This is an exciting moment.
You’ve got a website idea and you want to start.
Oh the possibilities.
The thrill of starting a new adventure: new domain name, new website, new audience…a fresh new start.
You couldn’t wait to get started.
For most of us when it comes to starting a new website, the first thing you do is to search for is a brand name followed by registering for the domain.
But it’s not easy as you think.
What names should you pick? Where should you buy it from? What will you do if it’s not available? Are there copyright issues? Which TLDs should I choose (the last part of the domain after the dot e.g. .com, .org, .co.uk, .london)
Take a breather.
Let’s go over a few things that you may need to consider.
Options of Personal Domain Names
Your personal name is always a good idea to try register. You just never know when you are going to need them.
But it’s getting trickier to get your full name as a domain, particular in the beloved .com TLD.
If it’s not available, you can use iam, mr, mrs and the at the beginning of your name.
For example, John Doe and Mary Jane might consider the following:
You can also think about using your initials or using your middle name (initials or not). So for John Smith Doe and Mary Smith Jane:
I haven’t even used the likes of mr and iam in front of those names either, but you get the idea.
Beware of Competitions
Using the example above of John Doe; as well as being a generic placeholder name for an unknown identity, there are also other John Doe’s out there.
A simple search for John Doe also brings up a musician, a TV series and a creative agency.
If you are competing against well-known names (be it your personal name or otherwise), it might be a good idea to think about whether it’s worth competing for the same brand name.
And it’s also a good to think whether it’s worth competing against their domain name by choosing a different TLDs.
If the competition is too great, it might be a good idea to think about other options.
If Possible, Choose Dot.com TLD
It doesn’t matter how many new and fun domains come out, the dot.com TLD is, without a doubt, the most valuable, in-demand, most popular and easiest to remember.
It’s not the only extension, but to this day, it’s still the best option around.
But you still have other options if you can’t acquire the .com.
Buy Local TLDs if it Makes Sense
If you prefer to cater for the local marketing, it would make sense to consider buying something more local, like .co.uk (United Kingdom) and .com.au (Australia).
If you still have the .com suffix but you are focused on the local market, you should still consider registering for the local TLDs. This will help to protect your branding.
And if you redirect it to the .com (or vice versa), it will ensure that you have your bases covered.
The newer generic extensions (or gTLDs) also include a more city-focused suffix, like .london, .berlin and .swiss.
While they are still newer to the market and not to everyone’s liking, they are still worth thinking about.
Avoid Irrelevant Industry-Specific TLDs
It might be tempting to go for the likes of .gov (governmental), .ac.uk (educational institutions) or .org (charity organisations).
But you will give off the wrong impression before your audience even arrives on your site (e.g. via Google, where your domain will appear in the search results).
Even if your website is related to education, it doesn’t mean that you are in the same category as other websites who owns .edu or .ac.uk.
For your own reference, these tend to be established institutions such as harvard.edu and cam.ac.uk.
Stick to a more suitable TLDs.
Avoid Hyphens (and other Symbols)
To make your domain name sounds more smooth and punchy, avoid (where possible) using a hyphen.
Picture the scene; you are a food blogger and you want to promote your domain.
- You: “Hi, my name is John, and my website is cooking-hyphen-with-hyphen-me dot com.” (what a mouthful!)
- Them: “When you say hyphen, you mean like a dash?”
- You: “Yeah, so it would be cooking-dash-with-dash-me dot com.”
- Them: “That’s the line in the middle, not at the bottom, right?”
- You: “Yeah, that one is the underscore. My one is separated by dash or hyphen which is the line in the middle.”
- Them: “Ok…I think I got it.”
And picture the other scene:
- You: “Hi, my name is John, and my website is cookingwithme.com.”
- Them: “Oh man, that’s so cool!”
Or something along that line.
Avoid Confusing People with Numbers & Letters
It’s probably obvious now but if you ask someone to visit phones4u.co.uk, did you ever think about other ways customers would type this on their browser?
Sometimes, the K.I.S.S principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is relevant when it comes to picking your domain name.
Why make it difficult for your audience?
Simple to Say & Pronounce
Similar to above, but if you are going to choose something which has at least several syllables, make it as easy as possible.
