How to Choose a Domain Name

If you know anyone who has had a child recently, then no doubt you will have heard all about the drama of choosing a name. This is a name that the child is going to have to live with for the rest of their lives after all… and studies show us that we can actually end up growing ‘into’ our names, in as much as they can end up impacting on our personalities and even our appearances.

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So this is no small matter. And the same goes for naming a website. When you name your blog, it is once again going to impact on the way people perceive it before they ever actually load it up. It’s going to impact on your ability to market yourself and it’s going to impact on the way you end up designing your site and thinking about other aspects of your business.
This is no easy matter, so let’s take a look at how you go about thinking of your domain name.

What’s In a Name?

A good place to start would be by thinking about what your domain name needs to do. What is the purpose of your blog’s web address?

The answers can be fairly simply listed. A good domain name should:

  • Be memorable to help people find your site
  • Appropriately affect the nature of your niche/industry
  • Avoid competition
  • Help to reaffirm your brand

In many cases, the domain name then is going to be the exact same as the name of your blog and your brand. This is the case for the majority of big brands including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, YouTube etc. etc.

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This is the ideal scenario because it means that your visitors will be able to remember your address and how they found your site simply by referring to the name of your business. This will enforce congruence and it will look more professional too.

Ideally then, you’ll think up your domain name and your company name at the same time. This should all be part of one cohesive strategy – so when coming up with a company name ask yourself: will this work as a logo? Will it work as a domain? Anything with lots of dashes, full stops or awkward spellings is going to be hard for people to remember and make it harder for them to find you in future. Ask yourself: if you told someone the name of your website in passing, would they be able to remember it and type it in when they got back home?

Finally, you need to think about the name of your website in terms of SEO. Back in the day, marketers would choose domain names that were specifically designed to work from an SEO standpoint. These would then use phrases that people would search as the name for the website. For example, it might be ‘buyhatsonline.com’ if the site was trying to sell hats.

Today though, this doesn’t work as it once did. For starters, Google has been very explicit in stating that it doesn’t want creators to use this strategy and that they would much rather that they created actual brands that they could promote. This creates many more marketing opportunities for you and it also gives your website more ‘trust’ and more authority.

Think about your own experiences: the biggest websites on the net that come up the most in searches are the ones that have global brands. That should be your aim – not attempting to make a quick buck from a name you think will bring you customers.

Dealing With Competition

But what if you have a great idea for a company name and that name is taken? This is when you then need to start thinking a little more creatively about your name.

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While it is certainly true that you should aim to build a brand, you also shouldn’t create a website with a very obscure name unless you have the marketing clout to be able to promote that name and create recognition for your brand. Call your business ‘GOOBADOO’ and you’ll need an advertising campaign – probably on television – in order to make that a recognized word.

This is where you run into trouble, because your good idea has probably been taken by someone else and when you search for it on your chosen hosting provider, you will probably find it’s not available. In this case you have several options and you can elect to slightly change the phrasing (‘its’ becomes ‘it is’ for example), to add in hyphens, or to change your TLD (top level domain) from .com to something like .org.

The problem you then have, is that people might end up on those other websites when they’re looking for you! This may be fine if that website is just a place holder or not a direct competitor, but it is a decision you’ll have to weigh up. In fact, some companies will buy multiple domain names to include different TLDs and even misspellings to avoid this happening. It is up to you if you think that is worthwhile.

Finally, make sure before you choose your domain name that it isn’t taken by someone else already as a trademark. Even if it isn’t a website yet, that doesn’t mean you have the right to use it – and this can cause problems later on. To make sure your domain name is free, head over to USPTO (United States Patents and Trademarks Office) and search there to ensure no one has trademarked the name you’re looking at.

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Oh and one more tip – always focus test your names before settling on one. Remember that your website name and company name is not for you but rather it is for your audience. What really matters is how they respond to the name you choose, so make sure that you come up with something that will test well.

If you do all this and the name is free for you to use then go ahead and embrace it. No turning back now!