So, you have a great idea for a website. You are SO excited to get started building that website.
But you just can't decide how to choose a domain name. You are stuck.
Well, it just so happens that I'm in the exact same situation. I recently started the Niche Site Project 4, and I'm trying to decide what domain to buy.
I've chosen the niche I want to go into, now I just need that perfect domain name!
In all honesty, I bought a domain name about a week ago that I thought was perfect. Turns out I misspelled one of the words…doh! And the correct spelling is already taken. Sadly, this is not the first time I've purchased a domain name with a typo in it. (Insert face palm here).
Oh well, it was a $10 mistake. Now I'm back to the drawing board.
So, step 1…make sure you know how to spell!
In reality, I've purchased hundreds of domains in the past, so I hope a few of these thoughts will help you brainstorm and find your next great domain to buy.
- How to Choose a Domain Name
- Things to Avoid When Picking a Domain Name
- How to Brainstorm Using the Best Domain Name Generators
- How to Check a Domain Name Ownership History
- Final Domain Thoughts
How to Choose a Domain Name
From a search engine optimization perspective, long gone are the days where you would want to stuff a bunch of keywords in your domain name. Having keywords in a domain name doesn't really give you an SEO boost anymore.
As a result, it's more important to try and find domain name that is brand-able and memorable. Ideally, you will want something that both explains what your website is all about, but is also easy to remember.
If you are starting a personal blog, you might consider just using your name as your domain name. For example, I do own SpencerHaws.com, but I've yet to decide whether I'm going to do anything with it.
In a nutshell, here's a short list of DOs when picking a domain name:
- Keep it as short as possible
- Register a .com preferably
- Try to make it memorable
- Favor words with easy spellings
- Make it brandable
- Check the domain history to make sure it's “clean”
- Make it have a related word or two for your niche
Let me just add a few thoughts regarding the above points.
Is a .com Required?
A .com is not required. You can rank just as well using any other extension (.co, .net, .io, you name it). However, the .com is easier to remember for people, and in some cases other websites might be more willing to link to your site if it's a .com as opposed to a .xyz, .tube, or .fun (all of which exist by the way).
A .com domain name isn't necessary, but I like to use them when they're available.
Keywords in the Domain?
As mentioned, you don't want to keyword stuff your domain…that's not necessary. But having a one-word keyword or maybe a two word keyword in your domain is okay.
So, if you are starting a blog about Gorillas, you might try GorillaExpert.com or TalkGorilla.com (both of which are available in case you are interested!). Or if you are starting a site about Survival Knives, you might try SurvivalKnifeWorld.com.
So, a keyword or two is fine in the domain as long as it doesn't get too long. I don't like domains that are more than 3 words, and 2 words is better.
So, BestSurvivalKnifeForTheMoney.com would be a keyword stuffed domain that I would avoid.
And honestly, you don't have to have ANY keywords in your domain. Being memorable and brand-able is more important in my opinion.
Creating Domain Name Possibilities
Now let's put all of this together and create some domain names. We're going to say that your website is in the kitchen niche. You cover kitchen designs, recipes, and kitchen gear.
I think the most important thing is your branding, so let's put that at the forefront. We want our name to be catchy, memorable, and to roll off the tongue. “BestKitchenWebsiteEver” isn't a good option.
I have a little formula I like to use for domain names. I like for one word to be keyword-ish. In this case, just the word “kitchen” is fine. And then I like to have other words that are modifiers around my keyword. Together, these two or three words create a branding.
Here are some examples:
And so on.
This type of “keyword + modifiers” creates some create branding and this is how I recommend that you start brainstorming domain names.
I've seen some websites get great results with simple misspellings. TheKitchn.com is an enormous website about the kitchen. But I think that this can be hard to pull off well and could lead to some weird domain names. I don't recommend it.
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Things to Avoid When Picking a Domain Name
Now that you know what to do when choosing a domain name, I should also make clear of a few things NOT to do.
