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Nick Schäferhoff
Editor in Chief
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choosing a domain name

How thoroughly should you think about your domain name? Is it really that important?

If you have a quality website and business, people will visit your site no matter what the domain is, right?

Well, not so fast…

You see, your domain name is the key element of your website. It can make or break you, so it’s crucial to choose a domain name that works for your business.

But wait, why is your domain name so important?

  1. It’s your “first impression”. Your URL is the first thing your visitors will see. A good domain name can make a positive and lasting impression, while a bad domain name can send visitors running.
  2. It affects SEO. While exact match domains (EMDs) are no longer a necessity, keywords in your domain name can still help your SEO ranking.
  3. It defines your brand. We’ll talk about this in a minute – your domain name is a branding opportunity! The right domain name can increase brand recognition.

These elements are only a few of the many reasons why your domain name is so important.

How do you choose the right domain name? That’s precisely what I’m going to share with you today.

How to Choose the Perfect Domain Name

1. Use The Right Domain Name Extensions (.com, .org, .net)

Top TLDs distribution

Source: domainnamestat.com

When you choose your domain name extension, you can be sure of one thing: “.com” is still the best.

According to research from DomainNameStat, 43% of all domains have the “.com” extension.

Why? Well, “.com” is the most familiar and easiest to remember.

While there are many successful websites with a “.net” and “.org”, your website will probably do better if it has a “.com” extension. It’s the safest bet.

My advice: Go with .com. If that’s taken, try .net or .org. If these are taken too, you’d be better off brainstorming a new domain name. And oh! – Avoid those weird extensions like “.club”, “.space”, “.pizza” and so on.

2. Brandable Over Generic

Creative and brandable are always better than generic.

Remember: Your domain name is how visitors will find, remember, and share your company on the web. It is the foundation of your brand.

Here’s the main difference between a brandable and generic domain name:

A brandable domain name is unique and stands out from the competition, while a generic domain name is usually stuffed with keywords and unmemorable.

For example, do you know the difference between Healthinsurance.net, Newhealthinsurance.com, or Healthinsurancesort.com? Probably not, right?

These are horribly generic. They don’t have any meaning. You won’t hear anyone talking about how awesome “Insurance.com” is. Variations of the word “insurance” will increase the competition and make it blend in even more.

Sites like UnitedHealthCareOnline.com and Anthem.com stand out because they stand for something. When people hear those domain names, there is a trust factor there.

Here’s how to find a more brandable domain name:

  1. Create new words. You can make up your own catchy, new words. That’s what Google, Bing, and Yahoo did.
  2. Use existing words. You can use a thesaurus to find interesting words that fit your brand.
  3. Use domain name generators. These tools can help you create a unique, brandable domain name from your initial domain ideas and keywords. (We’ll highlight some of our favorite domain name generators later in this post.)

3. Short Is Better Than Long

Domain name lenght distribution

Source: datagenetics.com

In general, when it comes to the length of your domain, shorter is better.

According to research from DataGenetics.com, a blog by Nick Berry, the most common name length is approximately 12 characters.

(Popularity, in this case, refers to the amount of web traffic the site receives.)

All of this data shows that you should keep your domain name concise.

Aim for 6-14 characters – and remember the shorter, the better. Most likely the shorter domain names are taken a LONG time ago and sold for thousands of dollars. If you can’t find something short, make it brandable.

My own site – websitesetup.org is exactly 12 characters.

4. Make Sure It’s Easy To Type

Think of some of the most popular websites in the world. What comes to mind?

Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yahoo, CNN…

One big thing they have in common is that they’re all easy to spell.

Your visitors should be able to type your domain name without a problem. If you have to explain the spelling more than once for it to be understood, it’s too complicated!

The last thing you want is for the potential visitors to mistype your domain and end up on a different website!

Here’s an easy way to test this…

Tell 10 people your potential domain name and ask them to spell it. If more than a few people struggle to spell it, you need to simplify it.

5. Make Sure It’s Easy To Pronounce

As easily as your domain name rolls off the tips of your fingers, it should roll off the tip of your tongue.

