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How to Choose a Domain Name: First, Do This

Picking the right domain name is not always an easy task. Here are 18 useable tips to help you.

As more and more people go online, having a website has become an important part of a business, especially for online businesses. The first and one of the most important things when it comes to setting up your own site is choosing a domain name. Your domain name defines your site, your brand, and your business, and it is important to choose a domain name that fits your business. Your domain name is the first thing that visitors will see and can make a lasting impression on your business. 

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing a domain name for your site and in this article, we will discuss 18 things to consider when buying your domain name, an SIA test on domain names and SEO, and a brief run through of how to buy a domain name, in order to get you started.

Expired Domains: A Short Introduction

expired domain - short introduction

While the emphasis of this article is toward choosing and registering a brand new, never-registered domain, I should mention the option of choosing an existing domain name that was previously owned.

These domain names are called expired domains. Expired domains are domains that are past their expiry date and were not renewed by their previous owners. They are available for registration.

There are some pros and cons to expired domains. While these types of domains are outside the scope of this article, I’ll list 2 key considerations that come to mind when buying expired domains.

  1. Expired domains can be good because if the domain previously had a good authority, you can register that domain name and build off of that reputation. (Moz and ahrefs have metrics known as domain authority and domain rating respectively, which are rough insights into the authority of a domain.) Some people opt for renewing these domains and building their sites on it as they already have the authority and can be easier to rank in search engines, from an SEO perspective.
  1. Conversely, if the expired domain you’re considering is a bad domain and has some negative signs (ie: a lot of spammy links or Wayback Machine reveals there was a questionable site on that domain), you may wish to consider another domain. 

If you opt for going for an expired domain, make sure to do your due diligence in going through the domain to make sure that it does not have any penalty from when it was previously registered or that it does not have any spammy or negative links going to it that could cause negative effects on your site and brand. 

Now that I have discussed what expired domains, let us go on with my 18 tips to consider when choosing the perfect domain to buy for your site. 

18 Tips to Consider When Choosing a Domain Name

domain name that meets all the criteria

Tip #1:  Meaningful

Ideally, you want a domain name that’s meaningful to you and that can be associated to your business. It’s wise to choose one that is related to your market in order to give users an idea of what your site is about but you also do not want to limit yourself too much, in case you would prefer to build a brand and expand to other markets later on. 

It would also be good to choose a domain name that invokes positive associations about your business and brand. This would make it easier to remember.

Tip #2: Avoid Potential Trademark Issues

Be sure there are no trademark or copyright issues. There may be a business that uses the same name that’s in the domain you’re considering. For US trademarks, you can refer to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Avoid legal issues such as a trademark infringement issue down the road by checking and making sure that there are no existing trademarks for the name that you will choose.

Another thing to consider in case you do not have social media accounts for your business yet is to also check if the name is available on social media sites. When building a brand, it is best to have the same name in building your online presence. This means that your site and social media accounts should be the same. This builds a stronger online presence and makes it easier for your customers, visitors to access your site and different social media channels. 

Tip #3: Avoid Numbers and Double Letters

Try to avoid numbers in your domain name, unless they’re meaningful. If your company’s or brand’s name is 456 Anywhere Street, then sure, see if 456anywhere.com is available. However if it is not, avoid it as numbers can be hard to remember.

In the same way, doubled letters can be prone to typing errors which can cause a loss of traffic to typos.

 

Tip #4: Check WHOIS Info and Archive.org

WHOIS site

The ICANN domain name registration lookup site can help you see if your prospective domain name has any past registration history and to check for domain name availability. On the other hand, Archive.org will show you the domain history – if there was an existing site previously on the domain and what it looked like before. This can help you catch any potential pitfalls, like accidentally building your site on a spam domain or a domain that was previously an adult site, casino site, etc. 

Tip #5: Easy to Remember

Ideally, you want people to be able to audibly hear your domain (or site) name. You should be able to share your domain name easily when someone asks about it, they should be able to hear it clearly, remember it easily, and type it to their browsers and access your site without issue.