Here's what to avoid when picking a domain name:
- Long phrases more than 3 words
- Dashes ( – ), if possible
- Misspellings…duh! Everyone knows that 🙂
- Numbers. (Is it 1Gorilla.com or OneGorilla.com…sounds the same?)
- A word that starts with the same letter as the previous word ended in. For example, Gorillaadvanced.com or Advanceddrones.com have 2 letters in a row that are the same.
- Trademarked words or Phrases. Disney can and will get your website taken down if you buy DisneyGorilla.com.
- Foreign words you don't know the meaning of.
The ConvertKit Domain Story
And just for the record, I've broken every single ones of these rules in the past…except the last one. I witnessed ConvertKit.com change their name to Seva.com recently, only to see them switch back to ConvertKit.com after they realized the full meaning of the word Seva. You can read all about that here.
And for the record, I like the domain ConvertKit.com way better than Seva.com anyway, since it follows one of my rules I outlined earlier: Try to have a domain that makes it obvious to your audience what your website is about. ConvertKit speaks to their core product, Seva did not.
Unfortunately, they didn't ask my advice before they did that. 🙂
My Trademarked Domain Mistake
And yes, I've received a cease and desist order from an attorney on very official letter head asking that I take down one of my websites. Fortunately, it was a tiny little site from several years ago that wasn't really making any money anyway. But I learned my lesson…also avoid trademarked phrases.
How to Brainstorm Using the Best Domain Name Generators
Up to this point, I've shared my tips for Dos and Don'ts for how to choose a domain name for your website. But what if you are still stuck? What if you can't just magically stare at a blank screen and the perfect domain name magically appears?
Well, there are a couple of great domain name generators that might be able to kick off some ideas for you.
My favorite is LeanDomainSearch.com. You just type in a word or two, and it will automatically pull back domains that are available for registration.
Here's a Gorilla example:
Another domain name generator is Panabee.com.
You just punch in a couple of words and it will spit out all sorts of variations…some of which won't make any sense. Here's an example:
Another domain name generator worth looking at is InstantDomainSearch.com.
If you happen to type in “Burito” like I did, here's the results:
How is BurittoShop.com and DigitalBurito.com still available? Someone should grab those before it's too late!
You can find several other Domain Name Generators out there as well with a quick Google search.
How to Check a Domain Name Ownership History
You also want to make a sure that the domain name you are buying is “clean”. As you may or may not realize, someone may have owned your domain name 10 years ago and then let it expire.
If 10 years ago they used the domain in a spammy way or have thousands of spammy links (think pills, gambling, adult themed, etc) pointing to the domain…many of those links will still be pointing to the website when you buy it.
You could have a real difficult time ranking in Google if your domain has a terrible history like that.
One way to check the domain history is to search on Archive.org, the Wayback machine. This awesome tool has been capturing screenshots of websites since the early days of the internet. If the domain existed, Wayback Machine will have a history of it.
So, I just checked Gorilla.tube, and we are in the clear:
Now, if something does show up…don't panic! You still might be just fine. Just click on a couple screenshots and verify that the site looks like it wasn't doing anything “bad”.
If you see a record and you are concerned that there might be old spammy links, you should check the link history. My buddy Jon wrote a great piece on how to check the link history on expired domains right here.
Final Domain Thoughts
Overall, I hope you have found some of this useful as you navigate through deciding what domain name to buy. Learning how to choose a domain name for your website or blog is important!
At the same time, you don't want to spend forever just mulling over all the options. Do you best to follow the guidelines that I've given above, then just pull the trigger and buy one!
In fact, after starting this blog post…I have now purchased my new domain for Niche Site Project 4! And yes, I spelled all the words correctly this time. :). So, I'm all set now and ready to start building my site for the project. Are you?
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Get your domain, then focus on the more important part…actually building your website and business. Good luck!