Are you just starting a new website or even just starting on the internet? The tips in this article will help you avoid some of the pitfalls and give you some pointers on how to choose a domain name for your website.
I wouldn’t say that choosing a domain name is complicated but there are some points to consider. And once the choice is made, you will be stuck with your domain name for a while.
Yes, it is possible to change in the future but it’s a lot of hassle. Also, it may affect your search engine rankings and your brand. So it’s not something you want to have to go through.
This post will provide you with some tips to choose a good domain name before you create your website.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the address of your website on the internet. This address is unique. You could compare this to a physical address in the offline world.
For example, offline you could say “Do you know Jones Electrical Store in Pier Road?” Online you would say “Do you know the website joneselectricals.com?”.
When your website is well-known the internet user will refer to your site by just the first part of the name, Amazon, Google, Facebook, or as in our example above JonesElectricals.
Domain names have to be registered at officially recognized domain registrars. Some of the best known are Namecheap, Hostgator, or GoDaddy.
How do domain names work?
A domain name is a structured label, containing the domain name and the domain extension (Top Level Domain or TLD). This label is connected to the specific IP address of the server where the website is hosted. So when you type in “yourdomain.com”, your browser needs to find the associated numeric IP address.
For example, for Google, you could use the IP address 184.108.40.206. This will take you to the Google search page. But what is easier to remember, the 6 letter human-friendly name or the 11 numbers with dots?
As the internet is based on IP addresses, the address you type into your browser is connected through a domain name server (DNS), also known as a name server. These servers manage a massive database that connects domain names to IP addresses. For a more detailed explanation, check out this article on HowStuffWorks
Why is Your Domain Name Important?
Here are a few elements that show you why your domain name is important.
- It’s one of the first things people see when they come to your website.
- A good memorable domain name can make an enduring impression and add credibility to your business. While a bad domain name will not inspire confidence and can frighten your visitors away.
- Your domain name is unique – no one can have the same DN as you.
- It can affect your SEO. Although exact matching domains are no longer recommended having a keyword in your domain name can still be slightly beneficial.
- It’s a chance to build your brand. A good domain name will be easy for your customers to remember and recommend to others.
Now you understand how a domain name works and why it’s important, here are my tips to help you choose the best domain name.
1. Make it Brandable
Pick a short, unique, and memorable name that stands out from your competitors. Create a domain name that is easy to remember, this will help people to find your website and recommend it to others.
Being creative will also probably make it easier to find a domain that’s available. When people refer to brandable domains they generally think of names with no keywords and no descriptive meaning.
It is possible that a brandable domain will have some words relative to your niche or product but they don’t spell it out. Ideally, they will convey trust, quality, and values of the brand or product. Not stating specifically what the site is about in the domain name will allow you to be more flexible with your brand.
The best-known brandable name is Google.
Imagine if they had chosen a keyword-rich domain they might have been known as thebestsearchengine.com or topsearchresults.com. They would have been limited to just search results with this domain name and would have needed other domain names for their many other businesses.
Another example is Apple. The name gives no clue about what the company does. They started with computers, went on to mobile phones, wearables, and who knows where in the future. All done under the same domain!
The alternative is to go for a generic or keyword-rich domain. If you try for a keyword-rich domain don’t stuff all your keywords into the domain name. This won’t give you an advantage with the search engines and will look unnatural.
2. Keep Your Domain Name Short
In general, the shorter a domain name is the better. It is easier to type, pronounce, remember, and it will be shortened less on social media platforms.
Your domain name can be up to 63 characters long. It’s good practice to keep your domain name shorter than 15 characters. Shorter is better!
3. Make it Easy To Spell and Pronounce
Your visitors should be able to easily spell your domain name. You never know when you might be asked to share your domain so it should be easy to understand when speaking and easily written.
Ideally, your domain name will have only one possible spelling. Making it easier for visitors to reach your website.
If you can’t easily say the name, people might have problems remembering and typing your domain name.
Don’t intentionally misspell words. It may seem like a cool idea but to have a misspelled word as your domain name but it could backfire. Spelling can be a big issue for some people so having a misspelled word may confuse them further.
