How to Choose a Domain Name
It’s pretty obvious domain names are not going out of style any time soon. Hence, it’s a good idea learn how to choose a domain name which doesn’t suck. Especially when there’s so many difference options, which can be overwhelming.
According to the most recent data, the fourth quarter of 2017 closed with approximately 332.4 million domain registrations across all top-level domains (TLDs). But don’t worry, there are still plenty of domain names left, and plenty of opportunity to let your creative side shine.
1. Keep it simple
This rule applies to pretty much anything in life, including your domain name. A great domain name is easy to type, pronounce and remember. It’s your online identity – people should be able to find you without much thought. If you need to explain it – it’s a bad domain name. Let’s break it down.
Easy to type
An eight year old should be able to type your domain name – that’s how easy it should be. Do you remember when Instagram.com was originally Instagr.am? The original domain was quite difficult to type, because no one was familiar with a .am TLD.
Startups cut corners on domain names, because great domains cost a lot of money. For a startup, it’s not a priority to get a good domain name, but rather show investors they have a valuable product. Later, they can buy any domain they like, even if it costs $100,000.
An easy to type domain name has no numbers, hyphens, or any other weird modifications.
Easy to pronounce
A good domain name is easy to pronounce. Many bloggers choose their personal name as a domain name. There are plenty of successful bloggers who this strategy worked out well for. But imagine if I decided to use my name? It’s not just a nightmare to pronounce for a non-Russian speaker, but it’s also a nightmare to type. So pick something that is pronounceable.
Easy to remember
A good domain name is easy to remember. How do you make something easy to remember? Well, people should be able to associate your domain with something else. There are plenty of reasons why major corporations like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Walmart put a lot of thought and money into creating a brand.
A brand is easy to recognize, because of how associative memory works. When you think about Coca-Cola, you immediately associate it with a bright red color. When you hear McDonalds, a large yellow letter M appears. Same concept should apply to your domain name.
Try to come up with something witty and unique – this should help trigger associative memory, and help remember your website.
2. Avoid using trademarks
When choosing a domain name you should try to avoid using trademarks as much as possible. I know it’s tempting to register something like AppleDigest.com when you want to review Apple products, but the reality is you’ll be under a constant threat of getting a lawsuit, which you’ll never win.
To avoid that it’s best not to use any trademarks, but rather spend a few more hours brainstorming something unique.
3. Stick with .com if possible
Should you go with a .com domain, or another TLD? Well, 10 years ago I would strongly advice you to get a .com domain simply because it was the most trusted, recognizable and widely available top level domain out there. Today, the situation is a bit different.
While it’s still highly recommended you get a .com domain, because it’s a lot more valuable if you manage to get something unique, short and brandable, it’s not the end of the world. Today, you can get away with pretty much any top level domain. Although, to be safe here’s the order of importance: .com, .net, .org, country specific domains like .ca, co.uk, etc.
4. Avoid slang, or technical language
If you’re an expert in a particular field it’s tempting to name your website something only a few people understand. Yes, it’s unique, but you will alienate a lot of people.
Let’s say you’re a chemistry teacher, who wants to share his knowledge not just with students, but the rest of the world. Naming your website SodiumCarbonateDecahydrate.com is a bad idea. Sure, anyone who knows chemistry will be able to type it, but what about the other 99.99%?
Instead try using something like SimplyChemistry.com, or ChemistryCourses.com – both of these are good, because they are easy to type, pronounce and visitors will be able to understand what the website is about even before visiting.
Same goes with slang words. I know the ‘dab’ is cool now, but five years from now no one will remember what it all was about. Do you want this to happen your website?
5. Use keywords
There are cases where using keywords in your domain could be better than coming up with a brandable name. For example, ChemistryCourses.com is great because it contains keywords, which are used to look up chemistry courses online.
It’s an easy way to drive search engine traffic without doing much search engine optimization. Same principle could apply to local services like plumbing, e.g. NYPlumber.com. In recent years targeting exact match domains has become less effective, it’s still a viable strategy in a niche with low competition.
6. Don’t be afraid to break the rules
All of the above are just general tips you should be aware of. You are not obligated to follow them. If you feel like you’ve come up with something unique, clever and brandable, but it does not follow any of the rules above, you should still go with it. Domain name is important, but it’s not everything. You can create a lot of value even with a bad domain name, it’s just depends on how much effort you put into it.
Did you know that Google’s parent company’s (Alphabet) domain name is abc.xyz?
It’s not just a clever choice for a company and domain name, but it’s also a clever choice for investors, because whenever they buy stock they are making an alpha bet. Just let that sink it.
With all of this information you should have a decent idea of how to choose a domain name. But to sum it all up – a great domain name is short, memorable, and unique.
Sometimes, it’s better to target keywords for certain niches with low competition, but you’re also not obligated to. Feel free to break the rules and don’t be afraid to experiment.
If you don’t know where to register domains cheaply, I highly recommend you check out NameCheap.
If you have any suggestions, or tips feel free to leave them below.