How to Choose a Domain Name
Domain names are your first impression on the internet. It's how people find you and return to you. You can expect your domain to be around for the long haul because websites aren't going anywhere!
All this makes your domain an important decision. Below, we'll help you decide how to choose a URL and then make it a reality.
Still working on creating your company name? Check out these business naming tricks to help you get started.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is your website URL. It's what people type into the address bar of their internet browser to find you.
Technically, these domain names provide a human-friendly name that directs computers to a website's IP address (a 32-bit numeric address that would be a pain to hand out).
Good Examples: google.com, amazon.com, onlinelabels.com
Traits Of A Good Domain Name
Let these proven best practices be your guide as you brainstorm and decide on a domain name.
It Matches Your Business Name
People should be able to type your business name into their browser, add “.com” (or your chosen suffix), and arrive at your website. If you're starting from scratch, choose your business name and domain name simultaneously.
If your desired domain isn't available, consider tweaking your business name and/or your domain name to create a match. Go with something as close as possible to your intended URL. Try shortening or abbreviating some of the words, using your slogan instead, or a similar tactic.
Good Examples: enterprise.com, publix.com, macys.com
It's Easy To Spell & Say
Similar to choosing a business name, people should be able to hear your domain and spell it, and read it and say it. Otherwise, you become a source of confusion.
Also, triple-check reading your domain aloud to make sure there are no possible misinterpretations (e.g. Itscrap.com or Speedofart.com).
Good Examples: traderjoes.com, christmas.com
Datagenetics.com found that the optimal domain length is 6-14 characters long, or one-to-two words. These generate the most web traffic.
Good Examples: reddit.com, facebook.com, etsy.com
It's Easy To Remember
If you can't find a short domain or don't want to, your domain should be an easy-to-remember sentence or phrase that makes sense. It's like a password that your customers can remember to unlock your business!
Good Examples: webuyanycar.com, findyourindependentadvisor.com, dollarshaveclub.com
It's Not Complicated
People are not used to remembering numbers or hyphens when they search the internet – don't try to make them.
The only exceptions are large corporations that include a hyphen in their brand name. But even these companies will redirect their non-hyphenated domain to the hyphenated version.
Bad Examples: coca-cola.com, chick-fil-a.com, 5below.com, r2d2.com
It Ends In Dot Com
Notice all the examples so far end in ".com" – it dominates the internet. Domainnamestat.com shows ".com" makes up 42% of domains, while ".net" makes up a meager 4% as the runner-up.
There are two main exceptions to the “.com” is best rule: location or business-specific. If you're targeting a specific country, choose the suffix of your target country (dot UK for the United Kingdom, dot DE for Germany, dot CN for China, etc). If you fall under a specific organization type, go with the industry standard (dot ORG for nonprofits; dot CO as an abbreviation for company, commerce, and community; or dot ME for blogs, resumes, or personal sites).
Pro tip: Capture all your related domains! Depending on your budget, purchase the domains ending in the various suffixes. It's easy to forward other domains you own to your main website so you still capture those visitors. Learn more about domain forwarding.
Try not to limit yourself, so the domain can grow and expand with you. For example, maybe you start off your blog as raisingtwoyearolds.com, but what happens when you're raising three year olds?
Good Examples: imperfectfamilies.com, inc.com, bedbathandbeyond.com
It's Not Spammy
Back in internet historic times, it was common practice to create what's called an Exact Match Domain, or a domain name that matched common search phrases. The idea was that Google would show your domain in the search results first. No longer!
Now, if your domain is too much of a keyword grab, you won't show up in search results at all. Learn more about this trend.
Bad Examples: buycheapsunglasses.com, largekitchenappliances.com, bestphonereviews.com
How To Get A Domain Name
Once you have a great URL, here's how to proceed.
Check The Availability
Don't get too attached to a domain name until you've confirmed it's available! Check the URL itself is free and that it's available as a handle across all social media channels.
You can check those criteria and more by visiting formalfounder.com. Simply enter your domain name and you'll find all available and unavailable domains, social handles, LLCs, and trademarks.
Additional Domain Search Tools
- BNG: Business Name Generator and domain availability checker
- Dot-o-mator: a fun domain name generator
- Domain Name Generator: a more to-the-point domain name generator
- Wordoid: a word generator based on a keyword
- Lean Domain Search: generates sensible available domain names
Ready Your Wallet
Domain names are typically inexpensive, so cost shouldn't be an impeding factor. However, you may come across one of these unexpected roadblocks that could change the game:
- Your domain name is taken. You can try and buy it from the company or come up with a new option.
- It's a "premium" domain that costs thousands. Check out the most expensive domain names for kicks.
- It's held by a "domain sitter," someone who purchases domains for no other reason than to sell them at elevated prices.
Thankfully, there are usually solutions to these roadblocks. Learn more about purchasing domains.
Once you've determined your desired domain name is available, buy it! Domain names sell quickly. Learn how to purchase a domain name.
Don't overthink your domain decision. As long as your domain includes some of the best traits we've outlined above and is representative of your business, it'll be a good foundation. The rest is up to you!