Having a memorable domain is important as it would help customers remember your site and easily access it. 

Tip #6: Consider Country Code Top-Level Domain Extensions

If your business strictly caters to only customers of a given country or geographic location, you may wish to have a domain name that, for example, ends in .ca (Canada), uk (United Kingdom), .br (Brazil), and so on.

Tip #7: Aim for Fewer Syllables

This goes hand-in-hand with choosing a domain name that’s easier to remember.

Avoid hyphenated domains. Imagine having a domain-name.com site but people remembering you and typing the wrong domain – domainname.com and getting an unavailable site.

Tip #8: Try to Get a .com Domain Name Extension

The .com TLD is probably the most-recognized, most professional-looking one. I know that it’s more and more difficult to find a good .com that meets all of these criteria, but do your best. If you don’t find a .com you like, that’s fine. Many companies, particularly Internet-based ones, don’t use .com domains. I’ve seen .ai (which may be thought of as relating to artificial intelligence, but is really for the country of Anguilla).

Tip #9: Annual Renewal Price

Consider the annual price of your domain name. .com domains are usually $10 to $15 a year, and have been for years, but I’ve seen other TLDs that are noticeably more. When it comes to the other TLDs, there’s something I’ve been wondering: Can the prices of those TLDs be increased substantially? I’d advise you to look into this.

Tip #10: Brandability

If you haven’t yet named your brand, company, or product, then you may be in a good position: finding a good, brandable domain name, and also a memorable name that you can name your company after can be a great boost. I imagine that before Google was named Google, its founders looked to make sure the domain google.com was available.

Tip #11: Short and Easy to Spell

Quite similar to my earlier tip to go for a domain name that is easy to remember, keep your domain name simple and go for a short and easy to spell.

Tip #12: Be Creative

One way to be creative is to try to combine words (or portions of words) that haven’t been combined before.

Tip #13: Consider Registering Other TLDs

For example, if you registered amazon.com, you’d probably want to register the .net, .org, .ca, .br, and several others.

Tip #14: Other Languages

Consider what the word(s) in your domain name may mean in other languages. Of course, this requires a knowledge of more than one language, and/or asking others. You don’t want an international brand that has a name that means something undesired in a major language.

Tip #15: Try a Domain Name Generator or Business Name Generator

A domain name generator screenshot

If you’re stuck and are looking for domain ideas, try domain name generators for some domain name ideas that you can consider. These are sites you can go to where you enter one or more descriptive words, and submit those words. The domain name generator will then make suggestions on possible domain names you can register.

Tip #16: Uniqueness

This, of course, can help you stand out and can help your site and brand be remembered. But remember my earlier tips and to avoid weird spellings that cannot be remembered by visitors.

Tip #17: Quirkiness

Facebook.com, Google.com, Amazon.com, YouTube.com…all, at least at first, seemed quirky. Yet, they somehow caught and are now household names.

Even some industry sites (such as Moz and ahrefs in the SEO industry) had quirky sites that became household names in their respective industries.

Tip #18: Consider Registering Misspellings

Let’s say that, in your domain name, there’s a word that people often misspell. For example, your domain name is kristinesgym.com.

But, as you know, Kristine can also be spelled as Christine and Cristine (C with and without an h).

So, you might want to consider getting christinesgym.com and cristinesgym.com.

(And then, what you do is, after you order those additional domains, at the site where you registered those domains, point/redirect those domains to your actual domain. That way, if someone types the misspelled version, they’ll be redirected to the correct domain.)

SIA Test 18: Exact-Match Domain Names Vs. Partial-Match Domains

I’ve provided some tips for your domain search but something that I have not discussed, from a Search engine optimization perspective, is using keywords in domains and going for an exact match or partial match keyword domain.