This makes it easier for visitors to share your domain name by word-of-mouth and makes it easier for you to share your site with friends and potential customers.

You can test this the same way as with the “spelling”.

Write your domain name on a piece of paper and ask 10 people to pronounce it. If more than a few people struggle to pronounce it, you should simplify it.

Here’s what to keep in mind: You want your domain name to be passed along easily by you and others. The only way for that to be possible is if it’s 1) easy to spell and 2) easy to pronounce.

6. Avoid Hyphens And Numbers

Remember how your domain name should be easy to spell and pronounce? Hyphens and numbers make it more difficult.

Imagine explaining Facebook if it had a hyphen in there…

“Have you seen this new site Face-Book? There’s a hyphen in there by the way, between the ‘Face’ and the ‘Book.’”

Facebook might not have spread so quickly if that was the case.

The bottom line? Your domain name should be smooth and punchy – hyphens and numbers get in the way of that.

Stick to the letters!

7. Consider Using “Niche” Keywords That Reflect Your Website

Our website mainly about web development or helping people to create a website. Hence we chose to add a name that reflects all of it – “website”. Obviously website.com (or .org, .net) was no longer available, we simply chose “WebsiteSetup”.

Keywords can help to improve your SEO – you need to tread carefully here! If you try to awkwardly stuff keywords into your domain, it comes across as generic (like we talked about before).

If you choose to use keywords, put the keywords at the beginning of your domain. That’s where they’ll be the most powerful for your ranking.

You can find keywords with tools like Google Keyword Planner and Keywordtool.io.

8. Think Long-Term Over Short-Term

NEW IMAGE FROM TOM

Are you ready to marry your domain? You should be because it will be one of the biggest elements that define your business and brand for years.

If you decide to change the domain in the future, it will cost you money, branding, and SEO rankings. In short – it’s a huge pain!

When you’re choosing your domain, think long-term.

For example, if your company helps businesses optimize their websites for SEO, you could choose a domain name like, “OptimizedSEO.com”

If you think there’s a chance you might expand to more general digital marketing services in the future, like email marketing, PPC, etc. then it might be wise to reconsider your domain name.

You don’t want to pin yourself down to a certain niche if you think you might expand out of that niche.

Therefore, keep your long-term vision in mind when picking your domain name.

9. Check If It’s Not Trademarked Or Already Used

Before you move forward with a specific domain name, check to see if the name is available on social media sites, as well as if there are any trademarks already registered to the name.

You can check current trademarks here: https://trademarks.justia.com/

To build your brand, it’s ideal to have the same name across your domain and social networks. This builds familiarity and makes it easy for your visitors, fans, and customers to find you around the web.

Avoid legal issues; you should stay away from names that already have trademarks.

How can you quickly check social networks and trademarks for your potential domain name?

It’s quite easy with a tool like Knowem. Search your potential domain name – it’ll show you if it’s available throughout over 25 popular social networks and if there are any trademarks already registered to the name.

If it’s taken, consider tweaking it so that you can create original social media profiles.

10. Use Domain Name Generators When Stuck

At this point, you should have at least a general idea of some possible words to put in your domain. Some of those words may already be taken, trademarked, or just don’t have the “sound” you’re looking for.

That’s where domain name generators come into play. These generators can turn your ideas into fresh, available domains.

Here are some of our favorite domain name generators to try out:

  1. Wordoid. This tool allows you to plug in a word; it will come up with ideas that either contain that word, begin with that word or end with that word.
  2. Lean Domain Search. This tool matches your keyword with other keywords and generates a list of available domains.
  3. DomainHole. This tool allows you to search keywords, find expired domains, generate new names, and more.

Where Should You Register Your Domain Name?

If you don’t know where to register your domain name, I recommend choosing another guide of ours – How to Register a Domain Name (+ tips for getting it for FREE)

Your domain name will have a significant impact on the success and potential of your website. Make sure to put some careful thought into choosing yours.


