Essential Tips for Choosing Your Domain Name (Checklist Included)
Deciding on a domain name is one of the hardest things to do before starting a website. You must know what your blog or website is about first before you can start brainstorming. If you want some help, check out these tools that may assist you in choosing a domain name. The following are tips that can act as a checklist when you brainstorm your domain names. The summarised checklist is at the end 🙂
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1. Easy to spell
Find five friends with different backgrounds then ask them to spell out your website. If it’s hard for some people, you might need to simplify it. For example, if you have a surname that is hard to spell, you might want to use your first name only with other identifiers.
Ensure there are NO spelling errors. Try to spell words correctly and not like a teenager. For example: “betteryou” should not be “betteru” as most people would spell “you”. Spellcheck your own domain name.
If you are making a word up (see point 7), you need to ensure they follow common language conventions so people don’t pronounce it wrongly (see point 2) or when pronounced, people won’t spell it wrong.
For example, most of the time “oo” will sound like the “oo” in “hoop” or “hook”. Don’t try to make it sound like “oh”. “Staph” is a bug, it shouldn’t be used to replace “stuff”.
Don’t try to be smart and combine letters that shouldn’t be combined together. Pseriously. Do not put a silent “p” everywhere. Please (that one needed a p).
On that note, foreign words may be easier to find domain names for but harder for people to memorise. However, there are sites that use it and are successful.
2. Easy to say
Grab five friends and get them to actually read out your domain name to ensure there are no boo boos or taboos. You know radio ads that ask you to buy stuff and then at the end ask you to visit their website? They don’t spell out the website but assume listeners know what to type. Now, think of a radio ad for your site and see whether people will know how to spell it out.
Also separate letters between words and syllables and check that they don’t have an alternative saying.
For example, “choosespain.com” can be “Choose Spain” (intended site) or it could be “Chooses Pain” (unintended). Both convey different ideas about the website – one a tourist site and one for self-torture. (This is the more G rated example).
If you can, the shorter the better. However, it may be impossible to have sites such as CNN so try to keep it to a maximum of 3 words in the domain name. If it’s too long, it increases the chances of spelling errors and people forgetting it.
For example, looking at the length of the domain “eatingcakesandpieswithmary.com” would probably deter me altogether (this domain is available but DON’T buy it). Did you know that 63 characters is the maximum length of a domain? That previous sentence had 66 characters including the spaces.
4. No numbers
People tend to forget what number it is and make up their own, write it in words or leave it out.
The same goes for changing letters into numbers. Google should not be spelt googl3 or g00gl3. You’re not password protecting your domain – you want people to visit it!
5. No hyphens or underscores
If your name is -a( Dasha), I’m sorry mate. People will forget where the hyphen or underscore is supposed to go so just let them go- you don’t need it.
6. No repeated letters next to each other
I’m probably a hypocrite since there is a double “t” in my domain but I think it’s more about repeated letters between words such as “expressstadium” (not a site, I checked- DON’T buy this one) which makes it hard to type on the keyboard or people misspelling it. On that note, if you own a bookkeeping service, I always have to slow down typing that word in case I overshoot my quota of o’s, k’s and e’s.
7. Unique and catchy
You want your site to stand out amongst the rest. If you’re creating a site on Mac products, there will be at least a dozen with “Mac” in it’s domain name. It doesn’t mean it can’t have Mac in the domain name but make it unique and catchy for example by rhyming, making up words or play on words. If you’re starting a personal site or blog, it’s probably better for your brand to use your name in there somewhere.
Some popular sites follow most of these rules but may not follow all of them and are still successful.
A great example is “google”. It is made up but it is easy to say, spell and is unique. It has no hyphens or numbers and is short.
Make sure your domain name is unique by googling it to check that other businesses don’t own it (also see point 11). Always check for overseas sites as well. One domain that I loved (see point 9) was “mymuffintop.com” but it leads to a 404 page whereas “mymuffintop.com.au” is an Australian business that sells muffins. Even if mymuffintop.com was available, I wouldn’t have bought it because of its similarity to this business.
