When starting a new website for your business, choosing a domain name is an important step to ensure you maximize your website’s visibility. It also helps in making your brand recognizable and stand out from the competition. But finding the perfect name isn’t as easy as it used to be, as many of the best ones have already been taken.
Buying a domain is only the first step in having a website. Next, you’ll need to find a hosting service that will give your site a place to live. We recommended Bluehost, which offers domain registration, website hosting, and a business email address for just $2.95 per month. Click here to check out their hosting plans.
Here are 25 tips from the experts to help you out in choosing a domain name:
1. Make the Domain Name Instantly Intuitive
Rand Fishkin, Co-Founder, Moz.com
If you believe that a member of your target audience could immediately associate the domain name with a good guess of what they think you do, that is a big positive. Meaning they could look at your domain name and say, “Oh, I’m guessing they probably do this. This is probably what that company is up to.”
You can view more tips from Rand in his article, 8 Rules for How to Choose a Domain Name.
2. Look for a Domain Name That’s Available Across All Social Media Channels
Carolyn Wilman, Sweepstakes Marketing Strategist, ContestQueen.com
Come up with something catchy that reflects what you do and can be remembered easily, plus one that is available across all social channels. I bought Contest Queen off a “squatter” for $500. It was worth every penny, as I have built an entire brand around it. The mistake I did make was not grabbing my name on every social channel the moment it launched. On some I am @ContestQueen and others @TheContestQueen.
Click here to search if your domain name is available across over 500 social media networks.
3. Conduct a Trademark Search to Make Sure the Domain Name Is Legally Available
P. Betty Tufariello, Esq., Founder and CEO, Intellectulaw™
Domain names are not considered intellectual property. However, the use of a domain name that is confusingly similar to a trademark—i.e., one form of intellectual property—can cause a tremendous amount of problems for the owners of a new business with a new website. It is not unusual for a person or a business entity to adopt a domain name deemed available by the domain name registrar, start using the domain name in connection with a website, and suddenly receive a cease and desist demand. This leads to having to contend with a shutdown of the website or the page by Facebook, among others, because the domain name is considered a trademark infringement. Thus, prior to adopting a domain name, it is very important to conduct a trademark search by someone who does trademark searches and can offer an opinion as to the availability of the domain name. The trademark search must NOT be limited to just the USPTO. It must include all known trademark databases—both nationally and internationally—and a common law search.
4. Search for Domain Names from Failed Businesses in Your Industry
Sam Firer, Public Relations, Consulting, Concept Development, Hall Company
Coming up with domain names for new businesses is one of my absolutely favorite parts of my business. One of my favorite tricks is to check out demised businesses in the same industry, and then see if the domain name has lapsed. If so, grab it! Click here to check out the guide for dropped domains!
Marc Prosser, Co-Founder, Fit Small Business
“Spinning your wheels” when it comes to thinking up a great name? Sometimes it helps to let someone on the “outside” take a crack at it. Brainstorm with creative minds at Fiverr and you can get a whole list of potential business names for as little as $5—then all you have to do is choose your favorite! Click here to get started.
6. Make Sure the Domain Name You Want Isn’t Blacklisted or Penalized
David Mercer, Founder, SME Pals
One of the most important considerations when choosing a new domain name (that most webmasters don’t think about) is to first check whether or not the domain is blacklisted or potentially penalized by Google. Spammers use a technique called “churn and burn,” which relies on fooling Google by using spam into ranking their domain, and then dumping the site once Google catches them. In this way, they can profit for a few months (or years, depending on how and when Google catches it), and get rid of the domain once it’s penalized.
Unwary and legitimate webmasters then purchase the newly available domain—oblivious to the fact that it will be next to impossible to generate any sort of organic traffic because of existing penalties. It can put you at a serious disadvantage to start out with a penalized domain.
To check if your domain is potentially penalized, you can:
7. Don’t Get Married to One Domain Name Generator
Oleg Korneitchouk, Director of Digital Marketing, SmartSites
The perfect domain name really depends on the purpose of the website. Are you building a brand? Bringing awareness to an issue? Creating a personal blog/resume? Depending on the intent, you are either looking for a catchy/brandable or informative domain (a great domain will be both, but they are diamonds in the rough). I like to play around with the countless domain name generators that are available online. These make it easy to mix and match your keywords, add common internet prefixes/suffixes, and see which domains are still available. After you have a list of three to five solid domains, ask others which they like best.