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104 comments

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  1. Avatar

    Hello Nick,
    It seems you have given out a lot of good advice, hopefully your can help me as well.
    I have a staining business, SOS staining, with the web site, SOSstaining.com. A majority of my work has been assembly in addition to just staining. Naturally, I have changed my business name to SOS staining and assembly.
    This leaves the web site SOSstaining.com. Do you think I should change it to SOSstainingandassembly.com?
    As I write that name it seems way too long and hard to read. Also, If someone types in sosstaining, will they still be directed to my site?
    Any advice would be appreciated as I am currently stuck on this major decision..
    Thank you!

    1. Avatar

      Hey Brian, I would refrain from using the longer URL. It’s too cumbersome to write. If people are still finding your business online and you rank well for assembly work, maybe you can just leave things as they are? Also, if you do change your URL and keep your old address, you can redirect it to the new location. That way, anyone who types in the old address will still land on your website.

  2. Avatar

    Hi! Wow! What a helpful site!
    I have a new tribute band to Linda Ronstadt and need a website. My show is called “Heat Wave – A Tribute to Linda Ronstadt”.
    For a domain, HeatWave.com is taken. HeatWaveTribute.com is taken. I’m staying away from Ronstadt for spelling reasons.

    Here is what I’m looking at. What is your opinion? Thanks so much for your advice!

    HeatWaveTribute.net (or .org)

    Heat-Wave-Tribute.com

    HeatWaveLindaTribute.com

    1. Avatar

      Hi Wendy, to be honest, I first had to google Linda Ronstadt and Heat Wave. Seems like it’s not my music generation.

      As for your question, I would definitely go with one of the shorter versions and not include “Linda”. That makes it unnecessarily long. I would also prefer .net over .org. In addition, have you checked for heat-wave.com?

  3. Avatar

    Thank you for the wonderful article, Nick!! I am in the process of getting my photography business off the ground. The name of my business is M Clark Photography. Unfortunately, mclarkphotography.com is already taken. The domain mclarkphotography.net is abailable, but in keeping the name short, “photography” alone does not help the situation. For purposes of having a name that can be spelled easily, my first name knocks that out of the ballpark as my first name is Marlenda. Plus it does not help that it is also 8 letters long. My branding catchphrase is “Capturing moments…little slices of forever.” So, as an alternative, I am considering using just part of my branding catchphrase: slicesofforever.com. The main problem I see with this is there appears to be absolutely no connection between it and my photography. Additionally, I already established my facebook business page, part of my personal page, a year ago as mclarkphotography. What would you advise?

    Thank you!!
    Marlenda

    1. Avatar

      Hey Marlenda, that’s a bit of a tough one. One the one hand, I am a big fan of keeping branding addresses consistent. That means, if all your social handles are mclarkphotography, it makes sense to use the same for your main URL, even if it’s with a .net ending.

      On the other hand, if you really want a .com address, your name is unique enough to be useful – marlendaclark.com or marlenda-clark.com would absolutely work, in my opinion. Alternatively, maybe something like mclark-photos.com would be a possibility?

      I also like slicesofforever.com, however, you are right that it is a bit unrelated. Plus, you might change your catchphrase at some point, so I’d advise against it.

      Hope this helps! Let me know what you decide.

  4. Avatar

    Hi Nick, I’m in the midst of re-vamping my website and wanting to change domain name. Business is growing quickly and think I it’s time to rename now while still early (I can forward my old domain to new domain). It’s an asphalt business, sealcoating, repairs, line painting, new pavement, etc. I’ve recently added concrete repairs and have done well in that sector of the market also…pretty diversified business. My company name is Line King (started out with line painting and asphalt sealing is reason for name), and have nice logo with a crown, people like the name and logo so would like to stick with that, it is becoming a brand name now.
    Anyways, my current domain is “lksealcoating.com”, would to re-brand my company to “Line King Canada”, as that is where I am. I don’t want to pigeonhole my business to just sealcoating. I have a few domain options available, I trust your opinion, here they are:
    – linekingcanada.ca
    – linekingcanada.com
    – lkcanada.ca
    – lkcanada.com
    Are the first 2 options too long? Your thoughts?

