Today I’m going to write about how to choose a good domain name. This is really important, because your choice will hopefully stay with you for years. So you really don’t want something that is hard to communicate, difficult to spell, is totally unmemorable, has hyphens people will forget, and so on.

.com or not?

A .com address used to be the obvious choice of domain name. However there are dozens of new options available such as .restaurant, .agency, .boutique, .dance, .health, .fitness, .music, .photography, .art, .design, .life and .website. These mean you’re no longer restricted to the limited range that were previously available. Check out a registrar such as Namecheap.com and look under “New TLDs” (or “New Domain Name Extensions”) to see the full list of options. There are, of course, the old alternatives such as .info and .biz but personally I’m not too fond of them. I think the new options are far more classy.  So if you can’t find the .com you want, I’d recommend one of the new ones.

Creative tricks

Maybe you absolutely want a .com. It’s hard to find one! You’ll find all good slogans, sayings, etc – all but the most obscure – have been snapped up. Try some of the following ideas:

  • Use part of a sentence that’s relevant to what you do, or fits with it in some original way (don’t make it too long though)
  • Put two words together, in the way that YouTube, Facebook or Firefox did
  • Put parts of words together, like Microsoft
  • Choose a deliberate misspelling, as in Flickr
  • Change or add a letter, as in iTunes or Zune
  • Make up a word, like Google or Etsy (it’s hard to believe that the word Google was once meaningless!)
  • Use words in different languages – if you can find any available!

Should you go for branding, or choose a search-engine-friendly domain name?

In most cases you will probably want to choose your name or your company name for your domain name, if it’s available. However if you run a local-based business such as plumber, taxi service, dentist or other, for which branding is not essential, then you’re probably better off choosing a domain name that reflects a keyword or phrase that prospective clients will probably be using to look for a service such as yours in the search engines. Look for your town or area name + your major keyword – for example, Wandsworth plumber. (Or try a new extension! There is actually .plumbing available!) Don’t think that this will be a kind of magical ticket that will automatically bring hordes of website traffic to your site, but it will be one factor, among many others, adding up to the ranking Google gives your website.

Experiment

One way of coming up with something that stands out is to play around with unusual extensions such as .it, .to, .be, .io or .me. Come up with something completely unique like: dr.aw designm.ag blo.gs chi.mp foot.ie vintag.es aliveinside.us just.me unroll.me (You can use http://domainr.com to help you find one of these.)

How to check if a domain name is available

When seeing if a domain name is available, don’t just type it into Google. Sometimes a domain name has been bought but not actually used, so this isn’t a sure way of telling if a domain name has been registered by someone or not. Always check with a registrar such as NameCheap.com or GoDaddy.com. This way, you’ll also get a list of alternative suggestions, if the one you originally wanted is unavailable. (You’ll also get all kinds of suggestions by using the tools below.)

Tools

There are loads of tools available to help you find a good domain name. You’ll surely come up with something if you spend a little time experimenting with these:

https://www.suggestmedomain.com/ – this is my new favourite.  It offers you prefixes and suffixes to the keywords you supply that are grouped by category so you can find a brilliant domain name that’s far from generic.
https://namevine.com/ – this is a great tool too.  Comes up with all kinds of suggestions you’d never have thought of yourself and lets you know if there’s a matching social media handle.
https://domainr.com/
http://www.bustaname.com/
http://www.namemesh.com/
http://www.nameboy.com/
http://www.dotomator.com/
http://wordoid.com/
https://domize.com/
http://www.domainsbot.com/
http://www.namestation.com/
http://www.leandomainsearch.com/
http://www.domainhole.com/
https://instantdomainsearch.com/
http://knowem.com/ (trademark checker)

That’s it for today. Have I missed any great tools? Please let me know by typing a comment below.

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