How to Choose a Domain Name
Since your domain name can have a major impact on your online presence, what you choose is a vital first step in building your brand. Finding the perfect domain name, however, can be challenging.
While it’s true that there are millions of domain names available, many of the popular domain names that are easy to remember are taken. Fortunately, you can still get what you need if you go through a simple process and use a bit of imagination.
Make It Brandable, Not Generic
Creative, memorable domain names are always better than generic ones. After all, your domain name is how people will find, remember, and spread the word about your business on the internet. It’s much better to have something that aligns with your brand instead of a domain name that’s made up of a bunch of general keywords.
For example, can you tell the difference between cheapcarinsurance.com and affordableautoinsurance.com? Which one would you trust when it comes to buying insurance? Probably neither. Both sound a little spammy, and they’re terribly generic.
On the other hand, you’ll probably know where the domain names progressive.com or geico.com are going to point you to. Those companies have invested in their brands, and they’ve used them in their domain names. You can trust that these sites are legitimate.
Even if you haven’t built up trust and loyalty yet, you can start by choosing a strong domain name that fits your brand.
Choose the Right Domain Extension
When picking the extension or TLD for your domain name, “.com” is still the best choice unless you have a reason to choose something else. Roughly 43% of all domains have a .com extension, making it what people expect to see the most.
While Google confirms that your choice of TLD will not impact rankings, it does affect consumer perception. Many people view other TLDs as less trustworthy.
That said, .net or .org extensions are not uncommon, so they can be good secondary options if you find the perfect name and the coveted .com isn’t available.
But if you do decide to go with an extension other than a .com, make sure you take a look at what type of website is currently on the .com extension. Someone is bound to go there accidentally while looking for your brand. If the site holds fishy or offensive content, you might want to steer clear of that name altogether.
Finally, avoid those niche domain name extensions like .space, .club, .pizza, unless you really think they’ll enhance your brand.
Watch Domain Length
When it comes to domain name length, shorter is better. Search engines — Google in particular — give preference to easy-to-understand and simple domain names that deliver what they promise. URLs that are filled with numbers and special characters can hurt search engine rankings.
Your domain name should be as short as possible while still capturing the concept of your website. Short domains are easier to read, take up less room on marketing materials, and have a better chance at sticking in visitors’ memories.
The downside to short domain names is that there are fewer of them available. But, if your brand name is 100% unique or has some other creative element to it, you might be able to find something to fit the bill.
So, what is an acceptable length? Aim for 6 to 14 characters with a focus on the shorter end of that range.
Make It Memorable
Whatever domain you choose should also be memorable. It should be simple enough for anyone to spell and type.
Not sure if your domain name is memorable? Tell it to 10 friends and ask them if they can spell it. If more than a few struggle, you need to pick something else.
Provided your chosen domain name passes that first test, make sure it’s also easy to pronounce for the sake of word-of-mouth promotion. Use that same “10 friends” test as a guide. Write the domain name down and ask your friends to pronounce it. If no one struggles, you have a winner.
Think about some popular websites like Yahoo, Amazon, Reddit, and Twitter. Each is short and easy to spell. If you choose poorly, there’s a good chance that many of your visitors are going to end up on someone else’s website.
Avoid Numbers and Hyphens
Imagine asking your 10 friends to spell or pronounce a domain name filled with numbers and dashes. It won’t work.
If you choose a domain name with these elements, you’re likely going to lose traffic to people who can’t remember your domain or effectively tell someone else how to find it. We probably wouldn’t have Facebook today if you had to go to Face-Book.com to reach the site.
Check for Trademark Infringement
Both major and minor brands alike take issue with others using their trademarked names. Even if you’ve just made an innocent mistake, the legal hassle involved in a lawsuit and having to rearrange your web presence could be costly.
You can avoid these situations by using a trademark lookup tool before you finalize your choice.
Future-Proof Your Domain Name
Domains and websites are long-term investments. That means you should avoid choosing a domain name that includes a year or the latest trendy catchphrase.
Think about where your business or brand might be in five or ten years. If you provide basic SEO services now, you might end up expanding your offerings as your business grows. So, using the words “marketing” or “digital marketing” might be better descriptors than “SEO services.”
Use a Domain Name Generator
If you’re not the creative type, you can use a domain name generator to help spark some ideas. Simply enter in some words or phrases that describe your brand or website, and these tools will give you a list of ideas that you can then check for availability.