How to select a decent domain name

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Coming up with a decent domain name for your new website isn’t easy. Mine ultimately came from using a pre-existing user name I had elsewhere online (and at someone’s suggestion). Still, there’s other ways of coming up with a unique URL.

Others have written plenty on how to do this, including Moz, the Huffington Post, Elegant Themes, and Mashable. Drawing from those, plus my own experience, I’ve made some suggestions below.

Check if the name’s available, and if so, for how much

Like user names, all the popular or obvious domain names were grabbed years ago. Even less obvious names are either unavailable or only at a steep price. For instance, domain registrar Hover.com (which is what I use) says it costs $3,550 to register my full name as a .com URL.

Make sure the domain name is appropriate, easy to remember, and easy to spell

HP Stream
Photo by 1588877 (Pixabay / CC0)

It helps if the domain name ties into your site’s subject or branding. One could come up with “anthonys-comics-and-animation-blog.xyz” as a domain name. However, that’d be prone to misspellings, plus it’s rather long to remember.

Ideal points to keep in mind for the domain name:

  • Keep it easy to spell, including avoiding unusual or creative word spellings when applicable. Not everyone can be Flickr/Tumblr/etc.
  • Make sure it’s appropriate for your site’s focus.
  • Avoid hyphens in the URL, as they’re easy to forget to type.
  • Try to keep the URL length as short as possible.
  • Avoid infringing on some other site’s trademark via a too-similar name.
  • Make sure the URL can’t be interpreted as (or actually is) something offensive, juvenile, or tacky.

Stick with .com if possible

Why .com? It’s the most popular domain extension, period. Most people automatically assume any site will end with .com. Even some browsers or smartphones will offer to fill in .com when typing URLs.

I’ll discuss .com’s alternatives below.

.net and .org

The extensions .net and .org are also pretty popular, though the latter is traditionally geared toward nonprofit organizations. It might be worth considering a .net (or .org if a nonprofit) if paired with careful promotion/marketing. Some who’re using a .com domain might also buy the .net version (and redirect it to the .com one) just to keep it out of others’ hands.

Country-specific extensions (.us, .ca, etc.)

Country-specific extensions might be useful if your site’s aimed at a specific country; for instance, Amazon.ca is Amazon’s Canadian version of its website. Otherwise, you’re better off going with .com.

Avoid .biz, .info, etc.

There’s been an explosion of domains, not helped by ICANN (the regulatory body for such) increasingly opening up such in recent years. However, I wouldn’t consider most of them worth pursuing.

The extensions .biz and .info are probably the most popular of these. Originally, the domain .biz was aimed at businesses; however, its reputation is now less-than-trustworthy or spammer-like. The same goes for .info. Both also convey the site’s owner either doesn’t take things seriously or couldn’t bother to get a .com (or even .net).

Name generators

A few web sites exist that generate possible names based on entered criteria.

One I used for my site’s recent name change to Diverse Tech Geek is Lean Domain Search, a site run by Automattic (the people behind WordPress). Not only does the site generate hundreds of possible site names, but it also checks to see if their corresponding Twitter handles are available.

Conclusion

Picking a domain name is something one ideally will stick with for a long time, so some thought should go into its selection.

How did you select your domain name? Let everyone know in the comments below.

(Updated 10/2/17)


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