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How To Choose A Domain Name

First, here's a bit of trivia... What happens when you visit this set of numbers 172.217.17.36 on your browser?

The internet is based on IP addresses or Internet Protocol addresses, which is a set of four numbers separated by periods. It is how a website can be found in the internet. But since people have a hard time memorizing number addresses, domain names are words associated to the website's IP addresses, so rather than remembering and typing 172.217.17.36 in the browser, you can just type "google.com".

It is very important to spend enough time to brainstorm your domain name so you have one that will stand the test of time and still be relevant years down the line even when you make slight changes of direction for the business.

Choosing a domain name is similar to choosing a company name. It's going to be part of your identity. You have to think long term. Over time you will be building your brand and search rankings, and if for some reason you have to change domain name later, it will be painful because you will lose the branding and the marketing momentum you've already built, you will lose the search engine visibility and organic free traffic you've already developed. In some sense, changing your domain name is like starting your online business all over again.

Here are quick tips/points to help you find and choose a domain

  • Make it easy to type, easy to remember, easy to pronounce
  • Make it brandable, unique, intuitive, a name that stands out
  • Use .com in most cases
  • Try to keep it as short as possible
  • Use 1 or more keywords related to your niche
  • Add your city or town if your business is local
  • No hyphens or numbers
  • Don't use trademarked names
  • Consider using your name
  • Why .com is better

    Do your best to find a .com domain name, because that's what people remember. It would be sad to spend money promoting your website at ABC.net, only to have people type ABC.com on their browsers. There's also that matter where some programs and smartphones either automatically enter ".com" for websites and emails due to autocomplete predictions, plus some virtual keyboards only have a ".com" button. So it's ideal to just find a unique .com domain that somehow matches your business. Now if you have an existing business and the .com name is not available, but the .net or the .org names are available, then you can make a good case to use those.

    Country specific top level domains

    If your business is in a specific country with it's own extension, and you target only people in that country, then you can choose that specific country extension, for example .ca for Canada, .uk for United Kingdom, .au for Australia, .in for India and so forth. 

    There are newer extensions that are keywords which are related to certain businesses or industries such as .realestate, .plumbing, .organic, I would definitely stay away from those, even though they may seem appealing. Why? Because they can be quite expensive (.realestate is $139/yr, .organic is $109/yr) while .com is around $15/yr (if not free when you purchase a host plan). Plus I have yet to see any sites with these specialty extensions rank high in search results, almost as if search engines actually don't like these types of extensions.

    Other Tips to help you find your domain

    There are over 300 million domain names registered and over 150 million of those were of the .com type. Which is why, most likely, your preferred domain .com name is already taken as thousands of others who were thinking just like you, beat you to it. You need back up plans.

    Slight Variations of your preferred business name, things like plural vs singular form, different tense if your name has a verb such as loves or loving instead of love, shortening words such as bev instead of beverage, or use a synonym as a substitute such as great instead of good...

    If your business caters to a certain area or locality you can try something like manhattandogwalker.com.

    Use your motto, catchphrase, tagline, slogan or make up one ex. DreamsMadeReal.com.

    Use keywords that people enter when searching for information related to your business as they will help clue the search engines to what your website is about and therefore improve your search engine performance.

    Do not use acronyms unless it's already part of your existing business name.

    Do not make your name too similar to a famous brand, unless you like dealing with lawyers

    While you brainstorm for domain names, place all your favorites in a list in order of your most preferred. Once you have 5 to 10 favorites, start with checking if the .com domains are available. Here's a domain checker tool.

    The tool is powered by Bluehost which I use to host this WordPress website. I chose them because they have the best combination of affordability, reliability, performance, and great customer service. So if your domain is available check to see if they are running a special sale and if you can buy a 3 year plan that averages less than $5/mo (USD), I suggest buying the domain and host plan. Shorter periods and other hosts can easily run you $10-20 a month. 

    For added measure of care to avoid legal problems related to trademarks, go to the US Patent and Trademark Office website, click "Search our trademark database (TESS)" and enter the domain name without the .com. If there are any exact or similar matches, then consider discarding that potential domain and try your next best domain option.

    To build your brand, it would be great if the same name (or handle) were also available in social networks especially in Facebook and Youtube. This makes it easier for your audience to find you across the internet. In order to quickly check if your potential domain name is available in Social Media use https://namechk.com/ or https://knowem.com

    If you are starting a blog, podcast, personal website, or you feel strongly that You will be the Brand, then use your own name. There are many online businesses that are built on the name and reputation of the owner. Examples are oprah.com, tonyrobbins.com, garyvaynerchuk.com, sethgodin.com, neilpatel.com... Even if you find a domain that is not your name, it is still wise to register your full name or version of it, so that in the future when you do become successful and want to starting marketing your self-brand, then you already have your fullname.com, before someone else gets a hold of it. The cost to register a .com domain is affordable at about $15/year. The only downside with using your name as a domain is that you will have a harder time selling the business to someone else down the road, if that's what you wanted.

    Don’t take too long and overthink your domain. If you can't find the perfect domain, and you have some decent options available, it's better to decide on the best one of those and just go for it. It's better than getting stuck for days or weeks in this part of your online business building phase.