Knowing how to choose a domain name is essential when you want to make a new website. The name is an important aspect of your website’s identity and it’s a hassle to change later. So it’s a good idea to spend the time needed to find a good name for your website from the start.
Before we get into it I just want to stress that there is no absolute right and wrong when it comes to choosing a domain name. It’s actually more of an art than a science, but there are none the less some generally accepted practices and guidelines. But in the end it all comes down to your preferences and you’ll be fine as long as you use your own judgement and common sense.
How To Choose Domain Name – 12 General Guidelines
Here is a list of 12 things to consider when you are trying to find a name for your next website – listed in no particular order.
Shorter is better – Size does matter and in the case of domain names you want it to be as short as possible :). A short name is both easier to remember and type in. A good rule of thumb is to keep your domain name under 20 characters long.
Make it easy to remember – The more memorable your domain name is the easier it will be to spread the word. And people will also be more likely to recognize the name if they see it again.
Think about spelling – Make sure the words you choose aren’t hard to spell. Or you risk loosing traffic because people can’t find your website or end up somewhere else by mistake.
Avoid hyphens – Hyphens makes your URL harder to type in, makes it almost impossible to tell a friend what your website is called and it can look very spammy with a lot of them. However if you find a great domain name with only a few hyphens and that’s the only way you can get hold of that name it can be the best choice.
Use numbers with caution – The rule of thumb is to avoid numbers in your web address. Because it can be hard to remember and confusing to communicate by mouth. The exception in my opinion is when your target audience is young and it makes sense to the kind of project you have in mind. But if you are unsure err on the side of caution.
Pick a meaningful name – It’s always better to pick a name that give people a clue about what your website is about. That will both make it easier to remember and set the expectations before people even visit your site.
Include keywords – If at all possible it’s a good idea to include keywords in the URL. That’s one way to give both visitors and search engines an idea about what your website is about up front. But as with any thing else – don’t over do it.
Beware of copyright infringement – If there is one hard and fast rule about how to choose a website name, then its not to include someone else’s trademark in the name of your website. Doing so could cause you legal issues later on – you could actually end up getting sued or even losing your website.
Pick the right domain extension – The ideal extension depends on your target area. .com is the most used extension for general websites in English and also the best choice. .net and .org are however also decent options (expect to loose a little traffic compared to the .com though). And I’d advice you to stay away from the other options. Unless your website is made for a specific country. In that case I’d always go with the national domain extension.
When to use your own name – Using your own name as the URL is generally a bad idea unless it’s about you. Even then you should know that it will be hard to brand in the beginning unless you are well known already.
Consider branding – Later when you are facing the challenge of trying to get traffic to your site, you will have a much better chance of success if you pick a brandable name.
Go for a unique name – Even with all the many domain names already in existence it’s still a good idea to pick a unique name. If your domain name already exist with a different extension or if it’s very close to an existing brand you will most likely loose visitors to that site and could even end up with a legal case again you.
Plan Your Website First
Before you can come up with a meaningful name you need to have a good idea about the website you intend to make. So start by making a website plan if you haven’t already. At the very least you should have a clear idea about your topic, your goals, your audience, how it’s different and how people will find it. When you have a clear plan, you will also find that many of the decisions you have to make along the way will be easy and even obvious.
How To Choose A Good Domain Name
With the overwhelming number of websites in existence you would think that all the good domain names are taken. But even though many of the obvious names are gone or extremely expensive you can still come up with a good domain name with a little brainstorming and this simple formula:
Essential + Descriptive Word/Phrase = Good Domain Name << Click to Tweet This
First make a list of the words and phrases that best describe what your website is about. Second make a list of descriptive words and phrases that makes sense in the light of your plans. And then start putting the words together until you find one or more names you like. Also remember to check the name against the 12 guidelines above.
Here are a few good examples of domain names that used this technique:
If you find it hard to come up with a good name, try to increase the length of your lists by searching for synonyms of the words you already have, looking through this list of short words and also use Google’s Keyword Tool to find inspiration. And as any other creative process the “answer” might not come until later, when you are doing something else and are a bit more relaxed – so have a little patience.
I hope this article helped you choosing domain name for your new website. When you are done you can either continue to my article about how to register a domain name yourself or head back to the how to build a website from scratch guide.