Business, Domains, Startup, Tools

How to choose a domain name

How to choose a domain name

What’s in a name?  We are going to cover why picking a great name for your business is important, and we are going to discuss how to choose a domain name.

Creating a strong brand is a critical element for any new online business, or startup, but many people pay little thought to this step.  They start an online business without much thought to what they name it, and then years later they finally figure out that they need to go in a different name direction.  With a few of the tips outlined in this article, you can avoid making some common mistakes that trip people up.

How to choose a domain nameBranding comes from the days when livestock was branded with distinct letters, or symbol to make a clear distinction of ownership.  They needed them to stand out from the crowd, and you also need your business to stand out from the crowd.  Branding makes a clear distinction between you and the competition.  A name creates an immediate impact, a first impression, and within seconds, leaves you audience with an impression, good or bad, about your business.  Take the time to get your naming right.  That is why you are here.

I am going to walk you through the process of choosing a domain name, and give you guidelines to follow throughout the naming process.

How to choose a domain name: Do’s

This is how you choose a good domain name: you should put your potential domain names through the following tests:

Short

Keep you name ideas short.  People have to type in your domain name, so make it as easy as possible for them.  Shorter names tend to be easier to remember.

Indicative vs cool

Your domain name should be indicative of what you do, or it should be cool sounding, and brandable.  I am talking about Pinch of Yum vs Nike.  Or Problogger vs Starbucks.  All of these name really work, but they use different approaches.

Memorable and Catchy

You want you name to catch on, and be easily remembered.  Some people get way too abstract in their naming.  They have these elaborate explanations for what their names mean.  If you have to give a long explanation of your name, you gotten off track.  Live by the K.I.S.S principle.  The name should stand on its own without you have to give an explanation.

Spellable

Make it easy on your audience.  Don’t make it difficult to type in the name of your website.  It is okay to come up with new words, and original things, but make it easy to spell and remember.

Unique & Distinct

Don’t be derivative, and just clone someone else’s idea.  Strive to come up with something unique, and distinct that you can build a brand around.  You want to stand out from your crowd.  If someone has a name you like, don’t just add a hyphen, and copy them.  Stand out.  Be original.

Pronounceable

Sometimes a name may sound good in your head, or look cool when it is written down on paper.  Give it a verbal test.  Say the name out loud, and see how it sounds.  Ask some of your friends to repeat it back to you out loud.  It might sound great to you in your head, but sound terrible when someone else says it.  They may even struggle to pronounce it.

Keywords

First, let me say, keywords are not absolutely essential in your domain name.  If you write consistently about a subject, and you include your main keywords in your tagline, then people will often link to your site with your tagline, or main subject of your website.  If you are promoting baby strollers, then it might be good to include the phrase.  Then again, a cool baby related name would be much more brandable.  Nowadays, Google has diminished the importance of keywords in domain names.  They favor brands, so build a brand.

Avoid trademarks

This is a no brainer.  Don’t put trademarked names in your domain name.  You are just asking for trouble.  To be really cautious, you can also check online if you are not sure that a name you came up with is trademarked.  Just because a domain name is available does not mean that someone does not already have a trademark for the name.

These are the do’s.  Now lets talk about what you should not do.

How to choose a domain name: Don’t’s

If you want to come up with a bad domain, do the following:

Make it too long

NO ONE wants to do all that typing.  Really, don’t force me to type out your long domain name over and over again.

Making it esoteric, and abstract

If it takes you 5 minutes to give me this long drawn out explanation of your domain name, you have already done my head in.  Naming a business is the absolute worst time to try to be too clever, or abstract.  You have to make a quick, simple, easy first impression.  You might think it is really cool, or clever, but it will just turn people off.  If you keep having to explain the name, give up!  Find a better name.

Skipping the .com

I know some websites have succeeded without having the .com, but they are the exception not the norm.  Not buying the .com is less than ideal, and you will probably end up sending traffic to someone else’s website.  Most people assume websites are a dot com.  They will remember your business name, and then add a dot com on the end.  You can still find great names online, so don’t just settle for a .net, or a .org.  Just really work on the brainstorming sessions, and be creative.

Adding hyphens

Adding hyphens is another less than ideal solution.  In most cases, you are copying someone else’s name, and then just adding the hyphen.  Not being original is no bueno.

Adding numbers

Numbers are another domain name hack that I really don’t like to see.  It is just a way to cut corners.  Numbers in domain names slow people down when typing in your domain name.  It also feels like you could not come up with a good enough name, so you gave in to numbers.

Skipping on buying the other domain extensions

Don’t just focus on the .com.  People buy .nets, and .orgs just to copy your idea once you become popular, so buy the .net, and the .org from the very beginning.  If you can afford to buy other extension, do that too.  You should protect your brand.

Forgetting social media

Great.  You’ve come up with a great domain name.  You buy it, and now you go to get the twitter.  Ugh, It’s already taken.  This is something that you can easily avoid.  Use namecheckr to check the various social networks, and make sure you can have matching social media profiles for your brand.