An exact-match domain can be explained as follows:

  1. Let’s say you want to rank for the keyword phrase, nyc plumber.
  2. Then the domain name nycplumber.com (or .net, .us, etc.) is an exact match domain.
  3. The domain name nycplumber.com is an exact-match domain because the words in the domain name match exactly with the words in your keyword that you would like to rank for in search engines, in the same sequence.

A partial-match domain name can be explained as follows:

  1. Let’s say that, again, your keyword phrase is nyc plumber.
  2. A partial-match domain can be plumberinnyc.com
  3. It’s a partial-match because the words in the domain name don’t exactly match the words in your target keyword in the same sequence, and rather, is a partial match.

With that said, which is better when it comes to search ranking?

In test 18 of the SIA, it was tested which is better when it comes to seo ranking benefit and in this test, it was found that exact match are still better than partial matches when it comes to ranking a site, just based on the domain name. 

While exact-match domain names may be better, they can also be limiting.

For example, with nycplumber.com, you’re stating that you’re a plumber in NYC. But what if you want to expand beyond NYC?

You could do that while using the same domain name, but in that case, Clint Butler suggests that maybe a partial-match domain name (maybe ricksplumbing.com) might be better, because you can brand it (your name’s Rick) and the domain name doesn’t suggest confinement to any local area.

You can watch more at the video below.

Do you have to get an exact- or partial-match domain name?

No, of course not. If you want to build a national brand, or a brand beyond any geographic area, you don’t need an exact- or partial-match domain name and you can go for brandable domain names.

You probably also don’t need an exact- or partial-match domain if your site isn’t confined to a specific subject, product category, or anything else that can be tightly defined.

Now that I have given you tips on choosing a great domain, let me discuss how to register your domain name.

You Don’t Really “Own” or “Buy” a Domain Name; Instead, You Register/Rent a Domain Name.

The first thing you should probably know is that you don’t technically buy a domain name. That’s why you have to renew it annually.

Now, in this industry, the word buy is used as a short form of saying register, but just keep in mind that the use of the word buy when it comes to domains is not exactly accurate, just a convenience.

This is important to keep in mind, because if you don’t renew your domain name when the renewal date arrives and your domain expires, someone else can renew your domain name.

This, of course, can be very detrimental for businesses that register a domain name, spend time building brand recognition…only for that to be lost because of such an easily preventable oversight.

I’ve had it happen to me, and though it wasn’t a big loss (because I didn’t really do much with the domain), it could be a colossal loss for other businesses.

So, perhaps if there’s one thing I can tell serious business owners, it’s to make sure you don’t forget to renew your domain when the time comes.

Usually, a good domain name registrar will give you the option of having a reminder email sent in the weeks or days prior to expiration. You can also check in with your domain name registrar to ensure that your domain’s status is good and up to date.

A domain name registrar or domain broker is just a company/website where you buy (or rather, register) your domain. Once you have chosen your domain name, all you would have to do is to register it in a domain registrar. 

There are a lot of domain registrars on the internet and it is important to choose one that you trust as it may be difficult to move domains to different registrars. Examples of registrars are domain.com, godaddy.com, and namecheap.com, Google domains, etc. Hosting platforms also offer domain registration in their services and you can always opt for getting your domain name registered by the hosting platform that you choose. It would be up to you and your preference. 

With regards to domain registration cost, it varies and can just be a couple of bucks and there are some expensive domain that can cost thousands. It depends on the popularity and even the domain name extension used. While choosing your domain name, you can also check the price for the domain, in domain brokers in order to help you decide which potential domain to go for in your domain name search. 

I hope that with my article and tips, I was able to give you more clarity and help you in choosing an effective domain and an ideal domain for your business. 

We have more SIA tests on domain names and their SEO value – whether to go for an aged domain or a new domain, which domain extension has ranking value, etc, that may also help you decide further in choosing your domain. Check out our tests, better yet, be a member to get more tested and verified SEO tips and tricks to get you to the top of search engine rankings.

DK Fynn

SIA STAFF SEO WRITER

DK Fynn full bio here.