Choosing the Right Domain Name – The Step by Step Guide

choosing a domain nameA big mistake that is often made by people who want to start their own blog or website is rushing the process of choosing a domain name. From my own experience I’ve found that there are a couple of reasons for this to happen:

1. You think you came up with the perfect domain name and you’re scared someone else might buy it before you.

2. You’re so excited about getting started that you settle on the first idea that comes to your mind and buy the domain.

Both of these situations had also happened to me, honestly more often than I would like to admit.

In this post I’m going to take through a step by step guide on how to choose the right domain name, and hopefully, after reading it you will avoid making the same mistakes I made when I was starting out.

There are 3 basic steps you need to go through for choosing your domain name:

Step 1 – Making your domain discoverable

The first thing you need to do, is, to decide for which keyword or keyphrase you would like your website to be found on search engines. It’s important that you do not rush this stage of the process since picking the right target keyword from the start will save you a lot of extra work in the long run.

You should go for keywords or keyphrases that are relevant to your website’s topic and get at least 5000-6000 searches monthly. Of course this isn’t set in stone, if you’ve got the resources and you’re confident that you can get top rankings on the first page of search engines, I can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t target more competitive keywords.

I must warn you though, that competitive keywords or keyphrases require hard work and a lot of patience on your behalf before you see any good search engine rankings.

As for the domain name, keyphrases that are made up out of 3 words will give you a wider range of available domains, although I suggest you go for 2 word keyphrases since shorter domains are easier to spell and pronounce, plus they’re easier to remember.

I’ve already written a very detailed post on keyword research, I highly recommend that you check it out.

Once you have at least 5 keywords or keyphrases that you think are a good match for your site’s topic, it’s time to move on to step 2.

Step 2 – Branding

The second part of this process is all about making your domain name unique from other websites that tackle the same subject, in other words branding your domain name.

The easiest way to brand your domain name is to take your target keyword and add a suffix or a prefix to it. Here are some examples of great domain names from some of my favorite blogs:

Target keyword: “passive income”

Branding: “smart” “The Smart Passive Income Blog” “SPI”

Target keyword: “seo”

Branding: “moz” “Youmoz” “The Mozzers”

There are a lot of online resources on branding, but I’m only gonna mention a couple of them which I think will be very helpful for coming up with a brand for your domain name:

1. The Name Inspector – types of names with lots of great examples.

2. VisuWords – a visual thesaurus which will give you related terms based the words you type in.

3. Name Station – one of the best tools for generating domain names with huge lists of prefixes and suffixes.

4. 200 prefixes and suffixes – this is a blog post by Daniel Scocco from DailyBlogTips.com.

5. GraphWords – another visual thesaurus with the ability to expand related terms.

domain name branding

Step 3 – Domain Name Availability

This is the final step of choosing a domain name. Now that you’ve got at least 5 branded domain name ideas it’s time to do a domain availability check to see if your desired domain name is available.

The tool I use the most is Instant Domain Search. What I like about it is that it checks for available domains in real time as you type.

Now you don’t necessarily  have to buy the domain through their website, you can just do a search and go to your favorite domain registrar to purchase. I register all my domains through Bluehost which is also where I host all my websites.

Now that we’ve gone through the 3 step process, I want to mention a couple of useful guidelines that will help you pick the best domain name for your website.

Guidelines for choosing the right domain name

1. Stay away from hyphens

Although SEO experts have different opinions on this, the majority state that domain names without hyphens have a slightly better performance in search engines.

Leaving SEO aside, hyphenated domain names are hard to pronounce and hard to remember. Think about a situation where you would have to tell someone about your website and how many times you would have to repeat the word “hyphen”.

One other aspect is that hyphenated domains can affect your site’s credibility and also act as a spam indicator to a lot of web users.

2. Refrain from using numbers

Numbers in domain names can be very confusing because of the fact that they can be spelled-out or used as roman numerals. Not using them at all will save you the hassle of always having to explain to people how your domain name is spelled.

3. Stick with .com

As a tech-savvy person you might find this hard to believe, but most Internet users think that .com is all that’s out there. If you want to make sure that the direct traffic or type-in traffic doesn’t go to the wrong domain, I suggest that you go with the .com extension for your website.

But if you’re more into .net or .org just make sure you own the .com domain too and do 301 redirect to your preferred domain.

4. Avoid the use of trademarks

This one my seem pretty obvious, but there are a lot of people who tend to make this mistake. Honestly it’s better to be safe than sorry. Imagine yourself being requested to delete your domain because of copyright infringement after all the hard work you’ve put into building links to it and building a brand around your website. Luckily I’ve not faced this type of situation so far but I would sure hate that to happen to me.

5. Don’t be a copycat

Trying to piggy back on someone else’s success by having an almost identical domain name will do you more harm than good. You want people to remember your website for what you have to offer them and not by being just another “wannabe”.

The majority of online users can immediately tell when something’s up and they can spot a phony faster than you can say “blog”.

Building a loyal following and a strong brand takes time and effort, the best thing you can do is to be yourself.

6. Make your domain name descriptive

If you wouldn’t know that Amazon.com is an online retail store or Bing.com is a search engine you probably never would have guessed it from their domain names.

Aim to create your domain name as intuitive as you can, when a person hears about it for the first time they should be able to immediately know what your website is about.

People are far more likely to click on a link when they’ve got a slight idea of what type of information they might find, especially in search engine results.

Now your turn

Hopefully you’ll find value in this post and it will help you avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made with many of my own domains.

These are the guidelines I follow every time I’m building a new website whether it’s an authority site or a mini niche site.

If you know any other tools or resources that I forgot to mention in my post just fire away in the comment box below.

Also if you have a friend who you know is struggling with choosing a good domain name, share this post with them, it might be just what they we’re looking for.

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