8. Encompass your business
You’ve got to plan for the future and think long-term. Sure, “penhoarder” (not a real site – buy this domain if you only want to specialise in pens and thank me here) may be great for your niche on pens but what if you wanted to expand in the future to pencils and notepads? Once you start growing your site, it may become so popular, it will be harder to change to a different domain because you will need to move your readers over. Despite this, some successful bloggers have been able to expand to other areas whilst keeping their domain names.
9. Have 10 backup domain names
The domain that you want will probably be similar to someone else’s or will be taken. That’s just the way things are these days and you have to be prepared. Write them down on a piece of paper and number them from 1 to 10. Make sure you have all 10 that you are extremely proud to own because you may not get the one on your number 1 spot and you’ll have to work down the list. I had about 10 backed up in case Battered by Cake was taken. Having said that, Battered by Cake was my first choice since I personally like the play on words.
10. Use the .com extension if appropriate
International sites generally have .com in their domain extension. This will increase the chances of international exposure. Specific country extensions such as .au or .uk are probably better if you want to target one specific country. Just be aware that prices will differ depending on the extensions you choose.
11. Research and register in one day
Once you have your list of domain names and you have gone through this checklist for each one of them, it’s time to research. Call me superstitious but you should do the research and registration on one day preferably in one sitting without any distractions. There are stories that if you type it into the search engine like Google or domain registry sites like Bluehost, there are people that sit there and buy your domain before you do and then sell it to you at an exorbitant price. So whether it’s true or not, better to be safe than sorry right? Do your research in one day.
Search Engine Research
By research, you should be typing them into a search engine and checking what comes up for this domain name. Is it a registered business, another website, a trademarked name? You don’t want to run into trouble with the respective owners and you also don’t want your site to be mistaken for something else.
Social Media Research
Are there social media pages available for them? You will need to create social media accounts for your site when it is finally registered and not having, say, a Facebook account available may be detrimental to your marketing. Look for the big social media pages you are targeting such as Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram and Pinterest.
Knowem is a great tool to find out whether the name you want is available on various social media platforms. Just type the name you want (all lower case and NO spaces between them) into the search bar and click “Check it”.
You can see what is available and what’s been taken. Decide whether it’s important to your brand if say reddit is unavailable for your name. Explore the other tools available to help you with your domain name research.
Web Hosting Domain Name Search Research
After doing this, use the search and register function on a reliable web hosting site. See a step by step guide on how to do this on some of the popular ones out there: click here for Bluehost, click here for Zuver and click here for Siteground using “mymuffintop.com” and “penhoarder.com” as examples.
I have used Bluehost as an example below to show you the suggestions that can be made for you.
Go to Bluehost‘s site by clicking here and click on “Domains” on the menu
Enter the domain you want to register and click the “Search” button. (It defaults to .com)
If your domain is unavailable, decide whether the suggestions they have given you are what you want and click on the blue hyperlink if you like it. For example, if I liked mymuffintop.net, I would click on that domain. Or click on “Show more suggestions”. It will then ask you to sign up. (See the full step by step guide with pictures here)
This way, it will tell you what has been taken and suggest other options which you may or may not like. Usually it is just changes to the extensions but sometimes it will give you some great options or at least ones to laugh at. Go through your list of domains until your domain is available.
Buy and Register
Snap it up as soon as you see the one you like. Otherwise, it may be taken by others if you leave it. Just be aware that prices will differ depending on the extensions you choose.
Depending on your budget, it may be a good idea to snap up your domain name with alternative extensions or misspelt versions. This ensures that if people do mistype your domain name, you can have it redirected to your main site and still capture your audience.
What a long post! I hope this was helpful 🙂 Here is the checklist as promised
Still need help to get those creative juices flowing? Here are some tools to help choose your domain names!