How to Pick a Website Domain Name

domain name pickPicking website domain name could be seen as one of the tougher decisions you make as you build your website. On one hand, you can buy one for less than $10 (way less if you get a deal) but on the other hand it is kinda permanent and you want to make the right choice. It can be compared to picking a name for your baby, yes, it is possible that they (or you) can change their name if desired in the future, but it isn’t easy, and let’s face it why put your poor baby through all that trouble because you named him (or her… oh could you imagine…) Rumpelstiltskin…

Personally I think there are 3 types of domain names. Something completely random that has nothing to do with anything (twitter.com), something practical (YourBusinessName.com, YourProductName.com, or WhatYourBusinessDoes.com), or a fun twist on words with what your business does (flickr.com – posting/sharing photos).

What kind of first impression do you want to give

With those options we need to try and decide what you want your website domain name to be. While you are picking a name, you may want to consider the SEO (Search Engine Optimization – things you can do to help your website be found easier in the search engines like google) value that a domain name can bring to your site. The words used in your domain name are considered more relevant and can help you rank more quickly in the search engines. That being said you also want your domain name to be short and easy to type. (As an antecdote I initially setup the website at wpforbiz.net, which you can still use to get to the site, but I decided I was ok with the longer domain name to gain the SEO value for my website.)

Make it easy to get to

I just mentioned making it easy to type or remember, but you also want to make sure it can’t easily be mispelled or confused. I suggest not using numbers (1,4,6), or buy both versions (with the number and the written out number) and pointing them to the same place to avoid confusion. I also would never use a number in place of a word (e.g. wp4biz.net).

I usually try to stick to .com domain names if I can. If I have to go with something else I find .net and I might try .org if I had to but I personally steer clear of that. I wouldn’t venture out on any of the others unless you are in a foreign country and it is standard (e.g. “.uk.co”.)

Avoid Trademarks

This is just a quick side-note to avoid trademarked names. If you are working exclusively with a product (WordPress for example) you can try and contact them and see if they have any restrictions on the use of their business or product name (It is probably already written on their website terms of use so check there first.) In most cases you will find that you aren’t allowed to use it or you need to pay a royalty fee to do so. Usually this practice is to help avoid confusion around the name and maintain authority of it. You may find that other sites are using a trademark but that doesn’t mean that you are OK to use it. I’ve have seen first hand what happens when a legal department decides that any site using their trademark name needs to change their name and it can wreak havoc on a business so just don’t even try. If they ever change their minds and decide to do something you’ll lose the battle unless you have a written legal agreement with them to use the name.

Check it’s availability

When you select a domain name you need to see if it is already used or if it is available. There are lots of online checkers to do this but I suggest just going to either namecheap.com or godaddy.com and searching it on there. If it isn’t available and you have other choices, try those, but if that was what you really wanted there might be some things you can try. If you go to the website and it is a landing page or doesn’t work, you might be able to buy it from the original owner. This usually means that it will cost a premium (from a few hundred dollars to thousands) but if that is the domain name you HAVE to have, it is an option. I’ve never personally done this so I can’t share any experiences (please share in the comments if you have as I’d love to hear about it.) What I usually end up doing is finding some way to manipulate the domain name so I find one that is available. Godaddy does a decent job making suggestions of “close” names that are available and I often use that in combination with a thesaurus to find something that works. Usually you can add a word to the beginning or end, or even rearrange the words and get something that works.

Buy It!

Great, you’ve found a domain name that is available, now all you have to do is buy it. I used to use godaddy.com exclusively for all my domains. You can even find coupons to make your purchase cheaper but it was a pain to renew each year having to find a coupon to save a few bucks because I didn’t want the price to go up. As I have multiple domain names I’ve ended up Namecheap.com for my registrations as the price is just a bit more than Godaddy, but I pay the same price year after year without a coupon. As an added benefit I don’t have to go through 30 upsells just to get to the shopping cart and pay for my domain name. That being said if I were buying a single domain name AND I was buying web hosting, I’d take advantage of the free domain name that Bluehost.com offers when you sign up with them. Pick your name beforehand and as you go through the signup process they will ask what domain you want and as long as it is available they buy it for you. There is even the added benefit that it makes setting up your website that much easier because you don’t have to point the domain name to the server since it is already pointed there.

Stories/examples

I want to hear from you. If you have a website/domain name and you want to share how you came to pick it, let me know in the comments. Additionally, if you have more/better examples of domain names from the 3 categories (or a new category) from the top of the article, let me know about them too. I feel like there are better ones but I couldn’t come up with anything real good…

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