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If you are uncertain about the steps on how to choose a domain name, it might make you feel anxious—similar to the feeling of standing on a high dive peering down into the deep end of a pool. With a bit of guidance, the process of choosing a domain name becomes easier.
For me, choosing a domain name has become the most exciting part of starting a project. It defines a project and gives it life. But before you begin registering a name and creating your site, there are a few tips and best practices you should follow to choose the best domain name for your blog or website. Here they are (in order):
- tips for picking the perfect domain name,
- brainstorming domain names,
- researching domain names, and
- registering domain names.
After reading this post, I hope you feel like you have the tools necessary for choosing a great domain name.
Some Background on Domain Names
Often, I put as much effort into the domain name as I do the company name. I did this when creating BizBudding.com. We brainstormed company names and then made sure the domain name and all domain extensions were available. But sometimes, fun domain names just jump out at me, and I have to check and see if they are available as .com domains. For example, in addition to our main domain, our team wanted an additional domain name to create a demo site to showcase the features of our WordPress theme, Mai Theme. So we had some fun and came up with a memorable demo site, warmfuzzysocks.com.
Depending on your level of investment when choosing your blog name, business name, or website domain name, you may want to make sure that you can purchase all available domain extensions. Don’t just buy the .com domain name, purchase the .net, .info, .biz, and other domain extensions. Doing so will prevent someone else from purchasing your domain name with a different domain extension than what you purchased. We discuss picking the right top level domain (“TLD”) in greater detail later in this article.
You can expect to pay between $10 and $15 dollars per year to register a TLD based upon the registrar you use. You might not able to purchase your dream domain name because someone already owns it. This happens more often than you would think. Check to see if the owner is actively using the domain. If they aren’t, you might be able to engage a domain agent or domain broker to help you purchase it. Some highly brandable domain names are premium domains. These domains become premium domains when someone thinks the names are worth more than average domain names. Be prepared to spend up to a few thousand dollars to purchase a premium domain. But don’t worry! Follow our tips, and we’re confident you will find the perfect domain name at a reasonable price.
Sometimes website builders combine a domain name with their packages. Be careful if someone is offering you a domain name at no cost. Know that there are some fees elsewhere to recover that cost, or there are limitations on ownership or transferability of the domain.
You can consider your domain name to be your online address and is used to translate the name of your website to the network IP address. But let’s not get too technical now. It’s best to think like one of your website visitors to find the name for your online self, blog, or business.
Tips for Picking the Perfect Domain Name
Keep in mind these do-and-don’t key principles:
- Keep it short and simple.
- Keep it memorable.
- Don’t keyword stuff your name.
- Don’t be too specific.
- Pick the right TLD.
After reviewing these tips, you’ll be ready to begin brainstorming, researching, and registering your new domain. Plus we also toss in a shameless plug for our own course on how to start a blog.
Keep it Short and Simple
This is key to making your site easy to find. Keeping it short means 15 characters or less—excluding the TLD (.com, .org, etc). A simple domain name is one without hyphens, underscores, or other characters besides letters (unless it’s part of your brand like society6.com). You also want to steer clear of weird spellings (gamerulz) or slang (u instead of you).
A good domain name is also easy to pronounce. Yes, that means not showing off your sophisticated and creative use of vocabulary. If you can easily say it, then your brain remembers the words—and positively associates with them—much more easily. This is due to a cognitive bias called “processing fluency.” (Add that one to your vocabulary! ?) So if a potential customer can’t say the name easily, they won’t remember it and any branding opportunity is lost.
Keep it Memorable
This is where your personal brand comes in. A memorable name goes hand in hand with easy brand recognition. One way of making your name memorable is making it relevant to your site’s content. For example, pinchofyum.com is a food blog. Just saying or reading that name makes it easy to figure out what that blog is about.
However, your name doesn’t have to relate to your content as long as it’s catchy. BizBudding infers business and growth, yet is generic enough to allow us to shape our business by focusing on content that helps people start a blog and then make money from it.
Keep in mind, this route does take more branding effort for people to associate your brand with your products or services. But we think it’s worth it in the long run. Be bold. Come up with a catchy name with no keyword association at all that you can brand.
Don’t Keyword Stuff Your Name
If a keyword fits your brand or name, use it. But don’t cram your name full of keywords because you think you will rank better. That’s called keyword stuffing—it’s a horrible practice you should avoid like the plague. As noted in this great article by Moz, Google’s ranking algorithm combats keyword stuffed domain names. This is so important that I decided to share a video about how to use keywords from our paid course How to Build a Remarkable Blog. The key takeaway from the video is to focus on good content—integrate keywords into your writing, but don’t make it all about the keywords. This holds especially true when writing your first blog post.
Don’t Be too Specific
Choosing a very specific domain name for your new website narrows your ability to shift your business and content as time progresses. Sometimes, a creative name is catchy and gives you the ability to start with focused content on one subject. As your site gains trust and authority, you can branch out into related content subjects.
