Probably THE most important decision you’ll have to make when launching a website, is the domain name. Here’s how to get that PERFECT name.
Your domain name will say a lot about you. In fact, your choice of domain name is FUNDAMENTAL and underpins almost everything that follows. It pays to spend time choosing that right name and you absolutely must do this before launch.
Consider Your Target Audience
So, let’s start with the basics. Who are you trying to attract to your website?
- Established Business. If you’re an established business with an established brand, you’ll already have a name that you want to use. Check to see if it’s available using any of the hundreds of domain name service companies on the Internet.
- If it is available, great! Register it! If not, don’t despair. There are a few things you can try and I cover them below.
- New Organization. If you’re new on to the net, you have a wealth of options available to you. Frankly, there’s so much you could do, you probably can’t see the wood for the trees!
Domain Name based on an Existing Organization
If a potential site visitor knows your organisation name, they’ll try and find you on the ‘net using that name so it makes sense to match organization and domain names where you can.
Of course, it’s not always possible to do this and you may have to consider other courses of action. For example, in the mid 90’s, I worked for a company in the USA called Micro Key. Unfortunately, the domain name microkey.com was already taken so they laboured for some years under the domain name mksoft.com. Who knows how many potential customers they lost because the customers couldn’t find the company website?
Under these circumstances you have a few options.
- Buy the Domain Name. You could always approach the present owner of the domain name and offer to buy it from them. It’s surprising how often this can work, especially if the current owner isn’t doing much with their site. Use a service like whois.net to discover who the present owner is.
- Change Your Business / Brand Name. As a truly radical approach, you could change the name of your brand or product. It’s not quite as crazy as it sounds. In the UK, for example, Marathon bars were changed to Snickers, Bounty roll was changed to Plenty. Name changes can be successful.
- Buy at Renewal Time. Domain names are registered for a given period of time and you’ll be able to check this when you see who has the name registered. There are services available that will monitor the expiry date and try to buy the name for you when it expires.
- Use Hyphens. If you can’t register your name, or buy it, another option to consider is the use of a hyphen in between words to produce a new, unique name. So, for example, acmedomain.com has been taken but acme-domain.com is still available (Accurate as at time of writing).
- But be cautious if you do go down this route. At a stroke, you’ve made your domain name hard to spell because most people don’t think to use a hyphen when entering a URL. Not only will this make your site hard to find, you may end up passing business to a competitor! Not good.
In the example above, Micro Key bought the domain name from the owner and you’ll now find Micro Key at their rightful home.
Choosing a New Domain Name
You have one pivotal decision to make when deciding on your new name. Does it need to be human friendly or search engine friendly?
Human Friendly Domain Names
A human friendly name is both easy to remember and easy to spell. Some great examples:
Of the human friendly names, two are real words, one is a concatenation and the final one exercises the ‘e’ word. When you’re deciding on a name, consider that it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to register a ‘real’ word, especially as a domain name, and the ‘e’ prefix is also unlikely to be available.
You’ll usually end up having to use a concatenation to create something new. An example would be my business’ domain name: Drumknot. Other examples would be LinkedIn, WhoIs and WordPress. But what to choose?
Luckily, there are a large number of sites out there devoted to providing inspiration on the topic of domain names. Here are just two examples:
If you’re still running low on ideas, you could run a competition and offer a cash prize. Try http://www.squadhelp.com
Search Engine Friendly Domain Names
A search engine friendly name is usually composed of keywords. Some examples:
The names aren’t always easy for a human to remember but a search engine has no trouble finding them.
So, if you’ve got this far and you’re still finding it hard to come up with a name, you may want to consider what your organisation does, or will do, and go from there.
For example, say you’re going to open a toyshop in the UK that deals in Steiff teddy bears. Start with the phrase Steiff and go through some permutations.
I ended up with steiffteddies.co.uk or steiff-teddies.co.uk. Note that if I took the latter one, I’d also be able to register the.com version as well. It’s invariably a good idea to get both, if you can.
Choosing a Top Level Domain (TLD)
There are a large number of domain name suffixes, or Top Level Domains (TLD) as they’re called. You could get an excellent domain name if you didn’t mind about the TLD. Johnlewis.cm anyone? Or how about Costco.tv? Maybe even Nordstrom.org.uk? (All domain names were available at time of writing).
Sounds great! But remember that you want to make your domain name either:
- Easy to remember and easy to spell
- Easy to find via a search engine.
This applies as much to the TLD as to the actual domain name. Your customer is unlikely to enter the unusual TLDs just to find you and even the search engines treat vanity TLDs with some scepticism.
For example, I’m based in the UK and, if I want to find the BBC, I’ll usually enter bbc.co.uk or maybe bbc.com. Which is as well because there are some odd incarnations of BBC in existence when you use other TLDs and I wouldn’t want to come across them by mistake!
Therefore, I recommend that you use either.com or a country specific TLD like.co.uk in the UK, or.co.de in Germany, and so on.
As you’re working through possible names, try and build a shortlist because you have one final, important, hurdle to consider before deciding on your name.
Firstly try and choose something where you can unite these three vital elements:
- Domain Name
- Organization Name
- Brand Name
Secondly, try to ensure that you can reserve the same name on popular Social Media sites as well, such as:
I’ll cover why this is so important in later articles.
My name is Derek Davidson and I’m a co-founder of Drumknot, a UK based Internet Marketing business. You can find me at http://www.drumknot.com or email me at derek (dot) Davidson (at) drumknot (dot) com