4. Keep it Unique
Your domain name must be unique. Don’t copy other bloggers or use a trademarked name. You don’t want to have to change your domain name when your blog is just getting established due to threats of legal action.
Don’t pick a name that includes brands or brand-related words (facebookhelper, buildappleapp, printwithhp)
Before registering your domain it’s a good idea to do a little research to see if there’s a business using the same or similar name. You can even do a trademark search.
5. Avoid Hyphens and Numbers
Your domain name should be one word or a set of words with no hyphens or numbers. Having a hyphen or number in your name will make it harder to communicate and might cause confusion.
The hyphen may be forgotten, taking your visitors to another website. For numbers, it will be difficult to know if the number should be written in letters or is numeric. So only use letters!
6. Use .com Extension
These days there are many different extensions (TLDs) you can get.
Just a few examples:
- country code TLDs – .us, .uk, .ca, .za
- generic TLDs – .academy, .biz, .eco, .name, .property, .shop, .travel…
- geographic TLDs – .barcelone, .london, .paris, .boston, .vegas, .sydney…
If your business caters to a local community (a garage, restaurant, plumber…) then you could use the country code or even a geographic TLD. Although, with geographic TLDs, I don’t think people are used to seeing them yet. A website with the domain name agreatplumber.boston still looks strange, at least to me! I prefer the name agreatplumberboston.com
If your business caters to an international audience you may find it tempting to try one of these newer extensions. However, over the years we have been used to typing .COM and even when we’re not sure about the TLD we would probably type in .COM first.
Therefore, try the .COM extension for your domain first, if it’s not available then try .NET or .ORG. If none are available then try another .COM
7. Avoid Double Letters
It a good idea to avoid domain names with double letters. They increase the chances of typos and lost visitors.
For example, with domains such as poollab.com or wordpressseo.com, it’s much easier to make a mistake when typing which might lose you some visitors.
8. Consider Using Keywords in Your Domain Name
Although I think a brandable domain is better if you can use a keyword in your domain name it may give people and the search engines a better idea of what your site is about.
Combine your keyword with other words to give you a domain that’s striking.
9. Think Long-Term
In general, when you choose a domain name you should think long-term. You don’t want to go through the hassle of changing your domain in the future.
A domain name can be registered for a minimum of 1 year to a maximum of 10 years.
The length of time you enregister your domain name will depend on several things.
- If you are new to blogging no need to register your DN for 10 years. First, you want to be sure that you will continue with your blog, so initially take the 1-year option.
- If you are buying a site for a specific event then you will only want the domain name for a limited time.
- Your budget – if you’re serious about your website and can afford to register your domain for several years you may be able to profit from a slight discount.
I have seen several bloggers state that registering your domain for a longer period might have some advantages for SEO. According to Google’s John Mueller, this isn’t the case.
10. Don’t Limit Your Website
Choosing a domain name that’s related to the subject of your website might help your visitors to know what your site is about. Nonetheless, you don’t want your domain name to make you feel limited on the subjects you can blog about.
Over time you may want to expand your niche website into related niches.
For example, you might have a website about gardening tools, handmowerparadise.com. When you start blogging about other tools or subjects you may find it difficult to attract readers due to the name of your site.
You will be able to rank articles in the search results but when people see your domain name they may think you are only an expert in hand mowers.
11. Make Sure Your Domain is Available on Social Media
Your visitors will expect to find your domain name as your identity elsewhere. So before proceeding to purchase your domain verify that the name or something very similar is available on social media sites.
This makes it easy for your customers to find you on social media and inversely if they find you on social media it will make it easy to find your website.
Having the same name for your website and across the different social media platforms is an ideal way to build your brand.
There is a great tool, Knowem, that allows you to check the use of your domain, brand, or product on many social media sites.
Moving your website to a new domain can be a complicated process and you can lose traffic and search engine rankings if it’s not done correctly. Better to take a little longer and choose an awesome domain name by following these tips.