Pick the Right Extension (TLD)
There are a lot of TLD extension options besides .com (.org, and .net are the other well-known ones). However, .com is still the most widely recognized and trusted TLD. This goes back to the processing fluency concept in which people remember what’s easiest and most familiar. We suggest you go with a .com domain name, but if you can’t get that then the next best option is .net.
The most common TLDs and their intended purposes are:
- .com for all commercial sites
- .org for organizations (often non-profit)
- .edu for educational organizations
- .gov for U.S. government sites
- .net is an all-purpose TLD
There are exceptions to the .com TLD since there are certain extensions you may want to consider based on the kind of site you want to build. New domain name extensions are popping up all the time, but some have more credibility and trending power than others. There may be cases where the ideal domain for you may use a newer gTLD (generic top-level domain). Trending gTLDs worth noting and their purposes are:
- .io for tech sites, i.e. input/output (originally for the British Indian Ocean Territory)
- .club for—you guessed it—clubs or other groups, suggests (but does not require) exclusivity
- .me for bloggers, freelancers, personal brands (technically for Montenegro)
- .xyz for connecting generations X, Y, and Z and a worldwide audience – This one has gained some cred since Alphabet Inc, Google’s holding company, was an early adopter, using abc.xyz for their domain.
The benefits of newer gTLDs are that they are often cheaper and much easier to get than a .com. They can also help set you apart by being very niche-specific. For example, the .eco domain could be a great option for any website dedicated to environmental action.
The drawback is they can carry less memorability and trust. It’s up to you to weigh the risks and decide what’s best for your brand.
If you can, purchase multiple TLDs. The Beautiful Project was created by artist friends of ours as a movement of inspiration to help humanity live better right now. Their domain is perfect as thebeautifulproject.xyz, but we also purchased the premium domain name, thebeautifulproject.com.
Be sure to redirect your alternate top level domains to a single domain. Also, make sure to redirect all your domains (both www and non-www versions) to your SSL version.
Picking the best domain name and picking your brand name pretty much go hand in hand. Before choosing your domain name and social media handles, it’s important to think about what you want your brand to be. If you’ve already settled on a brand or business name, you need to make sure you can find an exact match (or as close as possible) domain equivalent. If there is no way to get the domain or TLD you want, you may want to rethink your name altogether.
It’s a good idea to brainstorm a few potential, brandable names, so have a couple of backups on the burner. A great tool for this is Google’s Keyword Planner to create a list of SEO keywords or to just organize your ideas into a spreadsheet.
Another helpful brainstorming tool is a domain name generator. One example is Lean Domain Name where you can just type a word like “coffee” and it will generate multiple .com domains.
To further help with this process, ask yourself these questions:
- What topics are you writing about?
- What’s the main focus of your site?
- Who is your audience?
These questions will help you come up with a brandable name that fits your area of focus really well.
Researching Domain Names
Once you think up some potential domain names, make sure to check and see that they aren’t already being used. You don’t want to get sued for copyright infringement! Be sure to search the free U.S. trademark database to see what’s already been registered or trademarked. You could also just Google the name you’re thinking of using to see if it pops up within the first few SERPs (search engine results pages). A great tool to check domain name ownership is WhoIs.
It’s also a good idea to check social media sites for the name you’re thinking of using. You want to have the same name across all social media to avoid any confusion. A good resource for checking social networks and trademarks for your potential name is Knowem. It shows if the name you want is available across 25 social media sites and if there are any trademarks already registered.
Registering Domain Names
Once you come up with the perfect name, be sure to register and reserve it ASAP. You would do this with a domain registrar which would be the home for your domain name. Domain registration usually costs only $8-16 yearly. You can get free domain registration through certain hosting sites, but it’s not worth saving a few dollars to not own your own site and brand. Some good and well-known domain name registrars are GoDaddy (note: we only like GoDaddy for domain name registration—nothing else), domains.google.com, and hover.com.
Always look for a domain registrar that is accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). And when registering the domain, always put yourself as the primary contact. Some hosting companies will register a domain on your behalf, in their name. You usually have the ability to change this, but make sure you can before you sign up. You want to be sure you are the owner of your domain.
Enable Domain ID Protection
Domain ID protection keeps your personal information safe from being searchable along with your domain. When you register your domain, regulations require that your personal information be entered into a publicly searchable database. The problem is that this database is often used by hackers and spammers. Domain ID protection helps prevent your site and personal information from getting stolen and used. GoDaddy offers dependable personal or personal and business privacy protection to keep your information and domain safe.
Buy Similar Sounding Domains
I’ve said it couple times already, but just want to drive the point home on this step. Once you build your consumer base, it’s a good idea to protect your brand by buying any available domains that sound like yours or are similiar (for example: if healingambassadors.com is your primary name, reserve healing-ambassadors.com, healingambassador.com, and thehealingambassadors.com). This is to prevent copycat competitors from capitalizing on your success. It also ensures that anyone who mistypes your domain name will be redirected to your site. You’d also want to buy all of the similar extensions (.net, .co) so that competitors can’t piggyback off of your brand.
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