8. Aim for Top Level Domain Name (.com, .org, .edu)
Michael Edelberg, SVP, Viable Operations and IT Solutions
We source many domains for our clients and most seek a TLD (Top Level Domain) for good reason. A dot-org will immediately tell the user they are looking at a non-profit. Others need to be closer to the company name or type of business—that also includes redirects for region or other business lines. We’ve also dealt with people looking to buy and sell and squatters too. There are SEO issues to take account of as well.
9. Make a List of Multiple Potential Names Instead of Just One
Maggie Aland, Marketing and Review Editor, Fit Small Business
There’s nothing more frustrating than coming up with the “perfect” domain name, only to discover that someone else is using it. To solve this problem, make a list of 10-15 domain name ideas first. Then use the Bluehost domain search tool to check if your website names are available. If your name is not free, Bluehost will offer some similar sounding names for you to consider.
10. Know When to Include Geographic Terms
Donald E. Petersen, Owner, Law Office of Donald E. Petersen
Choosing a domain name involves a choice between marketing a brand and emphasizing the product or service provided. For many service providers, including law firms, this can be a difficult choice. For companies with an established product line, it’s usually a less difficult choice at the initial fork in the decision tree. One tricky choice is to decide whether to include a geographic term such as the city or state that the business is located in. It’s wise to include a geographic term if the business’ customer base is local, especially if the business does not maintain brick-and-mortar facilities in other cities. Google’s local search appears to be increasingly geocentric, but sites whose URL includes a geographic descriptor appear to still dominate in competitive search terms (such as most fields of law).
11. Purchase Common Misspellings and AKAs of Your Domain Name as Well
Lindsay Duggan Martinez, Corporate Marketing Manager, Etna Interactive
It’s important to not only purchase your decided domain, but to also purchase common misspellings of that domain and any “AKA”s you may have. You will want these to then redirect to your intended site. For example, do you remember when it was “thefacebook.com” and not “facebook.com”? It didn’t even redirect if you excluded the “the” from the domain—you would get a 404 page! You want to be sure to purchase any domain that a user may assume is your address or may visit by an accidental slip of the finger on the keyboard.
12. Avoid Using Hyphens and Acronyms
David Alexander, Designer, Developer, and Digital Marketer, Maze Press
I often have clients come to me for design help and wish they had asked for my input before going ahead and purchasing a domain. One good tip to remember is to avoid hyphenated domain names. Explaining to people that they need to put a dash between two words—or, heaven forbid, three or more—is a painful process. You are better off with something original if the non-hyphenated version is already taken and in use. You should also avoid acronyms like “abc-this” or “abc-that” won’t help you rank for your brand name if the “abc” stands for something like Apex Building Consultants. Instead, you will end up competing with all of the other unoriginal companies using an acronym as one of their brand identities.
13. Buy a Domain Name That Fits Your Business’ Maturity Level
Michael Cyger, Publisher, DNAcademy
There are generally three stages for businesses: bootstrapped startup, profitable SMB, and well-funded startup or large company—and the key is to match your domain name to your business’ current maturity level. The bootstrapped startup hasn’t proven their product/service-market fits, nor that their business model will work, so they should go with a hand-registered domain name to get up and running and minimize expenses and risk. The SMB is (roughly) a $100,000 to $10 million business, and a domain name should be a thoughtful part of your marketing activities. You have proven your business works, so now is the time to upgrade your domain name to a shorter, broader, and more memorable option. The well-funded startup or large company is likely only limited by their aspirations and vision. DoorBot.com, a doorbell with video camera that lets you see who’s at your door on your phone, upgraded to Ring.com for $1 million over time—a domain name that was shorter, broader (“rings” of security including front door, property, neighborhood), and much more memorable.
For anyone who’s in the process of choosing a domain name, you’ll certainly come across the term “brandable domain name” more than once. This is a big factor that business owners have to consider if they want to make the most out of a long-term investment like a brand name. Find out from Jason Halstead what makes a domain name “brandable.”
15. Aim for a Unique Name That Sums Up Your Business Market
Steve James, Marketing Lead, Opus Consulting Group Ltd.
Google’s strides in becoming more semantic (using human turns of phrase and understanding) means that your website name has to be found easily in search. If you can’t get www.ABCCompany.com (or a suffix aimed at your own geographic market), then aim for a unique name that sums up that businesses market—such as www.getmoresales.com—rather than simply getting a title that is “close” to your own name. Google may not recognize that name as anything to do with your business, leading to a lower search placement. Unlike a physical business address, you have the opportunity to choose your own online business name, so make sure it is both specific and unique. If you are looking for walk-in traffic and the obvious names are taken, try something built on your physical address, like www.cornerof4thandmain.com.