    Thank you in advance.

    Jason

    1. Avatar

      I would definitely write out “line king” in your domain and not shorten it to “lk” as it’s unclear what it means. Have you checked “lineking.ca” or “line-king.ca”? That way, you would have both the name and the appropriate domain ending in one and it’s shorter. If that doesn’t work, I am leaning toward “linekingcanada.com”. However, if it’s very common to use the local domain ending in your country, “linekingcanada.ca” might be the best solution.

  5. Avatar

    Hello Nick,
    Your tips have been quite helpful yet I still have some doubts. I want to create a website with content both for English as a foreign language students as well as for fellow language teachers. Thus, instead of including English in the name, I’ve been toying with “betterlanguagelearning.com” since it covers both targets. I like that the .com is available but worry the name is too long. I have a Youtube channel called “HutchmanEnglish”, but I’ve seen from your previous responses that you think using one’s own name is a poor branding strategy. I’ve also considered “languagelearning.expert” but I’ve seen you prefer to avoid unusual domain suffixes. Any thoughts?

    1. Avatar

      Hey Sean, I agree with you that that URL is too long and I would think about finding something shorter. As for using your name, that can also work. It really depends on your marketing strategy.

      For example, I know a bunch of bloggers who all use their full name as their domain and write on many different topics. For example, chrisguillebeau.com, seanogle.com, goinswriter.com (that last one is similar to hutchmanenglish.com, I would say). So, if you are planning to create a lot of content in the form of a blog, this can work as the domain name will be less central to determine the topic of your site.

      As for languagelearning.expert, it’s a bit unusual, but I actually like it. It’s memorable enough so you could give it a shot.

      Hope this helps!

  6. Avatar

    Hey Nick,
    Love the article i have been struggling with this more and more. I currently have a website called moreinflow.com that i started writing about blogging and making money online. The problem is i really love learning about blogging. I find myself on your site plus other blogging websites like shoutmeloud or startbloggingonline. My question is what do you think about – in a domain name. I follow a blogger who has a blog named onemorecupof-coffee.com and his site seems to do very well. So i guess my questions are 1) Does moreinflow.com work as a website that i can pivot to talking about blogging? 2) Start a new website with “website” or “blog” in the name but use – between a word. my blog currently is still brand new so i can pivot it. I seem to always pick a blog and then blog about 20 topics which gets me no where. Starting a blog that has blog/website in the same will make me focus on just that.

    1. Avatar

      Hey Matt, we also love to write about those topics so welcome to the show! Here are the answers for your questions:

      1) I think using a dash (-) inside your domain name is no problem at all. It can actually make things easier to read. However, you should be consistent, so don’t only hyphenate one word but write everything else together as in your example.
      2) Your domain can work for blogging as well, especially if you are planning to focus on teaching others how to get more visitors. But if you are not invested in the name, feel free to change it. Many big names in the “blogging about blogging” sphere actually have the word “blogging” or similar in their name, e.g. smartblogger.com, problogger.com, etc.
      3) There is no need to include something like “website” or “blog” in your domain to describe what your site is about. People will figure out easily what kind of site it is. It’s more important that you include your site’s topic in the name or use a brand name that visitors can recognize you by in the long run as described in the post above.

      In short, if you want to switch your focus and are not invested in your domain, feel free to change it. However, you can also start blogging on your current domain about the topic you want to to see if there is enough interest and then switch to another domain once you see that your idea holds water. Just don’t forget to set up proper redirects when you do. Good luck!

  7. Avatar

    Thanks for the awesome site! I tried posting this as a reply to your “How to choose a domain name” blog few days ago from my mobile device (and again just now), but the post doesn’t appear to be sticking… I’m trying to solidify my domain name, but was hoping to get your feedback. So as to not give up my actual desired domain name, I’ll substitute an example:

    Say I’m looking for a domain for a business named “Clear Sight Home Inspection.” Not only does ClearSightHomeInspection.com seem too long, but there’s also a good chance for misspellings (site instead of sight, inspections (plural) rather than singular).

