8 Rules for Choosing a Domain Name - Whiteboard Friday
How to Pick a Good Domain Name for Your Website
One of the tricks of creating a popular and successful website – whether it be a business or a blog – is to pick a good domain name. However, picking domain names is a relatively tricky endeavor. Not only do you need to make sure potential visitors to your site will understand and remember the name, but you must do some research to see if a name you like is viable. Ultimately, though, by picking a concise and unique name, thinking about the future, and researching potential names, you’ll be able to pick a domain that will work for you.
Choosing a Short and Memorable Name
Pick a creative and unique name.Unique names are names that you can build a brand around. At the same time, generic names are names that are easily forgotten or confused with competitors. Thus, try to find a domain name that your customers or visitors will be able to identify.
- Think about tying two different words together. For example, the name YouTube is very simple, but is also memorable. Another example could be adding the words "dog" and "lover" together to get doglover.com.
- Consider merging or mashing words together. A great example of this is the website Flickr.
- Add a prefix or suffix to a word. Spotify is a great example of this.
Choose a concise domain name.The shorter your domain name, the easier it will be for people to remember. Remembering a domain name is very important from a marketability perspective.
- Internet experts suggest using one or two words if possible.
- The less number of characters, the better. The average number of characters in the names of the top 100,000 websites is 9. A website like Amazon.com is well under this. A website named thebestonlinecandystore.com would be well over 9, and would make an unattractive domain name.
Keep it simple.In other words, choose a name that is easy to type and say. This will help visitors remember your website’s name. If you don’t have a simple name, people will forget it, might not be able to spell it, and may get it confused with other websites.
- Don’t use numbers. In most instances, customers or visitors may forget numbers and confuse your website with another.
- Stay away from hyphens. People will forget them.
- Avoid acronyms. For example, an acronym of John’s Videos and Games (JVG) won’t tell potential customers much about your business.
- Unless it’s catchy, your simple name should give visitors an idea of what they will find at your website.
- Try saying the name of the website out loud. The best names roll of your tongue and are catchy. Good examples of this include Google, Amazon, Facebook, and YouTube.
Researching Your Potential Name
Ask others.You should always keep in mind that it’s not what you like, but what you have researched and know that your visitors/customers will like. Just because you like the name or think it sounds good does not mean everyone else is going to like it.
- Run potential names by others in your organization. For example, if your website will sell goods, ask your sales managers. If you have a blog, ask other bloggers.
- If you have a small website, ask family members or friends what they think of your potential names.
- Hire a marketing or consulting firm to give you feedback or recommendations for names.
Run a search for similar names.Another way of researching potential names is to run an internet search to see what other people have. By exploring the internet and seeing what your competitors or even non-related businesses have chosen, you’ll get a lot of ideas.
- Search for websites that are in the same business as you. For example, if you sell tools online, look for other tool websites.
- Take a look at the names of the top 100, 500, or even 1000 websites. By doing this, you’ll get an idea of what the most successful websites have in common.
- Use your search as an opportunity to rule out names that are already taken, or names that are very like those used by other companies.
Make sure your name is not trademarked.Be very careful not to register domain names that include trademarked names. Thus, you should search to see if your website does not violate someone’s trademark.
- Stay away from domain names in which part of the name is trademarked. You might wind up having to give up your domain name (and the brand you’ve built around it.)
- Even if you believe your domain name is untouchable by a business that has trademarked a name, do not take the chance. The cost of litigation is extremely high.
- Search for trademarks at: .
Pick the right extension.The extension you pick is very important, as it provides information about the type of business or website you are running. At the same time, the public has varying conceptions about different extensions. While most people trust “.com” extensions, they may be wary of “.biz” extensions.
- The most popular and often preferred extension is the .com extension. Roughly 75% of websites have it.
- Many web experts advise that if the .com is too expensive or is taken, you should probably try the .net or .org extensions – whichever is more appropriate. The .org extension is best used for nonprofit organizations. The .net extension is often used by companies that offer internet services.
- Other popular extensions include .info .biz, and .us. The .info extension is best used for websites that offer information to the public, the .biz extension is best used for businesses, and the .us extension should be used by companies located in the United States.
- Stay away from obscure extensions like .cheap or .camera.
Consider different names.Once you’ve got an idea of what you want your name to be, you should make a list of a variants. By doing this, you’ll be able to experiment with different names that might be similar but could be more memorable.
- Try simple changes in your name. For example, if your site will be called "MikesTools.com", you should also consider buying "MikeTools.com" and "MikeTool.com.”
- Try changing the subject of your name. For example, if the name of your company is Mike's Tools, you may want to consider domain names that target what you sell. For example, try "buyhammers.com.”
Play with a domain name generator.Domain name generators will ask you to input a keyword and then will generate available names. While you may not like any of the names generated, they’ll provide you with ideas.
- Use Wordoid. While this is not a domain name generator, you can input a word and it will provide you with new or similar words.
- Experiment with DomainHole. This is a domain name generator that help you create new domain names based off a keyword you supply.
- Other popular sites that may help you come up with ideas for your domain name include: Name Mesh, Dot-o-mator, NameStation, and Domainr.
Thinking About the Future
Commit yourself to your domain name.Whatever domain name you decide on, you should make sure that you are committed to it for the long run. If you’re not, you’ll face substantial tangible and intangible costs if you decide to change in the future.
- Make your domain name part of your business’s short, mid, and long-term business plans. For example, try to imagine where your web business will be in 1, 5, and 10 years.
- Plan to stick with your name for the indefinite future. View your domain name as part of your overall brand and reputation.
Choose a name that allows room for growth.While it may be tempting to choose a name that gives a very specific sense of your business, it might be a better approach to pick a name that is a bit broader.
- If you sell hardware, it might be tempting to pick a name that directly reflects that. However, such a specific name could limit your growth in the future if you choose to sell other types of products, too.
- Unique and catchy names like “Amazon” or “Google” are simple and lend themselves to the ability to expand into different businesses.
Avoid a trendy name.While it may be tempting to pick a name that reflects what is trendy at the moment, this could backfire as the trend fades. If you pick something trendy, your domain name could go out of fashion or seem dated in the future.
- Stay away from slang, jargon, or trendy words of the moment. For example, words like “salty,” “dab,” “respek,” “suh,” or similar words that are popular with millennials now might be a recipe for failure in 5 or 10 years.
- Don't register your domain name with just anybody. There are hundreds of sites on the web that you can register with. Before anything do some research to see what Domain Registrar will fit the needs of your website.
- Just because your domain name is already taken does not mean you should give up. A lot of people will purchase domain names and sit on them until someone else wants to buy it from them – at a higher price of course. Make sure to look up the domain name you want to see if there is another site listed under it. If not, try to contact the person who owns it to see if it is up for sale.
- When researching domain names, use a WHOIS database to check if the domain name is registered. Just because no website is connected to www.yourdomainname.com does not mean the domain name is not taken.
- If possible, stay away from alternate spellings such as c4t.com for cat, unless you are targeting a specific audience (e.g. millennials who are more familiar with alternative spellings), or can grow your brand long-term. c4t may be a great domain name, however, you always run the risk of losing potential visitors to the actual cat.com website, as some visitors will be confused or just forgetful and type cat.com into the address bar.
Video: How to Choose a Good Domain Name
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