16. Add a Word to Your Chosen Domain Name if It’s No Longer Available
Safa Mahzari, Founder & CEO, Alluxo Inc.
I like to think of a domain name like a piece of digital real estate. For one, shorter is better. I find that shorter domain names are easier to remember and to stay on top of the mind. If your brand name dot-com is taken, look at adding a word before it. For example, Dropbox recently filed for their initial public offering (IPO), but started out as a company with the domain “getdropbox.com.” The getdropbox URL now redirects to their dropbox.com, so users don’t have to remember a new domain name. Common words are “get,” “try,” “join,” and so on.
17. Choose an Easy-to-Type, Easy-to-Pronounce Domain
Joann Doan, Marketing Manager, CountingWorks
This might be easier said than done in cases where you are using your name as your domain name. However, in other cases, try to choose a name that is easy to remember, pronounce, and spell. This makes it easier for word-of-mouth referrals or when visitors try to type it in. The bottom line is—your domain name is often the first thing prospective clients see, hear, say, and type, so your choice of words should have a good trade-off between good branding and good search engine optimization.
18. Make Use of Search Tools
Kevin Tash, President and CEO, Tack Media
A great tool to use from Godaddy is http://justdropped.com/, showing you domain names that just became available. It’s a domain tool that lets you find domains that expired. You can actually type in keywords that “begin,” “contains,” or “end” with a certain word, and it helps you find a domain extension of your choice.
19. Avoid “Exact Match” Domains for your Mothership
Michael Hayes, Chief Marketing Officer, Empire Maids NYC
“Exact Match Domains,” or EMDs, are domain names that exactly match a popular keyword that people search for. For example, if you ran a florist in New York City, “FloristNYC.com” might look like an attractive option. I recently saw a pizzeria on First Avenue called “Best Pizza on 1st Avenue,” and I’m sure that they had search engines in mind when they picked that name. While this is an effective “tactic,” it doesn’t extend to an effective “strategy” for long-term success. These exact match domains rarely make for recognizable brands, so they violate marketing’s best practices. Furthermore, don’t tie your businesses future to the whims of an algorithm, which may or may not favor exact match domains in the future.
If you do want to garner some SEO benefit, consider “partial match” domains, which include part of a keyword or location and help establish relevance. Then again, if you are in it for the long haul, these eventually become minor enough factors that you can succeed without them.
20. Always Purchase Your Domain in Your Own Name
Krista Baroncelli, Account Manager, Efferent Media, Inc.
When purchasing your business domain name, always be sure to purchase it yourself in your own name. If you don’t understand how to, have your developer help you, but never in their name. This can get ugly upon a split from that company. I’ve had this happen several times with clients of ours, and typically, when leaving a company, opinions are not always nice. Think of your domain name like your Social Security number on the web. Your emails and website are directly affected by it, and if someone else has access to it, it can mean trouble.
21. Do NOT Make an Emotional Decision on a Domain Name
Tressa Sanders, Founder, Stack English
This was my number one mistake. I would get inspired, instantly come up with a domain name based on the emotion of being inspired, and I would buy it. Then about 15-20 minutes later, when I came down from my inspiration high, I would realize I just bought a bad domain name. Sometimes realizing the mistake comes as soon as I hit the “purchase” button. A domain name should be carefully considered, just as one would do for the title of a book. It needs to be evaluated for its usefulness to your business and your brand, so you should start with a little brainstorming first.
22. You Can Purchase Your Chosen Name from Its Current Owner
Jeff Morin, Owner, Uber Signal
Sometimes it’s worth purchasing a domain from the person or organization that owns it. It may cost some cash up front, but the long-term value of a “brandable” domain name can be huge. While it may seem intimidating and the initial prices that are quoted can be high, many times that can be negotiated down to a reasonable rate that works for both parties.
Choose your domain name carefully by performing due diligence checks on its history. As mentioned in our previous tips, it’s important to make sure that you are able to legally own a domain name before you purchase it. Here are some tips and tools on how to check the history of your domain names.
Domain names and extensions are one of the most important choices you will ever make for your business, so it’s important to know which factors to consider. Not all domain extensions are equal, and putting enough time and attention to your decision can help you come up with the most suitable one for your business. If you’re having trouble deciding on domain extensions, check out this article to know how to make the right choice.
It’s easy to be tempted to use your own name as your domain name, but as a rule, you should put careful consideration in the idea. If your website is a blog, a podcast, or a personal website, your name can be a good choice for a domain. This article lists eight great examples of personal domain names in action that you can check out.
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