With over 360 million registered domains, choosing a domain name that’s available and amazing can seem difficult, but it’s an absolutely necessary part of creating an online presence for your brand or business. Your domain name is the first interaction between you and your customers, and it must reflect your brand and convey the message you want to send.
While picking a domain name isn’t an exact science, there are some rules and guidelines you should follow to optimize your results. In this article, we’ll discuss these principles and give you examples of what you should and shouldn’t do when selecting a domain name, as well as what to do once you made your choice. Make sure to read till the end, where you’ll find a guide to help you through your own domain name selection process.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is a human-readable Internet address of your website. The actual address (IP address) is made of a long set of numbers that would be challenging for people to remember and type every time they want to reach your website. So to make it simpler, domains allow us to type in a combination of characters (words) instead of numbers.
Usually when people think of a website, they think of the domain name as that’s what they type into the browser to go to a site. For example, ‘dynadot.com’ is our domain name.
Domain names consist of three parts:
- Top-level domain (TLD) - .com, .net, .org for example
- 2nd-level domain (SLD) - name of the website, like ‘dynadot’
- 3rd-level domain (subdomain) - this one is optional, but usually it’s ‘www’ or a subsection of a website like ‘blog’ or ‘shop’.
The importance of choosing the right domain name
A domain name is the tool your audience uses to access your website, but it’s also so much more. Your domain name is the first online impression your customers have with your brand, making it as important as your logo and brand name.
Choosing a domain name can be an integral step in establishing your online brand. Whether you’re a small business, international corporation or freelance artist, the right domain name can help you build more authority, trust, drive more traffic and increase user interest/engagement.
It’s important to note that it’s possible to change your domain name. So even if you change your mind or eventually find a better option, it’s not the end of the world. But, be aware that it can have some consequences, such as a loss of traffic, a decrease in search engine keyword rankings, or unnecessary downtime. That’s why it’s best to choose your domain name wisely the first time.
How to choose a domain name
There are several strategies that can help you make your domain name a success and your business more visible online. In this section, we'll discuss the dos and don'ts you should take into account when brainstorming domain name ideas.
Best practices when naming a domain
Include your brand name
The first thing users probably notice about you is your brand name. So, keep it at the front of your mind when brainstorming domain names. Your brand and domain names should be the same or at least similar, to help people find you more easily.
Just look at some of the most popular sites right now, like eBay, Amazon or Facebook. They used their brand and added a TLD to create a domain name that’s specific and unique to them (ebay.com, amazon.com, facebook.com).
Use the power of your location
If you’re someone whose business only targets a local audience, don’t underestimate the power of adding the location to your domain name. It makes you more visible to the locals and tourists who search for a business in that location, which can ultimately help accomplish your online business objectives.
There are several ways to add a place to your domain:
- Put the location in the name. This is one of the simplest ways to get recognized online locally. For example, if you have a coffee place in New York, your domain name could be nyccafe.com.
- Use the area code. A perfect way to focus on a more specific location is to add area code to the domain. Something like 332cafe.shop would be a great idea if your coffee shop is located in Manhattan, New York.
- Get creative with the city's nickname. If domain names with the city’s name are taken, why not use its nickname? Try something like bigapplecoffee.com.
- Utilize ccTLDs. If your business is more country than city based, country-code domain extensions should be your choice to help people in that state find you. For a coffee place that wants to reach the audience in the whole country, not only NYC, a domain name like coffeeshop.us could work.
- Opt for geographic domain extensions. Those are the domains that belong to a city, province or continent. A domain name coffeeshop.nyc would show that the coffee place is located in New York.
One problem with location keywords is that it limits the scope of your reach. So, if you ever decide to expand your business to other locations, you’d have to get a new domain name. But, that’s not too complicated and you can always redirect those to your new primary domain.
Choose the TLD wisely
While the most popular TLD is .com, grabbing an available domain name with this extension can be challenging, and sometimes there are other great options for your business. Although .com carries a sense of authority online, there are other TLDs that are rising in popularity and can help situate your brand in a niche.
Some rising stars among newer TLDs are .xyz, .online, .shop, .club, .party, .marketing and many, many more. Several ccTLDs became popular outside of their primary function. For example, .io is a country-code domain extension for the Indian Ocean, but now it’s been increasingly used among tech startups. The same happened with .ai, ccTLD of Anguilla Island, which now stands for ‘artificial intelligence.’
In the end, you’ll want to choose the TLD that embodies the purpose of your business and signals authority helping you create an accurate and credible image of your brand online.
Keep it short, easy to pronounce and spell
People don’t want to type and remember a long and complicated domain name. Domain names were created so that we don’t have to memorize all those numbers in IP addresses. Stick with something short, sweet and catchy to keep your audience coming back.
