How to Choose a Domain Name

How to Choose a Domain Name

Last Edited June 21, 2019 by Garenne Bigby in Business

Choosing a domain name, or the name of your website is a daunting, important and sometimes fun task. If you think of some of the most commonly used and famous websites out there, you may become envious and wonder how you too can be so successful. Do not fear, just read on to pick up some tips, tricks and advice that will help you on your way owning one of the domain names that other people would kill to have.  

How to Choose a Domain Name


Establish Your Brand     

Making a domain name sound like a brand is a great strategy for getting traffic to your site. Brands do not generally have hyphens or numbers or special characters in them so neither should your domain name. If you are having trouble with this, simply drive down a busy street and look at the signs for the various restaurants or stores. Chances are you will be able to tell right away what kind of food they serve or what kind of goods they sell, whether you have been in the place or not.

That is due to branding. Even if you have never eaten at a restaurant, you are probably aware of what they sell due to their various methods of advertising. Commercials, mailings, coupons, all of this is branding. Make sure that the same can be done with your domain name if you so choose.


Ensure the Domain is Easy to Remember     

Many people are not good at spelling. Many people struggle to remember things that aren’t easily recognizable to them. If you choose a domain name which is hard to pronounce, it will therefore also be hard to remember. This will cost you many repeat or new customers. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. The easier your domain name is to say, the easier it is to remember.

The easier it is to remember, the easier it will be for one person to tell another person your domain name. And then that person can tell another person about your domain name. This can go on time and time again, and that is a good thing. There is nothing quite like free advertising, especially if it done in a positive light. You must be very careful, however, because as quickly as good news can spread by word of mouth, so too can bad news. If your domain name is easy to remember yet becomes synonymous with something negative, that too can spread like the plague.


Keep it Short     

Just like pronounceability, length matters too. The shorter the domain name, the easier it is to remember, spell, share and say. If you are looking to put your domain name on business cards or any type of advertising paraphernalia, a shorter name will fit much easier and look much better.


Use .com

.com is the domain name ending that almost everyone is familiar with. At this point in time, the world is running out of available options for highly sought after domain names ending with .com, so there are other options available such as .net, .co or .shop. However, even if you have your domain set up and it ends with one of these, odds are whoever is typing it in will mistakenly put .com and the end because that is what most people think all domains end in.

If possible, ensure your domain name ends in .com. If the name you want is not available in .com, decide if you are able to tweak your name to the point of something that is available with .com. If you cannot, then it is recommended you choose .net or.co as those are the two most known other alternatives. .ca is a ccTLD used in Canada and .it is a ccTLD used in Italy. These are also decent alternatives if you are located in either one of those two countries.


Trademark Infringement is a No No     

Even if your domain name is not the same as a trademarked domain name, you can get into big trouble if it is close enough to be determined to be confusable by a judge. This can hinder you as well as whatever entity you are confused with. It can hurt your so-called brand and lose your potential customers or site visitors. The owners of trademarks can sue domain name owners even if the domain name owner is using their site for their own separate, unrelated purposes.


Intuition is a Must     

A good domain name easily portrays what the website is about. Not only will it be easy for people to remember and think of, but it will not confuse them. For example, if you run a website selling seashells but you have a domain name of hellfire666.net, you are going to have a very hard time being found by people looking to buy seashells. However, if you have a domain name of seashellsforsale.com, then you will probably be found very easily by those looking to bring a touch of the sea into their guest baths.


Keywords     

If you can find available domain names that contain keywords pertaining to what your site is about, buy them all. The more, the better, especially if money is no object. If you can’t, that is ok. It does not make or break. With enough branding and external advertising, you can make any domain name successful.

One example of this is Amazon. Amazon is a marketplace in which you can purchase almost anything. It has nothing to do with a South American river as one may have suspected years ago. That is the beauty of marketing. So, if a domain name that makes a lot of sense for your site is available, take it. If not, do not worry, just know that you will have a little bit more work cut out for you on the branding front.


