Your new dog eats your sock and throws up with a sound not unlike a constipated Wookiee. He is ever after known as Chewi. Well that was easy.
When it comes to choosing a domain name… not so easy. Your website name is your identity on the Internet. It serves a number of purposes, including giving people a clue as to what you do, and enticing them to click through and see more. It is also usually the first breath of life into your business idea, a necessary start that leads to a company email address, the building of your website, a logo, and other points along your branding journey.
But how do you make the domain name choice your first big success, and not your first glaring error? The following tips will help, and like most things, it all starts with the research…
Visit a domain registrar
Perhaps you already have an idea for a name? Stop by a registrar like GoDaddy to see if the name is available. If it is, thanks for reading, and good luck with the website! If not, GoDaddy will still set you up with a number of suggestions for names that are similar AND available.
Cheat off others
Take a look at your competitors, or other successful sites within your niche, to see what they are doing name-wise. They are successful for a reason, and it doesn’t hurt to pick up some pointers from someone who is much further than you in the journey.
Brainstorm with domain name generators
There are a number of tools out there that you can use to help you brainstorm domain name ideas, and many of them are free. Some will even check the availability of domains, or wade through social media to see if a name is available there. Three that I like include:
Check social media
Now that we’ve brought it up… Social media is a huge part of any branding/marketing that you’ll be doing (or it should be), so it doesn’t hurt to check Twitter, Instagram, and others to see if your perfect domain name is available as handles on those platforms. Even if the name isn’t available, you might still be able to choose something close enough to be workable.
If the domain name you’re trying to come up with is for a local business – and your customer base is going to be largely local – consider using your actual town or city name within the domain name (ex. toledobrickworks.com). This will not only help people find you, but will make it easier for search engines to index you.
Hire a brainstormer
One man’s trash…
Another possible option for names is old ones that were dropped by a previous owner. A great tool to browse through these is the free site justdropped.com. Be careful here though, as the name might have been discarded for a good reason (ex. it was used for malicious purposes, or was blacklisted for some reason). Use tools like Who.Is or the Wayback Machine to check out a domain’s past.
The domain you come up with might not have any malicious ghosts in its past, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have litigious ones. Make sure your domain name isn’t going to be stepping on any legal toes, either through copyrights or trademarks. You don’t want to get a couple of years down the road and have to give up your name or discover yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. The United States Patent and Trademark Office is a good place to start this kind of search.
Consider your name carefully
Make sure that your domain name doesn’t have any bad associations tied to it, or uses words that have double meanings. And double check that the domain name isn’t going to accidentally bring you traffic or headaches you may not want, such as Pen Island’s penisland.net or Go Tahoe North’s gotahoenorth.com. And don’t even get me started with the Master Bait and Tackle Shop’s choice for a domain name.
Keep it simple
This is probably one of the best things to keep in mind when it comes to brainstorming domain name ideas: keep it simple. You want a name that is going to be easy to remember, for starters. It’s hard to get word of mouth traffic when “Oh hell, what was that again?” is what your name mainly conjures up. Other things to think about here:
-Make it short. Short is not only simpler to remember, but a lot easier to thumb type on a smartphone. It’s also easier to share.
-Avoid numbers and hyphens. Is your name 5cheesepizzas or fivecheesepizzas, and how will people know the difference when it comes up in conversation? And nobody-will-remember-all-the-dashes-in-this-name.com (it’s probably a little long, as well).
-Avoid acronyms. If your name is Andy Brown’s Certified Carpentry, abccarpentry isn’t going to help people find you in search engines.
-Avoid text speak in names. No LOL, 4U, or SMH allowed. People won’t know how to spell these out, and it certainly doesn’t look professional, ffs.
Avoid trendy humor
The Meme of the Day may seem hysterical at the moment, but you don’t want it as a domain name when it fades into obscurity (or worse, becomes a cliché).
What do you do?
This came up in the intro, but it bears repeating: give some indication in your name as to what you do. People should be able (boisebanquets.com) to look at your name (smithvilleplumbing.com) and get some indication what it is that you do or make (moonshinesnowglobes.com).
Be mindful of target keywords and phrases
While generally a much deeper conversation involving optimizing pages for search engine placement (SEO), you should still give some thought to keywords and phrases when setting out to choose a domain name. I used an earlier example of boisebouquets.com. People looking for a florist might search for florists, or they might search for bouquets, roses, floral, buy flowers, cheap daisies, etc.
Putting keywords (or phrases) in your name will not only give people an idea of what you do, but also drive your site up the search results when people are looking for, say, a florist that sells bouquets in Boise.
The Keyword Tool is a great way to find a variety of keywords and phrases that you can use not only in your domain name, but throughout your site to get relevant organic search traffic.
Pick the right extension
By extension here we mean the .com, .net, etc. bits that come after a domain name. There are actually hundreds that you can choose from, including everything from .ads and .dvr to .got and .zip. With so many to pick from, what do you choose?
Unless you have a really good reason to do otherwise (ex. you’re in a specific industry), stick with a top level domain like .com. Top level extensions are the most common, and the most recognized. Using a top level domain extension will also legitimize whatever business you slap it on, making you look official right out of the box.
Grab other extensions and spellings
So, you have yourname.com. Make sure you also pick up yourname.net, yourname.biz, and maybe yourname.org. Redirect all of these to your site so that people making a mistake will still find you, and no one else can try to muscle in on your branding. You may wish to also pick up any common misspellings of your domain name and redirect them to your site as well.
Hopefully these tips will get you started. Domain names are inexpensive and going fast, so I don’t recommend procrastinating. If you have a domain naming tip you’d like to add, share it in the comments!