Where to Buy a Domain Name
There are hundreds of domain name registrars on the internet and you have to choose one to buy your domain.
You are probably wondering how you decide which one to pick.
There are several criteria that will help you make the choice.
- The price and registration period.
- Add-on fees and services.
- Domain transfers to another register are possible and should be free.
- Expiration policies. It’s important to have a grace period that allows you to reactivate your domain name.
Take into consideration that many well-known hosting companies such as Bluehost or Siteground offer a free domain name for the first year when you purchase a hosting plan.
Protect Your Brand
Imagine you’ve spent a long time building your brand and suddenly you find a website using another extension of your name and stealing your visitors. It’s easy for someone to steal your business or worse ruin your reputation by misrepresenting the domain name related to your business.
The cost of domain registration and basic hosting is cheap. This allows more or less anyone to start a website using a variation of your domain name or business name. As long as a domain is available there is no check on ownership or trademark, so anyone can set up and use your name to their advantage.
In order to avoid this, some choose to buy other popular TLDs of their .COM domain, especially the .NET and .ORG extensions. To take it even further some also buy common misspelled versions of their domain name, for example, lawcounsel.com and lawcouncil.com.
These additional domains are then redirected to the main.COM domain.
Others also buy up negative versions of their domain name such as lawcousnelsucks.com or lawcounselscam.com.
For most of us just buying the .NET and .ORG extensions will be largely sufficient.
Auto-Renew Your Domain Name
If you forget to renew your domain name it will become available again to the public. To avoid this happening it’s a good idea to use the auto-renewal service provided by the domain registrars especially if you have several domains.
With most registrars when you register a domain name it’s automatically set up to auto-renew.
Add Domain Privacy
Domain Privacy which is also known as WHOIS Guard, depending on the registrar you are using, hides your personal details – your name, address, telephone, email…
If you don’t opt for domain privacy your after buying your domain your personal information will be available for anyone to see.
Ultimately it’s your choice but having privacy protect will:
- Stop unwanted solicitations by email and phone for SEO services, freelance writers, social media marketing, etc
- Protect your identity from people who could start causing you problems
- Protect your email address
The downsides are:
- The cost – prices vary with the different registrars but with some it’s free!
- If your domain name was previously registered without domain privacy then your personal information might still be available
- Visitors or customers might be less likely to trust you if they see you’re hiding your personal details. They might ask why does a legitimate business hide their contact information?
Given the usually small costs involved and the many advantages, I think it’s worth taking the option of domain privacy.
Get an SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate provides a secure method of transferring data. If you are starting a new site it’s worth getting an SSL certificate.
It will give people more confidence in your site, the URL will display https in your browser and you will also see the green padlock. As it’s also a ranking signal it’s definitely something you should include.
Some registrars charge for SSL certificates but there are also free options available.
Domain Name Generator Tools
You may have come up with a catchy relevant domain name only to find it’s already taken. So it’s back to the drawing board! However, there are some free tools online that can help you.
You should already have a good idea of some of the words you want to use. Enter a word or words into one of the tools below and you will get a list of possible domains.
These are just 5 but there are many more, just do a Google search and you will find many others. The domains they suggest may not be perfect but who knows you might find just what you’re looking for. At worst they will give you some new ideas and get those creative juices flowing again.
Although your online success won’t be down to picking the best domain name for your business, it can make a difference.
Moving your website to a new domain can be a complicated process and you can lose traffic and search engine rankings if it’s not done correctly. So it’s worth taking your time and putting in some thought before choosing yours.
Try to pick a short, memorable, brandable, and pronounceable domain name, using these 11 tips to help you.
When you find the perfect domain don’t wait too long before registering. There are thousands of domain names registered every day. Wait too long and someone else may register your idea.
Don’t get stuck choosing a domain name because the .COM name isn’t available. If this is you, take the next best and move on. Having a domain that’s not your first choice is better than having no domain at all. Just pick the best that is available and build your website!
I hope you now have a better understanding of domain names after reading this article and that my tips will help you choose a great domain name.
If you have any questions or have your own tips, I’d love to see your ideas in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading,