7 Rules for Choosing a Domain Name
Every website has to start with the choice of a domain name. Your choice of a domain name can greatly impact your marketing, and the long-term success of your website.
I want to walk you through my 7 rules for choosing a domain name in order to avoid a few pitfalls that may have you regretting your domain name and having to change it later.
Before we get started, let's look at a few domain name basics.
What is a Domain Name?
Simply put, your domain name is like your 'street address' pointing to or labeling your hosting or 'home'.
For example, my domain name is "MarketerDoug.com"
Where to Buy Domain Names
Domain names are purchased from domain name registrars. Most hosting companies will offer you a domain name bundled with your hosting. For example, Bluehost offers a free domain name when you sign up for their hosting plans.
If you want to purchase several domain names, or want to keep your domain separate with just a registrar, I highly recommends Google Domains. Nothing gives me more confidence than knowing my domain name is registered with Google. They even give you up to 100 emails @ your domain name.
What are Top-Level Domains?
Top-Level Domains or TLDs for short are the ".com", ".net", ".biz", etc., extensions at the end. These are all officially managed by an official registrar. Some TLDs are only available to certain types or organizations, countries, and websites.
Can a Domain Name be Changed?
Yes, you can change a domain name but it will require a decent amount of technical know-how and use of 301 redirects. This goes beyond the scope of this article, but leave a comment if you have additional questions and I can help you out.
Doug's 7 Rules for Choosing a Domain Name
Over the years I have been asked numerous times for a guide on how to pick a great domain name. Here are my seven rules I recommend to someone looking for advice when picking a domain name.
Rule #1: Make Your Domain Name Brandable
When you hear it spoken aloud, does it sound like a brand or is it generic? I recommend a name that sounds like a brand.
Example: BuyBracelets.com vs. BrendasBracelets.com
Rule #2: Make Your Domain Name Pronounceable
As human beings we have something called "processing fluency" where we have a positive association with something we can say and think about. A domain name that can't be easily said loses memorability and brandability.
Avoid using hyphens, symbols (even ones that are allowed), or numbers unless the number is tied directly to your brand.
Don't try to be clever by making a license plate domain name.
Example: Gr8Burgers.com - Can be confusing to people
Rule #3: Make Your Domain Name as Short as Possible
Without breaking any of the previous rules, make your domain name short.
Short names are easier to say, spell, and share.
Short domain names aren't shortened as often in search results and social media links either.
Rule #4: Use a .com
Using a .com is recommended because it is the universally recognized top-level domain (or TLD for short). People are naturally biased toward remembering .com over .net, .biz, or .org.
Most of the time a .com is also cheaper than other more gimmicky TLDs. Keep in mind that gimmicky TLDs can also confuse your users.
Example: MarketerDoug.com vs MarketerDoug.marketing (yes, .marketing is a TLD)
Example: SocalWedding.photo (.photo is a TLD but can easily confuse people)
Rule #5: Avoid Infringing on Trademarks or Creating Confusion
Don't make your domain name too similar to someone else's name or copy another brand. It may sound clever to capitalize on picking up someone else's, but long-term the same will happen to you.
Consult an attorney if you have real concerns about choosing a domain name.
Rule #6: Make Your Domain Name Instantly Intuitive
If struglging to create a brand identity and choose a domain name, I always recommend you choose a domain name that someone would look at and instantly know what you do.
Example: TrendsThreads.com - Probably a clothing store
Example: TrendsTrends.com - Could be clothing, shoes, furniture, or 'stuff'
Rule #7: Don't Be Afraid of Prefix and Suffix Terms if Necessary
Sometimes finding that prefect domain name can be difficult. You might search for hours and find that your domain name is taken, even if it's your brand name. Adding a prefix or suffix phrase can make branding your domain name easy and memorable.
Example: EatAtDougsBurgers.com (if DougsBurgers.com is unavailable)
A domain name influences a great deal of your marketing. From how people are influenced to click on it in search engines down to brand memorability. Your domain name is essentially a part of YOU, whether that's you personally or your brand/business identity.
If you ignore all other advice, I simply recommend you keep it simple, conservative, and relevant to what you do.