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Nick Schäferhoff
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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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116 comments

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  1. Avatar

    Nick,

    Great info!

    For a company that teaches photography and takes people around the world to photograph wildlife, landscape and people etc, what name would you pick?

    I am thinking of naming it Photo Journeys Worldwide.

    I own PhotoJWW.com and the FB/IG/TW with the same handle. I also own JourneysWorldwide.com and the LLC is registered as Journeys Worldwide, LLC. Please help me to come up with a good name. Thanks!

    1. Avatar

      Hey Niru, I’m sorry, I can’t help you pick a name for your company. However, for the domain, I would stay away from abbreviations. JourneysWorldwide.com is definitely a better address than PhotoJWW.com. The second one is so much harder to remember and doesn’t look very nice either.

  2. Avatar

    Is the domain name REALLY that important fo SEO? I googled ‘choosing domain’ and found this post. I clicked on the title of the post (which is what is highlighted in bold in the results) before I even knew your domain name. No one is going to Google websitesetup.org because no one knows you exist until they find you based on the content they were looking for.
    I ask this because I wanted a website for my business but can’t use the domain name I would prefer so was thinking of different options.

    1. Avatar

      Hey Richard, as mentioned, having keywords in your domain is no longer as important or powerful as it used to be. What’s more important is that your URL is recognizable and easy to remember. If you create top-notch content, Google will rank it even if it’s under a seemingly unrelated domain. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to have keywords in the domain (as long as it doesn’t sound spammy), especially for local SEO (think bestpizzanewyork.com). Hope this answers your questions!

  3. Avatar

    Hi, Please can you help me to decide a Domain for my Mag/Blog with mixed content. I want to know if the domain giveupthepost.com would be good for me as it is a pun of give up the ghost.
    Thanking you,
    Hannan Khan

  4. Avatar

    Hi Nick,
    This is awesome info and thanks for sharing it. Appreciate it! It seems I got it on time. All short domains are gone and mine seem longer (which I know you’d not recommend). As a beginner affiliate marketer, I’m just beginning to promote a platform that provides high-quality software tools and educational content for affiliate and aspiring affiliate marketers. As per your advice, I want to include, if possible, keywords like “affiliate” and “marketing” in my domain and for SEO purposes. However, they get longer:

    lurnaffiliatemarketing.com (I’m not sure a work “lurn” to include or not)

    startaffiliatemarketing.com

    affiliatemarketinghero.org (I’m not getting .com)

    I’ll appreciate your advice, which would be a world to me.

    Thanks in advance, Nick!

  5. Avatar

    Thanks for this article! Super helpful 🙂

    I’m planning to set up a website offering courses teaching people academic writing. But following what you mentioned in the article, I’m thinking that perhaps I might expand in the future to academic presentations as well, so perhaps it’s better to include academic English in the domain name. Both academicwriting.com and academicenglish.com are already taken. So I was thinking about betteracademicenglish.com or academicenglishboost.com

    Admittedly, they’re both very long :/ Any suggestions would be much appreciated

    1. Avatar

      Hey Marek, I’m not sure I’m a fan of either of those. Also, if you say you are not sure that you will limit yourself to academic writing, why not try to come up with a brand name that could function as an umbrella for different kinds of offerings? Maybe your full name?

  6. Avatar

    Terrific informative site. Thank you for all the information. I am amazed you find the time to respond to readers!

    I found your site on a search regarding domain names with too many characters. (Top of the search) I have several websites (and collect domain names like women collect shoes :). I have been trying to launch a new business platform based on my brand name. My current website for this can not be found when I search the terms for exactly what it is “Jewelry Night”. It has been up many months as createconnectnight.com (without the jewelry) Jewelrynight domain is taken, I bought the hyphenated version jewelry-night, but read to avoid hyphens as it may be considered spamming. My current site based on my brand (Create Connect) is createconnectnight.com . Createconnectjewelrynight is too long correct? Would you recommend ccjewelrynight.com or disregard my brand name and choose something more reflective of the business platform and the customers I am trying to reach who have never heard of my (local) brand name anyway. Like sipandmakejewelry.com. My platform is like the sip and paint industry, (paintnite) but with jewelry as the “canvas”. Thank you for your help in advance!

    1. Avatar

      Amy, glad you like the post and thanks for your comment! To be honest, I first had to look up sip and paint, since I had never heard of that. I guess not “Jewely Night” makes a lot more sense.

      First of all, don’t try to force your brand name in there. The domains are already very long and you are better off including it in the site title like “Sip and Make Jewelry by Create Connect” or something similar. However, I would also make sure that “Sip and Paint” is not a protected trademark which you might be in violation with if you use a very similar name.

      I don’t think jewelry-night.com is a bad idea (despite the hyphen), however, whoever owns jewelrynight.com seems to be doing something very similar to what you are planning. Therefore, in the interest of branding and standing out from the crowd, I would go with something else. I don’t have any concrete proposals at this point but I hope my input will help you come up with something else. And remember, the shorter, the better.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.