How to choose the best domain

The short version

  1. Choose a short, easily pronounceable domain name that clearly describes your brand or services without using complicated symbols, hyphens, and numbers.
  2. If your domain name is not available in .com, use a fitting alternative top-level domain such as .club or .shop or try out a localized TLD such as .us.
  3. Using keywords in your domain name is a Google ranking factor, but tread lightly. Google recognizes keyword stuffing and penalizes sites with keyword-heavy domain names.
  4. Avoid simple mistakes by checking if your chosen name isn’t already in use by another company or copyrighted, and make sure it can’t be misinterpreted as vulgar.

Why is it important?

In the twenty-first century, choosing a domain name is as important as choosing a company name. So, how do you choose a domain name for your business? The right domain does more than help builds your brand — its name should attract visitors to your site. Coming up with the right name can be quite a challenge for new online business owners, especially if your name choice is unavailable to register.

With over 300 million domains already registered across all top-level domain extensions, coming up with something original can be daunting. Keeping it simple and easy to remember is an excellent place to start, but there's more to it if you want to pick a catchy domain name.

Your domain name acts as more than just an address for your website. This is why there are multiple factors you need to consider when brainstorming domain names.

In this post, we explain why registering the perfect domain name is so important and how to register your own unique name, including domain extensions that you might not even be aware of. Follow our tips for choosing a standout domain name and use our recommended tools to help find the best domain possible for your new website.

How to pick a good domain name

You’ve decided to start your own business and thought of a perfect name for it. You might even consider copyrighting it. The next step is choosing a fitting domain to launch your services online. 

Domain names can be many things: long, short, quirky, whatever fits. Logically, whatever you go for, the domain name you pick should complement your business or service.

Given the hundreds of thousands of websites in existence, the logical domain name might have been snapped up by someone else. When your first pick isn’t available, you have to settle for a different name. This is the real struggle behind choosing a domain name and finding a viable alternative. If you need help choosing the best website names for any business, we’ve got some handy tips.

Tip 1. Keep it simple

  • Length -  Successful site owners swear by the KISS method (keep it simple, stupid). We’re talking short and memorable. Long, complex domain names are off-putting to read and risk being misspelled or mistyped. On average, the most successful websites have nine character domain names and range from one to two words. Pinterest and Paypal are popular websites that have succeeded in keeping it short and punchy.
  • Pronunciation - If you have to spell your domain name out to your friends, you’re heading for trouble. People misspell domain names routinely, especially if they are hard to figure out. This is why it’s often a good idea to have help when picking a domain name. Brainstorm with friends, and make sure you’re going for something easy to pronounce, thus easy to spell to avoid losing traffic this way. There’s nothing wrong with creative spelling, Flickr, for example, is a successful website. On the other hand, can you imagine Siri understanding terms like this? For this reason, Flickr purchased Flicker.com to redirect their misplaced traffic.
  • Avoid hyphens and numbers - Non-alphabetic characters are often misunderstood. Imagine hearing a website name with a number. You won’t know if you should spell it out (seven) or use a numeral (7). Similarly, dashes can lead to misunderstandings. Do you write out a dash, use a dash, or leave it out altogether?
    If these are essential to your domain name, register all the different variations to be on the safe side.  Cola-Cola is a good example of this in practice. Type Cocacola.com into Google only to be redirected to their trademarked namesake coca-cola.com. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of friends to identify alternative suggestions you may not have considered.
  • Intuitive - Be logical. Give your site an intuitive domain name that gives a good idea of what you’re all about. Seriouseats.com is an excellent example of an instinctive domain for a website all about food. Potential customers can reasonably predict what they’ll find at that site.
    An added benefit of an instantly intuitive domain name, you’re instantly more memorable. It’s bound to stick in people's minds when they can grasp your concept from the domain name alone. Reconsider your choice if you find people struggle to pronounce your business name once seen written down.
  • Keep it local - If your business is strictly local, why not include the city or state in your domain? This will not only be instantly recognizable, but easy to remember. Las Vegas advertising firm fatbeardstudios.com changed to fatbead.vegas as soon as the .vegas gTLD was made available. Similarly, the official Eiffel Tower website moved from its Tour-Eiffel.Fr domain to an even more location-specific Tour-Eiffel.Paris once the .paris extension dropped.

