Choosing a Great Domain Name
In many ways, choosing a domain name for your new website feels like the hardest part of setting up any new website.
The important thing to remember is that your domain name is as much a part of your identity as your personal brand, your blog content, or your company logo and products.
For domain names, as in real estate, having the right address can make all the difference. Before visitors see your layout, content, and branding, your domain name is the first impression they have.
Convoluted strings of incomprehensible prefixes, varyingly successful attempts at niche humor, and over-acronymed domain names can all send visitors packing before they even open the page.
Whoa, that’s a lot of pressure!
Luckily, these ten tips for picking your domain name should ease the process.
1. If Possible choose “.com”
When it comes to domain names, you have the option to register everything from a standard “.com” URL to a country-specific extension like “.tv” (Tuvalu) or “.ly” (Libya).
A domain name ending in .com is like a location on Fifth Avenue or Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Newer top level domains (TLDs) like .tech and .club are gaining acceptance with internet users, especially younger ones, but .com remains the gold standard. More than 90% of users rate .com sites as trustworthy.
- Think about it: If you’re going to buy a Chanel watch, would you feel more comfortable spending tens of thousands of dollars at chanel.com or chanel.biz?
Unless you have a truly compelling reason to register an alternative domain extension, stick with “.com” for best results.
2. Purchase other domain extensions, too
When you register your .com domain name, pick up top-level domain variations like .biz and .net if you can. Redirect them to your .com site so visitors who type in the wrong domain will still find your site.
For example, sephora.biz, sephora.net and sephora.info all take you straight to Sephora.com.
As the number of domain names registered continues to increase, good names are becoming more and more competitive. For this reason, it’s possible to have a competitor snatch up the “.net” or “.biz” version of your URL – even if you’ve secured the “.com” version.
Because this can lead to lost traffic – especially if your competitors wind up outranking you in the search engine results pages – consider buying up popular TLDs (top-level domains) for your chosen domain, if they’re available.
3. Aim for no more than three words
If your domain is more than three words long, people will have a hard time remembering it. That means fewer site visitors. For example, which is easier to remember and type: “www.handmadepaper.com” or “www.handmadepaperforscrapbooksandweddings.com”?
For best results, keep things short, sweet and easy to remember!
4. Avoid “cutesy” names and abbreviations
Don’t use cute shorteners like 4U and 2U in your domain names because:
- They’re hard to remember.
- They look unprofessional.
- Only Prince could get away with that, and 4 real UR not Prince.
If you think people might have trouble remembering long URLs, know that they’ll have a field day trying to remember your text-speak domain name! Steer clear and look for alternative domain names that convey your company’s brand messaging without resorting to tricks like these.
5. Don’t make it awkward
Domain names don’t include spaces, and using hyphens in domain names is a terrible idea, so whatever you choose shouldn’t look awkward written as one word.
To see what we mean, consider the real-life URLs for the following legitimate company names:
- Pen Island – “www.penisland.net”
- IT Scrap – “www.itscrap.com”
- Who Represents – “www.whorepresents.com”
- Experts Exchange – “www.expertsexchange.com”
- Speed of Art – “www.speedofart.com”
Clearly, carefully reviewing your final selection before hitting the “Register” button is always a good idea!
6. Manage customer expectations
When a customer sees a name like billreducer.com, they have one expectation in mind: this website is going to help me save money by reducing my bills in some way.
Choose a name that is going to let customers know what they are in for from the moment they read it. Your site should deliver what it says on the label, and your domain name is the label.
For example, if you sell pet supplies in Tulsa, www.tulsapetsupplies.com makes that clear to visitors in a way that, say, www.treatsandtoys.com does not.
7. Choose a domain that’s easy to remember
Customers will find your website URL on flyers, newsletters, search queries, and other websites so making the address stick is key.
Memorable domain names are often short, clever, and avoid trendy humor, hyphens or numbers. The longer or more complicated the domain name, the less likely it is to stick. A good rule of thumb is if you saw the domain name on a delivery-truck sign, could you remember it later?
8. Stay clear of copyright issues
Don’t get into a trademark or copyright spat with an established business over your domain name. Check before you register to make sure you’re not even close to copying a competitor or another business.
Even if your last name is McDonald and you’re opening a burger stand, go with a name that doesn’t infringe on the fast-food giant’s intellectual property.
9. Unlock the power of keywords
Internet search is based on a framework of keywords and phrases when indexing addresses and sites, so why not take advantage of this when choosing your domain name?
Brainstorm keywords related to your organization and use these in shaping your chosen name. For example, your butcher’s shop might name meat, butcher, smoked, cured, savory, friendly, and service as descriptive keywords for your business. An appropriate name might then be SavoryService.com or TheSmilingButcher.com. Either domain respects the fact that search engines work off of such keywords when indexing and fetching information for users, while providing a description of what customers can expect in the process.
What keywords do people use to search for businesses like yours? Use them in your domain name if you can.
10. Protect your privacy
When you register your domain, the rules of the internet require that you give your
- real name
- home or business address
- email address
- phone number
Anyone online can find that information through the global WHOIS database. Don’t want randos looking up your contact info? Sign up for HostGator’s WHOIS privacy service when you register. We’ll replace your private information with ours.