At first glance you might think that choosing a domain name is easy and you'll be able to pick one very quickly to use with your website. But like everything, there is a knack to getting it right and choosing a good domain name.
Tips for choosing the right domain name
Here are some tips I've picked up over the years after buying hundreds of domains.
Keywords related to your audience.
Whenever I am looking to choose a domain name, I start by noting down 5-10 different keywords that I think best describe the type of domain I am looking to buy. These don't necessarily be keywords that your target audience would search for in a search engine like Google – although that could obviously be a bonus.
For example, if you were looking to start a website on health supplements you might note down words like “natural, organic, healthy, vitamins” and experiment with these to find something that you like.
Use modifiers, a suffix or a prefix.
You'll soon find that many very short and great sounding domains have already been registered. It can be quite annoying to get down to the 20th idea on your list and find that it isn't available! This is where you can use modifiers, suffixes or prefixes to make the domain name unique.
Here are a few examples of ways to change a domain name using our health supplement example from before.
- Shorten words and/or use a suffix. So, for example, we could take the word vitamin and add the suffix guide to make
vitaminguide.com. If that particular name is taken, then we could modify the word vitamin and shorten it – leaving us with
vitguide.com– which is short, easy to remember and brandable.
- Use a prefix. If
vitaminguide.comwas taken, we chould add a prefix like my- or the- to make something like
thevitaminguide.com. Slightly longer, but just as easy to spell and remember.
- Use a suffix. As before, this could be -guide, or it could be something like -tips or -info. You could even add HQ (for headquarters) and you'd have
Make it easy to type.
Keeping the domain easy to type will give you added brand and marketing value. This means it needs to be an easy word, not too long, and is spelt how it sounds. Some may even avoid specific letters like “x, y, z” to improve the easiness of the domain name.
Make it easy to remember.
It's no good having a short domain name if people can't remember it! This means that a short domain like
tihtmm.com would be much harder to remember than something considerably longer like
thisishowtomakemoney.com. Personally, I think I'd remember the longer domain rather than having to think about the letters.
You want the name to be simple and easy and roll off the tongue so that when your friends and family talk about it they will remember the domain.
Create and fulfil user expectations.
Put simply this means that your domain should make it very clear what it is about and what the user can expect from it.
SiteBeginner.com is a prime example of this. You know it's for beginners and it's about sites.
WebsiteBeginner would have been better, but the shorter URL does make it easier to type and remember – which are both important factors. The exception to this would be a short, generic brand like Google or Amazon. You do have to work harder to make people aware of the brand but it can be hugely rewarding as well.
Don't infringe on copyright.
If you were an Apple fanboy (or girl) and wanted to start a blog about the latest and greatest iPhone on the market then you are free to do that. But be aware of copyrights before registering your domain or you might find that the copyright holder (in this case, Apple) take the domain from you.
PhoneKing.com, for example is a good name for a domain on this subject. Whereas
TheNewiPhone.com would quickly get you in hot water with Apple's lawyers.
Avoid hyphenated domains.
Sometimes you might find that all of your good ideas are registered and you start looking at other options like a hypen between the words. So for this site it could have been
Site-Beginner.com. The change is subtle but massively important to your branding both online and off.
With hyphens you now have to explain to every person who wants to know your domain name that it is Site-Beginner “with a hyphen” to make sure they go to the right domain name. If customers forget the hyphen then you could also lose out on valuable repeat visits.
Watch out for bad word combinations.
The chances of getting a one word domain without spending thousands is slim, so most people will register a domain with two or more words. You have to careful to make sure that the domain name cannot be read another way than you originally intended.
ExpertsExchange.com might look like a perfectly reasonable domain name and fit all the other criteria above. But it could also be seen as
ExpertSexChange.com which adds a whole new and unintended meaning to it!
Stick to common domain name extensions.
My personal preference has always been to try and get the .com for a domain name as my primary choice. If this is not available I will usually look for a different domain that does allow me to register the .com version. I might look at .org or .net as alternatives as well.
If you do choose a .org or .net domain name extension then wherever possible I would try to get the .com as well purely to stop a competitor from trying to ride your coattails. You can always redirect the .com to another domain and it helps to protect your brand.
Use these tips to build a shortlist of 6-10 good domain names that you would be happy with and sort them in order of which one you like the most. Then check to see whether they are available in order and register the first one you find that is free.
You need to prepared to buy your domain name when you are checking availability. Don't leave it for a week or two because you might find that somebody has registered it right under your nose in the mean time.