Tip 2. Find the best domain name extension

  • Bias toward .com - When it comes to domain naming and best practices, a great tip is to recommend you go with .com wherever possible, as .com domains are the most recognized, and websites with this appendix are ranked better in search engines. The biggest global brands and organizations are registered with a .com domain from the New York Times to Apple.
  • Alternative extensions - When your domain name is not available in .com, or out of your price range, use an alternative suffix. The availability of thousands of new top-level domains makes it easier to create a short and memorable name which isn’t always possible with .com.
    You’ll find a larger inventory of domains with the relatively new top-level domain extensions such as .coffee, .me, and .info for example. These might even be a better fit for your brand than a .com domain. Consider the photographic agency Behold Photography. Their original domain bhldphotos.com was less memorable than their current behold.photography address.
  • Localized TLDs - Going with a known country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is a viable alternative if your name is unavailable with .com. Purchasing ccTLDs is also wise for when your company grows, and you expand internationally. You’ll want country-specific domain extensions for your potential new customer base.
    Buying these ahead of time will not only protect you from competitors doing so, but it will also improve your site’s appeal to your international customers — ccTLDs exist for pretty much every geographic region. For example, the ccTLD for the United States is .us, .ca represents Canada, .uk for the United Kingdom, and so on.

Tip 3. Be SEO Aware

When creating domain name tips, SEO is something to consider. Search engine optimization, commonly known as SEO sounds more daunting than it is. It’s a widely practiced method of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. Your domain name should be chosen with SEO in mind. Using keywords in your domain is a search engine ranking factor (which explains domains such as where-to-buy-the-best-pizza-in-new-york.com for example).

However, you must tread lightly when it comes to optimizing your domain name for search engines. There are SEO best practices to stick to make sure Google recognizes your website and avoids a penalty for keyword stuffing.

  • Related Keywords - Use keywords related to the business or your services. If you sell laptops, include the word laptop in your domain name. This will make more sense to your customers and serve as a signal to Google. The more positive signals you give a search engine, the more likely they will rank your site well.
  • Use Broad Keywords - While experts often say that having keywords in your domain can help your SEO, It’s also not wise to bend over backward to include exact phrase matches. They might deflect from your brand name. Google is also pretty hot on spammy tactics, so they’ve reduced the importance of keyword prominence in the URL. It also doesn’t give a good impression to Internet users, who have the idea that such sites are low quality.
    Think about it, who would you think is more professional, TennisPoint.com, or TennisAdviceforCountryClubPros.com? Our advice is to avoid generic keyword strings like this. They won’t benefit your search engine rankings or your customers.

Tip 4. Use Your Creativity

  • Length - What makes a good domain name? One that’s fairly short in length. Don’t be afraid to abbreviate. It's ok to append or modify your first choice domain if it's not available. The only problem with short URLs is that they are more than likely taken already. If your brand name contains a common word or phrase, it will be more difficult, whereas made-up words such as Netflix and Whatsapp are short, unique, and memorable in place of using a formula like common keywords plus films or messenger plus app.
    It's also good practice to shorten an otherwise lengthy domain name. The fewer characters your domain has, the easier it is to type. Short URLs are more catchy and easier to stick in someone’s head. Let’s say your brand name is ChelseaPizza. Your restaurant is already up and running somewhere in New York and you want to go online as well. It’s ok to do something like TheChelseaPizza.com, ChelseaPizza.nyc or Chelsea.Pizza if the .com TLD is unavailable.
  • Distinct branding - Represent your brand and be memorable. Remember, your domain name is the face of your business - in URL format. It’s no easy task to build a brand that stands out from your competitors and sounds appealing. Make sure your domain name sounds like Brandoesque. For instance, cola-cola.com is leagues ahead of inferior options such as coca-cola-drink.com or cola-2-drink.com.

Tip 5. Avoid Silly Mistakes

  • Check and respect trademarks - Make sure your chosen name isn’t already in use by another company, copyrighted or trademarked. The last thing you want is your brand being confused with another site or brand, or worse, infringing on an existing trademark. An organization entitled People Eating Tasty Animals was once using peta.org. This might have been a coincidence, but the domain was suspended on the grounds of domain name infringement.
    Even if the address and content were an honest mistake, It’s not only confusing for your visitors, but it’s also confusing for search engines. People searching for your domain name might find their search engine results are full of irrelevant links. On the other end of the spectrum, registering a domain to sell to the trademark owner is not only unlawful, but it’s also illegal. Thanks to the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, the company Zero Mico software registration of microsoft.com was suspended after Microsoft filed a protest.
  • Semantics - You’ve probably come across historical examples of some poorly thought-out domain names such as penisland.com, brought to you by pen seller, Pen Island. How your name is interpreted is a significant consideration. To be on the safe side, check for possible misinterpretations.
  • Protect your brand - Purchase misspelled versions of your domain name and alternative spellings. It’s not uncommon for Internet users to mistype web addresses, this way, you ensure customers are directed to your site. This strategy will block your competitors from registering them and potentially misdirecting customers away from your site.

Why is the right domain name important?

