6 Rules: How to Choose a Great Domain Name

6-Rules-How-to-Choose-a-Great-Domain-NameYes, you can buy a domain for $7.99. And it should only take about 3 minutes, if you have your credit card ready.

But, is this what you really want?

Your domain name is one of the most important components in starting your blog.

And while it’s true that a profitable site can be built on a crummy domain – this isn’t ideal.

Your domain is important both in branding and search engine optimization. Choosing a great domain can make promotion of your site so much easier. And you can avoid looking like a scammer.

I’m sure that you have a great name in mind, but you might want to slow down a little. Take a few minutes and consider these six rules to choosing a great domain.

Rule #1: Don’t Be in a Rush

Rushing into choosing a domain name is like rushing into marriage. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but it could lead to regret down the road.

Search a name, think about it and play with it. Put it in Illustrator or Photoshop and see what designs look like. Type the name into your word processor and see how it looks. It might sound one way but look very different in print.

Don’t forget to say it out loud. How does it sound? Film a short video and say the name a few times. Is it easily understood – or can it be confused with something else?

When we first began our expat blog, we decided on the name destination-ecuador.com. It was a variant of a variant of what we originally wanted. We found a name that was available, so we bought it.

We didn’t really understand the value of a strong name and we were in a rush to start blogging.

Despite lots of promotion and content, we hardly attracted any visitors. After reading the book Attention! (Jim Kukral) we decided to change the domain to GringosAbroad. Although it cost time and money, the switch was the best thing we could have done – in terms of branding and traffic. The site took off and remains the top travel/expat site in the country.

Rule #2: Look For Hidden Words and Meanings

Domains with hidden words can be funny (at best) or embarrassing and distracting (at worst). These hidden words occur when you combine two or more words into one domain. Here are two sites that come to mind that have hidden words:

  • IncomeDiary – the popular make money online site has the word “media” (incomediary) inside of it. In this case there are no negatives and likely some search benefits.
  • GringosExpat – a local service in my city that helps foreigners relocate here. The hidden word in this name is “sex” (gringosexpat) and is not only distracting but could easily attract the wrong type of clients. They ended up changing the site to GringoExpat (singular and thus minus one “s”)

The last thing you want to do with your new brand, is convey a secondary (negative) message.

Check out: 8 Steps To Determine Your Blog Niche

Rule #3: Don’t Be Cheap

The inclination of every new business is to save money. This isn’t bad in itself, but don’t skimp on domain names. Buy them for a minimum of five years, even if it is for a small project. There are three reasons to buy for a long time.

  • Commitment: If you own it for just a year, how committed will you be? If you aren’t willing to invest in a domain for longer than 12 months, maybe it isn’t worth purchasing at all. Be careful with how much time you spend on projects that you aren’t confident enough to invest in. Earlier today I purchased a new domain for five years with private registration (see rule number four) for just $75 with Go Daddy. By purchasing a domain for five or even ten years, you’re making a significant commitment to yourself to make that project a success. The only exception I see to this rule is for event-based websites that either will 1) never be repeated, or 2) have the year in the URL. Aside from these two cases invest in your domain and in your business.
  • Search Rankings: It is a fact that search engines favor domain names that have been registered for longer than one year. How much difference does it make? I’m not sure, I haven’t seen anything in print to quantify the search engine optimization (SEO) benefits. But the benefits are there as most SEO experts will tell you. The reason for the SEO benefits is clear: the search engines also recognize the commitment being made by a domain registered for a long period of time. They then weigh that domain as being of higher value than a domain registered for just 12 months. Remember this domain is for your business: don’t be cheap.
  • Convenience: So aside from making a commitment to yourself and to the immediate SEO benefits, purchasing your domain name for longer than 12 months just makes sense from a time management perspective. Avoid making annual payments, printing invoices, and having accounting hassles and just pay for it all up front.

6-Rules-How-to-Choose-a-Great-Domain-Name

Rule #4: Buy Private Registration

Unless you enjoy receiving massive amounts of spam (selling everything from prescription drugs to sexual aids) buy private registration. It’s true that it costs a little more money. If that bothers you, see Rule #3.