    In these cases would you recommend shortening to something like, say:

    1) cshomeinspection.com (keywords: home, inspection)
    2) cshomeinspect.com
    3) csinspection.com
    4) csinspect.com (shortest)
    5) … different recommendation?

    I wasn’t sure how important it was to include keywords in the domain name versus trying to keep it short and simple.

    Once I get the domain name nailed down, is there additional benefit to securing the exact same social media user names on FB and IG, or does matching up other platforms matter less?

    Thanks for any insight!

    1. Avatar

      Hey Mikey, out of the options you presented, I would go with cshomeinspection.com. Alternatively, maybe something like ch-home-inspection.com would also work though I think the first option looks better. While including keywords in the domain is not as important as it used to be, in a business like the one you describe, I think it makes sense. Just using your brand name (like clearsight.com) does not convey what you are actually doing and is not too memorable.

      As for social platforms, of course, it’s nice to have the same handles there as your domain as far as that is possible. This way, customers only have to remember one thing. If it isn’t doable, I would see that at least all the social handles are the same to make things easier, even if they are not the same as the domain.

  8. Avatar

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    We have registered a new company named as ACCURAM INSTRUMENTS. in which we want to sell our dental and surgical instruments . accuram.com is already taken. so kindly let me know which domain name will be suitable for us?
    1- accuraminstruments.com
    2-accuram-instruments.com
    3-accuram-inst.com
    4-accuraminst.com

  9. Avatar

    I found your article very informative full of specific and useful advice. What most impressed me though is your willingness to help others as they consider domain names. Which brings me to write of my situation. Your guidance is appreciated. For years I have thought making a website for a blog geared toward people who are struggling with skepticism, intellectual doubt, troubling unanswered questions about faith, whose faith is not “working” for them. This is not a money maker idea. I want to share knowledge I have and to interact with my “client” audience with questions and answers. The wisdom in Torah which is the Tree of LIfe is my source to relieve their issues. I started with a Facebook page: Tree of Life Wisdom. So I want to stay with that in some way. I also have discovered that the people that I am trying to reach are seeking or searching for truth. I am trying to find a way to incorporate that also. So I have questions for you. The first is do you advise me to set up a website for this or to stay within the framework of Facebook? Second: If I go with a website/blog which of the following would be the best domain name? treeoflifewisdom.net (.com is not available, .info is also available) truthintreeoflife.com truthistreeoflife.com or treeoflifeistruth.com I have another one that i think is a bit of a tongue twister and cute but here it is onetruetreeoflife.com As of now all these domain names are available. I thank you in advance for any guidance you can offer.

    1. Avatar

      Hey Chana, first of all, you should think about what function a potential blog should fulfill. If you only want to converse with people about your topics, a forum-like Facebook page or group might be all you need. However, if you think you have enough to say about this topic that it would sustain a blog with regular posts, I think it’s a valid idea to build one.

      As for the domain, I like treeoflifewisdom the most. It’s the easiest to remember. Have you checked whether the .org domain is available?

  10. Avatar

    I have registered pelotonmarketing.com
    I did this as I was looking for a domain name that, on the surface, would allow customers to have a hint as to what we do and our process.
    Needless to say you can’t expect a domain name to say it all. The word “peloton” comes from the French word “platoon” and as most people know it is a cycling strategy where teammates converge in a race to create an efficient slipstream. As a cyclist I know it works.
    The issue I have is “peloton.com” is a high end stationary bike company and that space on any search engine is very crowded.
    My company is small and the number of clients I will have will not exceed more than 5 at any time. I have no intentions of competing with the peloton.com world.
    My question is whether you would recommend this domain name for the reasons I outlined above.
    Thank you.

    1. Avatar

      Hey Philip, if you have no intention of competing with them, there shouldn’t be a big problem. In addition, Google is pretty good at figuring out what a website is about, so they will probably not even rank you on pages relating to bikes if the content of your website is clearly aimed at something else.