It is also linked to avoid the use of hyphens as that adds to the difficulty of pronouncing it, not for you, but for others.
After all, there is a big difference between:
Think About the Spelling
It seems that more and more people are being different with the spellings of the name.
Like the remove ‘e’ or use a suffix such as .ly to create a word, like Visual.ly.
A classic example is Flickr, the popular image hosting company.
Did you know that they also had to buy Flicker.com and redirect it to the correct site because many people were spelling it wrong?
Sure, you can do the same and purchase the different versions of your name.
But what if those domains are not available?
Don’t Be Too Topic Specific
It’s a good idea to niche yourself to be a specialist.
But you don’t want to be too specific when it comes to your domain name.
For example, you might own the domain BoysSchoolShoes.com because that’s your speciality.
But if you want to expand to other types of shoes, or expand to girls’ shoes, it will look odd with your domain name.
But ShoesForMyKids.com will allow you to be topic specific, but without constraining yourself of growing.
You just never know what you might want to do in the future with your website.
Don’t Be Too Time Specific
It’s also a good to be tied to be a specific time or even occasion.
For example, if you want to run a blog about your toddler using the domain MyAmazingToddler.com, what will you when he/she is not a toddler anymore.
The same thing with an occasion.
If you love writing about the World Cup, perhaps it’s best you don’t have the year at your domain e.g. MyWorldCup2010.com.
Because what are you going to do after that?
Check Social Media Usernames
You’ve probably got it.
You found the perfect domain name with the right TLD that you have always wanted.
But don’t get too far ahead of yourself. What about social media?
More specifically, have you checked whether your name is available as a username on social media accounts?
Check for social media username availability using tools services such as KnowEm. This a useful for checking username availabilities in over 500 social media profiles (not that you need all of it).
And you can secure your profiles there and then if you are happy with it.
Get Some Inspirations (Automated)
If you are struggling with a domain name (or even a brand name), you could use domain generator tool such as NameMesh.
Pick a topic that is related to you (or even a word that you want to associate your business with) and search for that on NameMesh.
The tool recommends 2-3 words to start off with but there are also a number of search tricks you can do that.
After choosing your words, the tool will generate a variety of domain name possibilities, using various different TLDs and in different formats.
It is also useful to see a list of domains which are available to purchase straight away, saving you the hassle of searching multiple times.
There are another of other really useful domain name generator tools, such as:
Get Some Inspirations (Market Research)
Within your industry, there will be brands who have come with fun and quirky names, others completely random.
Some of those random names (but not so random now) include Twitter and Facebook.
Think back 20 years. If someone mentions the “Twitter”, you will be confused.
Now it’s an everyday word, along with the likes of tweets and retweets.
And the word “Facebook” came from the early days of having a number of profile “faces” online like a “book”.
Now the chances of you having a brand name that becomes part of a vocabulary is unlikely, there is no harm to look at what other creative brand names there are in your market (and beyond).
One iconic example is ASOS, which derives its name from ‘AsSeenOnScreen’.
Another example is AlterEco; a clever foodie brand name which targets audience who cares about wholesome, sustainable, healthy living with an adventurous twist.
Use Domain Auction Sites
Perhaps you can find your perfect domain there. Depending on the names, you could pick up a bargain or you could be paying an excessive amount.
But if you are hoping to pick up a one-worded dot com domain, expect to pay in tens of thousands or even millions.
However, you can also use these sites to look for further inspirations.
Don’t Get in Trouble with Copyright
This is a dangerous territory which you do not want to tread on.
If you have any real concerns about whether you could be infringing a trademark name, seek legal advice.
Even if it sounds similar to another company, you do not want to risk facing legal actions.
If you want to use a name which is more “open source-like”, look into the terms and conditions.
For example, if your business revolves around WordPress (hello!) and want to consider using it in a domain, the company has made it clear that you can’t use the WordPress name, but you can use “wp” instead.
Your perfect domain is out there, but it won’t come easy.
Use various techniques, tricks and inspirations to find that perfect one.
And even if you had one in mind that you have always wanted, you ever know; you might find a better one out there.
How was your experience in finding a domain name? Was it easy or hard? Did you find your original domain or had to compromise elsewhere?
Feel free to leave a comment below.