Get Creative     

If none of the really obvious domain names for your website are available, feel free to get creative with it. Look in to those other extensions such as .net or .co or .shop. Maybe you could even insert something extra and a little bit funny into the domain name in order to make it unique. You must be careful though because unfortunately there are people out there who do not appreciate creativity or wit. It really is a shame.


Buy More Domains     

This method is not free, but it may save the day for you later on. If you have a domain name that is often misspelled or is easy to type in wrongly, it is recommended that you purchase as many of the misspelled domains that you can. You can then have them redirect right to your real domain, so you do not have to maintain numerous websites. This will help you to gain more visitors who were looking for your site but would have otherwise missed it due to ignorance or typos. If you choose this approach, read up on 301 redirects as they are very useful.


Use a Thesaurus      

If you are having a hard time thinking of a domain name, or perhaps all of the domain names you want are taken, try using a thesaurus to assist you in brainstorming other, related options. A thesaurus is like a dictionary, but instead of telling you the meaning of words, it shows you other words that mean the same or close to the same thing. Using a thesaurus can be great fun in addition to helpful.


Domain Name Generators    

If you have exhausted your brainpower or perhaps were too lazy to even try to think of your own domain name, there are domain name generators available on the internet. They are very easy to use and are surprisingly helpful. You need to put in one keyword which is known as a seed key-phrase. Then, the domain name generator will give you between ten and one hundred suggestions, maybe, even more, depending on your keyword.

LeanDomainSearch is an example of a domain name generator. Others include Business name generator by Shopify and Nameboy. Nameboy is old school in its design but can keep up with the big boys in terms of spewing out suggestions for domain names.


Own It     

Make sure that you can legally own your domain name. Remember how we discussed earlier that you could be sued by someone who has a trademark and thinks you are infringing upon it? Well, it is time to turn the tables and become that person. Now you can be the one doing the suing.


What To Do if the Domain Name You Want is Taken     

If you have the perfect domain name in mind and are unwilling to compromise, you do have options. It could be that someone purchased the domain name and never did anything with it. Much like real estate, domain names can be purchased, not used, and just held onto until the owner wants to sell for a profit. If this is the case, you can contact the owner and agree upon a price.

If the domain name you want is currently being used on an active website, you are probably out of luck. If you are that serious about it though, it will not hurt to find out who the owner is, contact them and offer them a hefty sum of money to if they sell it to you. They will probably say no, but it does not hurt anything to ask.

If the domain is empty and you cannot locate any information about who owns it, try sites such as GoDaddy, Sedo, SnapNames or Flippa. They would be for sale on these marketplaces. Often times they are inexpensive, which is a good thing.


What to Do if You Cannot Buy Your Dream Domain Name     

Get over it. It may sound harsh, but it needs to be done. A domain name will not make or break your business or website venture. Sure, having your dream domain name could make you happier and even make your endeavors much easier, but you can forge ahead without it. The most important part of the puzzle is your content. It does not matter how great your domain name is if your content is garbage.

Also, domain names can be changed. Maybe your dream domain name is not available now, but it could be in the future if someone no longer wants it or does not pay their bills in a timely fashion. Be on the lookout; things change constantly. If you are able to get your dream domain name later on, all you need to do is set up some simple redirects, and you will be all set.


Check Domain History     

Even if you think you are the first one to ever use a particular domain name, it is worthwhile to run a check to see the history of the domain name. The reason for this is you do not want to be associated with something terrible that you had nothing to do with. Wayback Machine is a tool that lets you enter a time machine of sorts. You can type in any domain name you want, and it will show you what all that domain name has been used for in the past.

Why does this matter? Perhaps there was a shady business that you were not aware of, but a lot of people are. The domain name may still sound alarm bells in their heads, unbeknownst to you. Or perhaps you want to name your new apartment complex Running With the Wind at Livermore but come to find out that was also the name of a notorious biker gang in southeast Austin back in the mid-1950s. How were you to know? By using the Wayback Machine.


Conclusion   

Upon first thought domain names seem like the most important part of a website. In reality, they are not. It all depends on how you brand and market your site.  Of course, having the perfect domain name is ideal.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.

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