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How to Choose a Good Domain Name for Your Website
Choosing a great domain name is extremely important when it comes to your online presence.
On the web, your domain name is essentially your brand. It’s what you want people to remember when they think of you and it’s important for three main reasons…
1) It defines who you are. A good name creates a great ‘first impression’ and lets people know what you’re about. A bad name will send them running.
2) It helps with SEO. If you have one or two of your main keywords in your domain name this will help with your SEO rank in the search engines.
3) Branding. A good domain name should be part of your branding strategy. You can use it to raise brand awareness.
13 Tips for choosing a great domain name
1) Choose a unique name
The internet is a busy place and it’s not easy to get noticed, so ideally you want to stand out as different.
To that end don’t choose a name that’s too similar to someone else, otherwise people might be confused.
If you have a name in mind, try doing a search and see if any similar names come up. You particularly want to avoid similar names to people in the same niche if possible.
2) Avoid misspellings and plurals
I’ve often seen people go for a domain that is a misspelling or a plural of a word but generally this is a bad idea.
This reason is that if the name sounds phonetically similar to correct version, people will generally type in the correct version when searching. For example, several years ago the website flickr.com realised that too many people were typing in ‘flicker’ and not ‘flickr’. So at great expense they decided to acquire the name flicker.com in order to avoid loosing all those potential customers who were typing in the ‘wrong’ name..
Also, don’t choose a misspelling to try to misrepresent yourself as another brand. So if it were possible to build an eCommerce site under the name amazzon.com, that would probably be a bad idea. You might find yourself facing legal action from Amazon.
The only time it might be good to buy a plural or a misspelling is if you already own the correct version of the domain. So for example if you owned a website called moremuscle.com you might also decide to buy the domains moremusle.com and moremussel.com because people often misspell the word “muscle”. That way you can still pick up those people who didn’t type it correctly by using a simple re-direct from the misspelled domains to the correct address.
3) Choosing a brand-able domain name
It’s often good to chose a brand-able name that marks you out from the competition.
A brand-able name doesn’t necessarily have to be anything to do with your niche, it can be a completely random word or even something made up. A good example is Google. As a word it doesn’t mean anything, but it’s now instantly recognisable as a brand.
A brand-able domain name is also a good idea if at some point you feel you might want to sell your business. If you become successful, the brand and domain name will have value in itself and will be easier to sell.
Ideally your domain name should be…
- Easy to spell
- Easy to pronounce
4) Optimising for SEO
If you want to optimsie for SEO then it’s a good idea to put one or two of your main keywords in you domain name.
For best results you want your keywords to be at the start of your domain name rather than at the end.
A word of caution though.
Don’t keyword stuff your domain name.
For a start Google is wise to this, so if your domain name is stuffed with too many keywords it could even work against you.
Secondly, if your domain name looks spammy then it creates a bad impression and people will avoid your site.
5) Using your own name in the domain
This is an alternative to using a brand-able name and is becoming quite popular in certain niches.
As people become increasingly disillusioned with large faceless corporations, they are turning to individuals to whom they can relate to. This is especially the case on the internet. Perhaps you have your own favourite youtuber or instagram poster.
Whatever the case, these individuals are the brand, ie their personal name is the brand rather than a corporate brand name.
If you want to choose a domain name which is your own name (or contains your own name) that can be a good option if you want to have a strong personal connection with your audience. A good rule of thumb is to see what others in your niche are doing. Are they using a personal domain name or a corporate one?
The down side of using your own name as the domain name and brand is that if you want to sell the business later on, it will be much more difficult because the brand is inherently connected with you. Whereas if you had a more corporate domain name it’s much easier for you to extract yourself from the business and sell it on to someone else.
6) KISS – Keep It Short and Simple
Short – The ideal domain name should be no more 16 characters long. Mine is 17 so it’s probably a bit on the long side, but the shorter the better.
It’s also best if you can keep it to just one word. However, most of the best one word .com’s have already been taken so you might have to go for two or perhaps three words.
Simple – Don’t use hyphens, underscores, special characters or anything weird. Don’t use numbers in a domain name unless there is good reason to do so. Perhaps a website about water might include H2O in the domain name and that would be ok, but don’t include random numbers just for the sake of it.
7) If possible go for a .com
All domain names have a suffix after them, or in more technical terms what’s know as a TLD (Top Level Domain).
A TLD can be .com .net .biz .org or a number of other suffixes.
However, if possible you want to try and go for .com
The reason for this is that when most people think of a domain name they will typically assume that it’s a .com in preference to any other TLD. So for example if your domain was findfish.net, you could end up loosing a lot of business because many people would just type findfish.com instead.
8) What to do if the .com domain name is taken
In many cases it’s not possible to get the .com domain name you want because someone else has already bought it. So what then?
Well you have a number of options.
1) Try to think outside the box a bit. Can you add a short word or even a letter to it without making it too long? Can you replace part of the domain with something else?
