Everything you wanted to know about domains. What are domain names? How to find great ones? What is all the weird terminology around them?
Choosing a domain is one of the most exciting, important, and intimidating aspects of launching your website and business. Unfortunately, most people struggle with understanding know how to choose a domain. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are many different strategies to consider when choosing a domain name, and successful examples of each strategy.
From simple and direct such as diapers.com and cars.com; to eponymous listings such as NeilPatel.com and Oprah.com; to clever word combinations such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, to invented words such as twitter, google, and yahoo (which actually stands for “Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Oracle” – seriously).
But before we dive into how to choose a domain, let’s talk about why a strong domain is important in the first place.
Why Do I Need a Domain?
The easy answer to why do I need a domain name is: it’s 2019, and you should already have one. If you already accept this fact, go ahead and skip down to the more detailed sections on how to choose a domain name.
The internet is not a passing fad, and it’s not even just the future – it’s the present. Your business has to have an online identity, and that identity starts with your domain name.
When people search for your business, you want them to be able to find you easily. That requires being listed in all online directories, though obviously the most important of these is google.
In order to be listed in online search engines, you have to have an online presence. Basically, if you don’t have any online real estate, you don’t exist online. In 2019, if you don’t exist online, you pretty much don’t exist. That’s simple enough, right?
Gone are the days of the dotcom bubble when seemingly every new company adopted “dotcom” into their business name (see lingering relics such as: yahoo.com, godaddy.com, stamps.com, and the aforementioned diapers.com), but while you don’t need to make your business name “companydotcom” the domain you choose will still have an unbelievable impact on the success of your business. Which is why you’re here, right? You want to know how to choose a domain.
So let’s just dive into how to choose a good domain name for your business or your own personal use.
Good Website Names Have Good TLDs
Now that you know why having a domain is a must, we can get into the details of how to go about choosing good website names. It’s not enough to just have a list of domain name ideas and choose one – you need it to be a good, if not great, choice.
First, you’ll want to understand what your TLD (top-level domain) options could be. We’re talking about .com, .net, and the like. Good website names need to have a TLD that fits, and doesn’t feel forced. This is something you’ll want to keep in mind when you refine your domain name ideas list.
At the same time, good website names are now much more wide open than the old “it must be a .com” rule, which no longer seems to be in play. Businesses have shifted to far more disparate domains than the big top-level domains (these include the still-reigning champion .com, as well as local domains such as .ca for Canada, these include .net as well as .co and .org). From tech-savvy extensions such as .io including close.io and draw.io, to the adverb-like extension .ly which includes bit.ly, visual.ly and musical.ly; many companies are now branching out and using cool sounding extensions such as .iq, .xyz, .me and others. Even internet giants are doing this, as demonstrated by google’s parent company, Alphabet, which can be found at abc.xyz.
In many ways, choosing a domain name is more art than science, because you’ll want to weigh your options: .com is still the best extension, but most names have been snatched up already, so you’ll probably have to choose something unfortunately long or go with an irregular spelling – unless you’re willing and able to shell out the big bucks and buy your ideal domain from an existing business or domain squatter.
Whether you should go with a .com or lesser known extension depends on what’s available and what would best represent your business.
Refining Your Domain Name Ideas List
Beyond knowing which extensions/TLDs can work for you, there are other questions you can ask yourself when refining your domain name ideas list. We think Moz’s checklist provides a great set of them, so we’re going to borrow from that and put it into action below.
- Is it brandable?
- While diapers.com is direct and to the point, it’s incredibly hard to brand a common word, or even derivatives such as diaperstore.com or buydiapers.com. Something like diaperduty would be infinitely more brandable.
- Is it pronounceable?
- Consider the preferred language of your audience here, and try to avoid something that can easily be distorted into something offensive. It’s a little like trying to think of a cute, unique baby name that won’t easily lend itself to bullies at school.
- Is it short?
- People suck at spelling. It’s a fact, and we have to adjust for that. The longer your domain name is, the more likely it is that users will make an error while trying to get to your site. Going with antidisestablishmentarianism.com is all but guaranteeing you don’t get any direct traffic.
- Is .com available?
- If not, are other TLDs available? This should already be something you are thinking about, as we discussed in the last section.
- Does it infringe on trademarks?
- Choosing faceboook.com is clearly asking for a lawsuit, but other cases of infringement might not be so obvious. If you’re at all concerned about the liability of your domain name idea, consider consulting a lawyer before you buy.
- Is it intuitive?
- Despite brandability issues, diapers.com doesn’t leave much to the imagination. While you don’t need to be that on-the-nose, it’s not a bad practice to give users an idea of what your site does. Toys “R” Us is a perfect example here, though other examples abound.
- Does it include any keywords?
- This criterion is far less important for SEO now, but we keep it on our list because it tends to reinforce the intuitiveness parameter.
Pro Tip: if your business name or ideal domain name idea isn’t available, it’s okay to add a prefix or a suffix. So, if you’re looking for company.com and it’s unavailable, try thecompany.com, companyshop.com, or company.xyz.
How to Register a Domain Name
The first step to choosing and registering your domain name is seeing if it’s available. There is an almost endless list of registrars that sell domains, but here are several reputable sites we recommend:
Of course, if you’re using a website builder they may offer domain name options to purchase too. Our very own users can simply pick up a domain name from within their account when upgrading to a hosted website. It takes just one technical step on their end, and we take care of the rest.
If you’re not using a website builder, you’ll want to choose a company for your hosting. They’ll be able to help you with how to register a domain name, and the technical steps that follow. It’s possible to buy a domain name first and then choose hosting, but that will involve a few more technical steps so it’s just easier to either start with a free website builder or choose a hosting company.
That’s pretty much it when it comes to domain names. Armed with this info, you should know how to choose a domain name that works for you. Of course, we’re always happy to help, so if you have any further questions please ask away in the comments below.
Or just tell us some of the best domain name ideas you’ve come up with and what you chose. It’s always fun to see how creative people can be in coming up with good website names!