, which is all the whois data associated with a given domain name from the very beginning. This means that you can see what the domain’s history is when it was registered, and how many times it potentially changed hands.
In the end, if you’re considering getting an existing domain, which can be quite pricey, spending an additional $10 doesn’t seem that brutal. Plus, it can save you headaches later on.
Make sure the name is available on other social media sites
When picking your domain, check other social media sites to make sure it’s available on those sites too. If you use the same name on your blog and on Twitter, Facebook, etc., it solidifies your brand and makes it more memorable. My favorite tool to check your name across all networks at once is Namechk. Another tool is called knowem but as of this writing, they don’t check Instagram for you which these days, is a must.
Pick a Trustworthy Domain Registrar
The domain registrar is a company that registers a domain name on your behalf, and then gives you full access to that domain name.
The key with registrars is to only use respectable and trustworthy companies. You really don’t want to run into any domain problems further down the line — when your website’s brand is already established and losing the domain would mean trouble.
The registrars we always recommend is SiteGround — our top recommended hosting company that also sells domain names.
Finally, Don’t overthink it
I hear from a lot of people who get stuck at this point because they’re afraid of making the wrong choice. The most common problem is that they can’t find an available .com. If this is you, just make your best guess and move on. A not-quite-perfect domain name is better than no domain name at all. Just do your best and own it!