2) Re-think the whole thing and try something else
3) See if you can buy the domain name from the owner. Be careful with this one because domain names come with a history. If the history is good then this could be a good option, however if the history is bad then don’t buy.
4) If you can’t get the .com it’s not the end of the world. Try a different TLD.
On that last point if you really must have the domain name you want, say for example it’s the trade name of a very well established business, then you could try a different TLD such as .net or .biz
Another (and increasingly popular) alternative is to buy what’s know as a gTLD (Generic TLD).
Because most of the best .com’s are already taken, a whole host of gTLD’s have been released which are niche specific. For example you can now buy a .plumbing . shop .photography .bike .guru and whole lot more.
This means that if for example “mikesplumbing.com” is taken, you might be able to get “mikes.plumbing” instead.
9) When not to choose a .com
Having just told you to choose a .com , there are some situations where it would be best NOT to choose a .com
For example, if your business is exclusive to a particular country and your target audience is in that same country, then it would be wise to use that country’s TLD (know as a ccTLD). So in the UK you might use .co.uk or .uk . In Germany you might use .de , and so on.
By choosing a country specific ccTLD this tells your target audience that they are in the right place and gives your site a more localised feel and localised credibility.
Even if you do decide to go for a country specific ccTLD, you also need to give some consideration to what your future plans might be. So if you think you might expand to other countries later on, then a .com might the best option from the start. Or your could buy the .com version as well, just in case, and in the meantime re-direct the .com TLD to your country specific website.
10) Think Long Term
As I just mentioned, when purchasing a domain name it’s always good to plan ahead where possible.
For example, I know someone who bought a domain name that was something like “winelabeldesigns.com”.
It seemed like a good idea at the time but unfortunately he found it was extremely limiting.
He just couldn’t get enough business designing wine labels alone, and if he’d then started to branch out into designing menus, wedding invitations, or anything else, it would have looked out of place with his domain name.
The point is, you need to choose a domain name that is not so niche specific that it won’t allow you to expand into other areas if needed.
11) Ideas for choosing a domain name
Ok so how do you actually get ideas for choosing a good domain name?
First of all, think about the main keywords in your niche and write those down.
Chances are they are probably taken, but you can often come up with a domain name by taking one or two of those keywords and adding another word on the end.
For example, with my own domain name I came up with the word “Laptoplife”, but since that was already taken I had to come up with another word to go on the end. After a bit of searching I settled with the word “Success”.
To find other words that are related to your main keywords you could also try using synonyms. These are words that have similar meanings to your main keywords. I’ve found thesaurus.com to be useful for this.
If you want to try and mash two words together to come up with a new word, a good tool to try out is Wordoid. This also has some different language options if you like the idea of a foreign sounding name.
Another good site that I often use is Leandomainsearch. This is similar to Wordoid, but instead of mashing words together it gives you ideas for words that tack on to the begging or end of your main keywords.
What you’ll find is that you might have to try a lot of combinations before you find one that ‘sounds’ right and is also available to buy.
It’s often good to get a second opinion, so once you’ve found a name you like, run it by some friends or family members to see what they think.
12) Avoiding trouble
Before you jump in and buy a domain there are a few final considerations you need to be aware of.
Firstly, if you’ve chosen a domain name that doesn’t have any particular meaning (a made up name) then you really ought to do a language check.
Names that might sound ok in your language might have an inappropriate or even rude meaning in another language.
For example in the 70’s Ford launch a car called the ‘Ford Pinto’. Unfortunately, in Brazil the word ‘Pinto’ is a slang word for a man’s genitals, while the name “Sega” (as in the games console) is an Italian slang word for masturbation.
To avoid any embarrassing issues run the name you have chosen through Google translate and see if there are any problem words in other languages.
As I’ve already mentioned earlier, you want to avoid domain names that are too similar to others.
Have a search through the first few pages of google just to make sure no one is using a similar name in the same niche as you.
If you want to be extra safe it’s good to do a trademark search to prevent any legal issues down the line.
You can check US trade marks here. For other countries you will need to search their trademark data bases.
If you at some point in the future you think you might start a facebook page, youtube channel, or some other social media asset, then it would be wise to see if your chosen domain name is also available on the social networks before you buy the domain.
If you’ve gone to all the trouble to buy a domain name and create a brand, but then later when you want to start a facebook page you find someone else is already using that name, then it’s going to be a problem.
13) Where to buy a domain name
There are lots of domain name providers but my top recommendation is Namecheap.
As the name suggests you can pick up a domain name for a fairly cheap price.
Although their prices are low, they are one of the biggest domain name providers and they do have a good reputation.
I DON’T recommend Go-Daddy and if you want to know why then please read this other article I wrote…
Not only do Namecheap provide cheap domains they also throw in WHOIS privacy for free. (Go-Daddy will charge you $9.99 a year for this)
WHOIS privacy is a must if you want to avoid spammers getting hold of your contact details. So if you can get privacy for free then what’s not to like.