Is there a perfect length? The shorter the better, but try to aim for keeping it at around 12 characters or lower. Of course, it can be a bit longer, but it’s been shown that domain names of this length can work well for brands.
Keep in mind - the shorter and simpler to say, the better.
Add keywords (optional)
Using words related to your business in the domain name can give some context to your first-time users on what the business is about and help search engines find you. So, if we refer to our example with the coffee place in New York, you could create a domain like nycshop.coffee, where ‘.coffee’ would be a TLD. This would describe your brand and the audience would know what to expect.
Now, whether adding keywords to a domain is necessary or not is debatable.
In 2020, John Muller actually advised against using keywords in domains. He explained that if you were to expand your business to a different niche in the future, that keyword would no longer be relevant. You’d need to create a new domain name and risk losing years of hard work and resources.
It’s up to you to decide whether you want to use keywords in the domain or not. But, if you do, make sure to incorporate keywords that people actually use when searching for a term or business in your industry. You can use any keyword research tool available to you to find them.
Things to avoid to choose a perfect domain name
Avoid hyphens, numbers and symbols
All of these can make your domain name harder to remember and type. You may think this would be a creative way to get a domain similar to a popular one or to get a domain close to one that’s already taken. But imagine having to say “hyphen” or “dash” out loud when referring to a domain, or having to type “@” or “$” when wanting to visit the site. It’s not very user friendly and it can be the reason you lose potential visitors. So, try to stay clear from any of these when brainstorming your domain name ideas.
Avoid mismatched domain extensions
Domain extension is, as the name suggests, an extension of your domain name, so it should be related to your site’s name. Let’s go back to our example of a coffee shop in New York. Domain names like “coffee.shop” or “nyc.coffee” would make sense. But, something like “coffee.party” or “nyccoffee.io” not so much. Try and stick to the main idea of your business to present a clear image and not confuse your potential customers.
Avoid trademarked names
Someone may think that it’s a great strategy to choose a domain name similar to an already popular one. But, this can actually cause more harm than good. If you register a domain too close to a trademarked name, you can face copyright or abuse complaints and run the risk of legal trouble.
Misspellings are a red flag to users, indicating spamming or phishing. Make sure to double-check your domain name for spelling mistakes before registering it to avoid this kind of assumption.
Stop focusing on perfection
It’s easy to get caught up in the all or nothing mentality, thinking to either have an amazing domain or no domain at all. But that kind of reasoning is what can stand between you and your dream business. An average domain name can work wonders - it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Pro Tip - Move fast
Great domain name ideas are taken instantly. Verisign found that one domain is registered roughly every second, and that in just the first three months of 2022, 8.8 millions of domain names were registered. As the interest for domain names increases every year, this number isn’t surprising.
If you’re considering getting a domain name, act fast! With so many people wanting to create an online presence, domain names go quickly and waiting for too long can result in your domain name idea getting taken. Don’t risk missing out on a perfect domain name for your business or brand. Brainstorm ideas, go through our checklist to make sure you’re on the right path and register your domain name as soon as possible.
A guide for creating your domain name
After the domain naming process…
Once you’re done with selecting your domain name and you’re sure of your choice, it’s time to register it. But, where and how to do it? What should you pay attention to? It starts with selecting the place to make the registration.
How to choose the right domain registrar
If you started searching for domain registrars online, the first thing you probably noticed was there are a lot of them. Some provide better services than the other which can’t always be seen by going through their main page.
Here’s what you should check:
- Pricing. Some registrars don’t offer transparent price lists and can advertise a low price for the first year but then increase it when it’s time to renew. But, not all of them use this tactic. At Dynadot, you can find all of the prices for the first year and after renewal stated clearly on our price listing page.
- Domain transfers. Always check the registrar's domain transfer policy. Transfering your domain to that registrar should be easy and simple, with provided tools, support and guidance throughout the process.
- Domain privacy protection. When registering a domain, you’ll have to submit some private information to complete the registration. You’ll want this information to be secure, so make sure your registrar offers additional domain privacy and security, by implementing steps like two factor authentication.
- Expiration policy. When you don’t renew your domain name, someone else can take it. To avoid this, choose a registrar that offers grace periods that allow you to renew after some time past your deadline or has the option to setup auto-renewals.
How to get free website hosting with your domain
Some domain registrars offer free web hosting services with your domain name. You should take advantage of this opportunity, especially if you’re starting a new web site.
Another thing we offer as an added bonus is one free email address with every domain to send and manage your emails. You can even customize your email address to fit your business or brand.
Picking a domain name summed up
Your domain name helps you make a striking first impression. That’s why it’s important to choose a strong domain name. Following the advice from this article and the steps from the checklist is a bulletproof way to find a domain that perfectly represents your brand. Remember these handy tips and start your search today.