When it comes to establishing a unique brand identity online, choosing a domain name for your business or personal website is an essential step, along with selecting the best website builder to create the site and the best web hosting. Registering a domain name is simple and the cost varies depending on the registrar and domain extension you choose.
Additionally, many of the best web hosting services include a free domain name as part of their subscription plans. If you check out a number of well-known hosting providers, be sure to check out their offers for new subscribers, as you just might end up saving some money.
However, if you’re wondering exactly how to choose a domain name for your website, this article will walk you through some key considerations and help you find a top name idea and the right extension for your site.
Step 1: Understand Legacy TLDs, New TLDs, and ccTLDs
Traditional top-level domain (TLD) extensions such as .com, .net, and .org have always been considered the gold standard. Unfortunately, domain names containing common dictionary words with traditional TLDs are usually taken. Sometimes you have the option of saving them for a premium price, but it can cost hundreds of dollars.
It is, however, easier to find traditional TLDs for domains based on unusual and unique brand names. Either way, if your chosen domain name is available with a .com or .net extension, you should consider grabbing it.
If your business and most of your customers are based in a country that uses country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) like .co.uk, .ca, or .com.au, it’s best to stick with to these extensions because the premises are used. for them. Registration of ccTLDs is often limited to people living in those particular countries and ensures that you will not be competing for domain names with the rest of the world.
Although old school TLDs are still considered superior, you should also explore several newer and more descriptive extensions like .tattoo, .studio, .tech, .yoga, etc. These domain extensions are cheaper to acquire in many cases, and Google has stated that traditional TLDs have no ranking or SEO advantage over newer TLDs.
Step 2: Consider keyword-based domain names
Keywords are popular search terms that people use to find information on search engines. Having keywords in your domain name makes it clear what your business is about.
For example, if you own a business called “Brandon’s Plumbing” in Ithaca, NY, choosing a domain name like IthacaPlumber.com might be more advantageous than BrandonsInc.com. When a potential customer’s search term is right in your domain name, that’s a signal that you’re exactly what they’re looking for.
But that’s not the whole story. Until a few years ago, search engines like Google rewarded keyword-rich sites with higher rankings in their search results. SEO was all about including as many keywords as possible in website copy and domain names. But this policy created the opportunity for unscrupulous people to game the system by creating low-quality websites with keyword-rich domain names and content.
As a result, these websites are now considered untrustworthy by both real people and search engines. Indeed, search engines have changed their algorithms to discourage domain names with several specific keywords. And according to Google’s John Mueller: “There is no ranking advantage associated with the presence of keywords in a domain name.”
Best practice is to use keywords sparingly when registering a domain name. A website called IthacaPlumber.com might not give you much SEO benefit, but it points out a specific service and location to a potential customer. However, a domain like BestCheapIthacaPlumber.com filled with low-quality content can trigger scrutiny and ranking penalties from search engines.
Step 3: Think of names that look like brands
There are plenty of examples of unusual, creative, tacky names that make great brands. Names like Google, Twitter, Yandex, Yahoo and Adidas are some examples.
The benefit of choosing an unusual word for your domain name is that it stands out and is likely not trademarked. The downside is that it may not be immediately memorable and may require some marketing work to stick in people’s minds.
If you already have an established brick-and-mortar brand, it might be worth sticking with it as your domain name. If it’s not available as a .com, .net, or .org TLD, you might consider choosing from an ever-growing list of newer, more descriptive extensions such as .tech, .space, or .yoga , depending on the nature of your business.
But if your business will be primarily online, finding a creative and customizable name might be your best bet. Just write down a few ideas on a piece of paper, say them out loud, and ask yourself if they sound like brand names. People usually have a keen instinct for what a good brand name looks like.
Step 4: Does your domain name pass the radio test?
The radio test is simple. If someone hears your domain name on the radio, will they understand, remember and be able to spell it? This useful technique ensures that the chosen name is short, simple and memorable.
Of course, radio testing extends to all word-of-mouth advertising, including podcasts, talking about your online business in a coffee shop, or mentioning an email address associated with your website. Ask yourself if a potential customer will be able to recall your domain after hearing it once in passing.
Step 5: Stay away from hyphens, numbers, and misspellings
Many people use dashes and numbers between keywords when the names they have chosen are not available. These things can complicate an otherwise great domain name and make it harder to remember. Is it learn2kazoo.net, learntokazoo.net or learn-2-kazoo.net?
Another reason to exclude hyphens is that since many visitors use mobile devices, typing a hyphen will force them to switch between keyboards. It’s best to avoid adding an extra step that might discourage potential customers.
You might think that having a strangely spelled word would make your domain name stand out. Names like avidgardenr.com or catzanddogz.com may sound creative on paper, but they will be hard for new customers to remember.
The same goes for abbreviations. Do not shorten common words in your domain name, such as st for street, apt for apartment, or mgmt for management. Shorter domain names are generally better, but not at the expense of clarity.
Step 6: Beware of Trademarks
Before choosing a name, it is best to check if it is already registered. This way, you can be sure that the domain name you choose is uniquely associated with your brand and won’t land you in legal trouble.
Verification of brand names is simple and free. You can use the United States Patent and Trademark Office website or find several other resources by doing a quick Google search.
Is the name available as a Twitter handle? How about Instagram and Facebook? Before choosing a domain name, ask yourself if you would also like the same name on social networks.
Of course, many names are generic and you can’t expect them to be available on popular social media sites. There may be many Ithaca plumbers on Twitter and Facebook, and some may pick a handful like @IthacaPlumber. In this case, if you own IthacaPlumber.com, you can settle for another social media name by adding numbers or letters to the handle.
Some names may be available on one platform but not on another. Identify the most important social media platforms for your business and make sure your chosen brand name or a close alternative is available on those sites.
It is worth taking your time when choosing a domain name. Great domain names are short, simple, unique and memorable. Don’t forget to think about a brand name, select an appropriate domain extension and consider the radio test. It’s also best to avoid too many keywords, hyphens, misspellings, and numbers.
If you get stuck, there are plenty of domain name generators online that can get your creative juices flowing. Finally, don’t forget to check the existing brands and social media availability of your preferred domain name. Your domain name is an extension of your personality and your reputation. Choose wisely!
Further Reading on Website Builders and Web Hosting
Domain research, web hosting, and the best website builders go hand in hand. With hosting, learn how your web hosting affects security and how to avoid common hosting mistakes; learn about domain privacy and how hosting can affect SEO as well.
With builders, learn about AMP, mobile-friendly design, and how to make your website accessible; as well as examining what are cookies and what is SEO.