Okay, you know what to do, and what not to do.  Let’s figure out your naming approach.

How to choose a domain name: Naming approaches

This is not a one size fits all subject.  Great domain names come in many different flavors.  There are few different naming approaches you should know about:

Make up a new word

This is my favorite category.  That is why it is first, and this approach applies to the name of this very site.  Play around with word parts, and affixes, and suffixes.  People often say all the great domain names are gone.  I disagree.  You have to be persistent and creative, and you CAN come up with something that is remarkable.  Tools like bustaname, and namemesh are awesome tools to do word and suffix combinations for you.  In addition, they also make sure that the domain names are available.  I hate coming up with a name and it is already taken.

Word combinations

Can’t come up with a new word, then start combining whole words, but keep the total length short.  SnapChat is a great example, or Facebook.  I love Pinch of Yum.  It is fairly short, and very indicative of the purpose of the site.  Delicious food.

Stick to 2 or 3 words.  You want to keep it short.

If there is a great phrase used in the process of using, or related to your topic, try and see if the domain name is available.  You might find yourself repeating a phrase over and over again when talking about the subject.  Turn your radar on and pay attention for a clever phrase that can perfectly represent what your website is about.

Something abstract

Name like Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, and Nike seem to have absolutely nothing to do with what each of these companies sell, but the names really work.  These are some of the top brands in the world.  All of these names are unique and extremely brandable.  They really stand out from the crowd.  Since so many companies use names that are indicative of their purpose, they can all start to blend together.  I am not brave enough to use these kinds of names, but maybe you are.  My mind is not comfortable using these types of names for any of my businesses because they do not seem logical, even though I know they work.

Use your name

Are you the product or the brand.  Fashion designer?  Consultant? Freelancer?  Sometimes using your own name is the perfect solution.  Everything you write online builds your authority, and thought leadership.  If your first name and last name don’t work.  Try your middle name, or just use an initial.  Initials can make an common name into something distinct.

How to choose a domain name: Examples of some great domain names:

Made up word names

  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • Google
  • Ebay
  • ASOS

Word combination names

  • PinchofYum
  • Meetup
  • Youtube
  • Snapchat
  • Paypal
  • Facebook
  • eBay
  • Problogger – the dot com would have been even better

Abstract names

  • Amazon
  • Nike
  • Starbuck
  • Apple

How to choose a domain name: Brainstorm

Okay.  I’ve laid out the basics of coming up with a good domain name.  Now it is time to get to work.  Pull out that notepad, and start brainstorming.  Reference the tools I mentioned above and below, and try to come up with a comprehensive list of ideas.

Here are some tools I like to use:

Don’t rush this process.  It could take a day, or it could take weeks.  Just keep going, and keep brainstorming ideas.  Keep your notepad with you at all times.  Look around you and look for inspiration everywhere.  Use a thesaurus.  Find out what other words are similar to your topic’s main word.  Sometimes you have to think laterally.

If you are using tools like Bustaname, and Namemesh, they will show you automatically which names are available.  If you are brainstorming without tools, you are going to have to go and check availability on sites like Namecheap.  As I said before, make sure you can get the .net, and .org along with the .com.  Get rid of names where the .net, and .org are already taken.

The final thing to do is check that you can have matching social media usernames to match your brand.  Go to Namecheckr and make sure all of the social media profiles you need are available.  Cut out names that don’t have your brand name available on the major social networks.

How to choose a domain name: Refine the list

You have taken your time, and come up with a really thorough list of ideas.  It is now time to narrow things done.  I like to print out all of the potential domain names.  Post them on the wall, and then meditate on them a little.  Names start falling off the list pretty quickly, and the cream of the crop rise easily.  Now just focus on the very best ones.  Trust your instincts.  The best name usually resonates with you.  Do a little market research.  Ask your friends, and see what they think.  Which name do they all seem to like?  Do you agree?  See how you respond to their feedback.  Their responses may inform your own.  My friends’ responses sometimes make me realize how much I like a name, even when they don’t.  Their responses sometimes make my inner voice become louder.

How to choose a domain name: Pick the finalist

You have to get it down to one.  It is time to make the final choice.  Did you check the social media availability of your domain name as I suggested above?  Have you made sure the name is not trademarked.  If you have passed all of these test, let’s go!

How to choose a domain name: Buy your domain names

There are many places to buy domains online, but I personally recommend NameCheap.  That is who I use.

How to choose a domain name: Get hosting for your website

I recommend keeping you hosting and domain names separate, just in case.  I personally recommend BlueHost, and HostMonster.  They both have great up time, and have good reputations.  They are often recommended.

How to choose a domain name: Wrapping up

I hope this process worked for you, and that you were able to come up with a great domain name.  If not, just loop back and start over again.  Open up your mind, and try some different approaches.  I’ve had to circle back and start over myself.

Don’t believe people when they say all of the good domains are already taken.  I continue to find unique, interesting, and fun names all of the time using the approach, and tools i’ve laid out.

You will come up with a great name following the process I have outlined.

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