Your domain name is a crucial part of your overall brand. It’s a central visitor-facing element giving the first impression of your website or blog. Taking some time to consider the right domain is the first step to building your online business. Choosing well can instill confidence in your products and services, while a poor choice may misrepresent your brand. Creating something memorable, eye-catching, and unique without causing alarm is the challenge.

A catchy name isn’t your only consideration when it comes to naming your website. There’s also the data that links domain names and extensions with Google’s ranking algorithm. Using search terms in your domain name and domain extensions is believed to help you rank better in search engines. However, you should be careful with this strategy: some experts say Google penalizes sites with what they term "exact match keyword" domain names. For example, BestLaptop.com would be classed as spammy and ranked lower than a partial match keyword such as LaptopGuy.com.

How to create a domain name

To create a domain name, you need to register an available domain name. Registration is a three-party process involving the registry, registrar, and registrant.

Registry

The organization than manages top-level domain names (TLDs) is a domain name registry. Registries create domain name extensions and set the parameters for that domain. Some registries sell domain names directly, and others collaborate with registrars to sell domains to the general public. For example, Verisign sells .com domains at a regulated price, whereas individual domain name registrars sell domain names retail to consumers and businesses.

Registrar

The registrar is an organization, like Namecheap, that sells domain names to the general public.

Registrant

A registrant is anyone who registers a domain name. When you register your chosen domain name, you will become a registrant!

The allocation policies for domains vary. Historically, registries operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. Applications for particular domains have been rejected based on sensitivity regards political, cultural, religious reasons or perceived obscenity for example.

If you’re interested in registering a domain, Namecheap offers thousands of affordable domain names and reliable hosting. These invaluable services make it easier to manage your domain, and their first-class support will contribute to the ongoing success of your website.

Tips for Domain Flippers

Savvy Internet users will be fully aware of the term ‘domain flipping’. Domain flipping refers to the buying and selling of domains for a profit. Domain squatting is a perfectly legal practice. Entrepreneurs treat domains exactly as they would real estate property that’s bought and sold in the offline world.

Flipping domains isn’t risk-free, but, there are some best practice guidelines to stick to:

  • Stick to a niche you anticipate will be profitable in the future if not now.
    Domain flipping is all about seeking the most profitable niches available. Finding a profitable niche will help you with fishing and parking domain names. Having a niche also makes it easy to seek out prospective buyers interested in the domain names you are offering.
  • Do your keyword research.
    To expect a good return on your investment, focus on hot keywords with high traffic. A domain name that buyers would be interested in including a keyword with traffic over 10,000 a month is a pretty fail-safe money-spinner.
  • Don’t overlook local domain names.
    The market for local social search engine optimization has really taken off. Search domain registries for local domain names for all business types from salons to pizza parlors. Localized domain names with target keywords will thrive on Google making them higher in value.
  • Buy a new domain wherever possible.
    Even though the majority of generic domain names are usually taken, there will be some high-value, unregistered .com domains. Don’t waste time registering such a domain name. Be sure to use an accredited domain registry such as Namecheap, which will enable you to sell your domain to an interested party easily.
  • Buy domains with a decent page rank.
    Buying an existing domain name can be profitable too. Testing a domain’s rank and backlinks is a smart move to test its value. A domain with little to offer by way of keyword relevancy might have been previously owned by a business with lots of backlinks and a decent page rank. A domain with a ranking of five combined with a good number of backlinks could be worth a lot of money.
  • Consider alternative TLDs.
    The .com is indeed a sought-after domain extension, it's also one of the most expensive and new opportunities are thin on the ground in many places. There are many alternative top-level domains available with the potential to of being sold at high-profit rates.
  • Know your budget and stick to it.
    Just like any other business, knowing and sticking to it is very important when it comes to domain flipping. Investing small amounts of money when you get started to make bigger investments once you have more experience in the field.

Tools

It’s extremely challenging to come up with a business name that has an available domain. That’s where our tools come in useful. These tools take your choice word and show you all the domains available with extra words or prefixes. There is plenty to help you create and choose the right domain name with features to craft the perfect domain name:

  • Check the United States Patent and Trademark Office USPTO to see if any mark has been registered or applied for similar to your domain name.
  • RankSignals is a powerful website that’s free to use on registration. Once registered you can view the PageRank and backlink information of any website. This data is not only a good test of the value of a domain in search terms, it will help you can avoid buying a page hit by a Google penalty.
  • Google is a great tool for securing your brand on the Internet. A simple search to check for the use of your intended brand, personal name, username, or product on the Internet. This way, you can find the right domain name before someone else does.

We hope these tips and tools help you on your quest to find an effective domain name for your website. Utilizing the resources available in this post will help you brainstorm ideas and generate your perfect domain name.


Namecheap Staff

Namecheap Staff

More articles written by Namecheap.

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