Getting an extra 50 spam messages a day will affect your productivity, and ultimately cost you money. Save hours of frustration and wasted time – spend the extra $10/year. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Rule #5: Buy Your Domain Names With GoDaddy

Unless you are planning on only ever owning one domain name (I know, that sounds reasonable when you are starting) you need a real domain name registrar.

By the way, you’ll never own just one domain. New ideas and new products have a way of creating a need to own more. In addition to the 16 that I own currently, I have owned at least 10 other domains that I have since let expire.

I’ve never hosted my sites with Go Daddy – but they have all of my domains. When I need to switch hosting, it is extremely simple. I transfer my files from one host to the other and then redirect the name servers.

Why do I use GoDaddy.com? Because they are the biggest and the best. A lot has been said about their risque marketing and their flamboyant CEO, but the fact is that there is no one better to register your domains with.

I haven’t bought a domain name anywhere besides GoDaddy for more than 5 years.

Rule #6: Don’t Listen To Naysayers and Yes-Men

A caution: Asking friends and family for feedback on the idea you have for your domain name might seem like a good idea. But be careful. Their well-intended suggestions and feedback are most frequently meant to protect:

  • you from disappointment or
  • themselves from supporting a “poor idea”

The best names and domain names that I have ever created, have been exclusively created with my wife (and no one else). Asking for feedback on a new domain name/business name is asking for negative feedback or worse, the yes-man response.

  • “Well I don’t think this will be the next Facebook…”
  • “Sort of sounds silly, doesn’t it?”
  • “Sounds like a great idea to me!”

All of these comments have an ulterior motive, none of which are to help you build your lifestyle business. Asking your business mentor, a trusted colleague and, of course, your business (life) partner are important. Just be careful. Your gut reaction is valuable and carries more weight than all the feedback that others can give you.

Seldom will anyone know your business better than you will. Just remember not to be pigheaded – if someone is offering valuable constructive comments: Listen!

Brainstorming Domain Names:

There are lots of great ways to create a powerful domain.

One of the most interesting sites that I’ve seen is DomainHole.com. There are multiple ways to generate ideas using adjectives,  colors, numbers, verbs, multiple names, and varying domain types – and the site tells you which ones of these are available for purchase right now.

When we are brainstorming new domains and new product names, we most commonly use Thesaurus.com. With an idea in mind, we can quickly create a variety of options with unique components, and find a domain that is not only available, but one that we can build a solid brand around.

Summary:

In summary, remember to take it slow (at least relatively slow) when choosing your domain. Don’t rush.

Take a minute and look for hidden words and meanings in your new domain. Putting two or three words together with no spaces often creates bizarre (and sometimes embarrassing) combinations.

Don’t be cheap. Buy your domain for at least five years and purchase private registration to save yourself years of overwhelming spam email messages.

Buy your domain names with GoDaddy and host your website somewhere else. It’s the best system.

And finally be careful about listening to the naysayers and the yes-men. Some people automatically take a negative view of your ideas (even if they are amazing) while others will say yes to whatever foolishness you suggest. In almost every case, listen for valid points from friends and family – and then go with your gut.

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Hi, I'm the Author!

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is co-founder of WiseGuides.ca (Nova Scotia travel blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for Canadian travel brands). Bryan is also an avid photographer. Check out ClickLikeThis, a GoPro tutorial blog he runs with his wife, Dena.

6 comments… add one
  • Sheila Feb 4, 2015, 9:52 am

    Well, thanks so much for all your tips.
    Here I am in GTA Ontario. I’ve got 30+ years of garden design knowledge I want to put out there.
    Particularly matching perennials to make successful vignettes. When I brainstormed with some folk, they commented that most people wouldn’t know what ‘vignette’ means. I gotta dumb down.
    So, with all the beer & wine ‘pairings’, I considered Colour Pairings & Combos with Perennials.
    Very stilted, eh? And not sure if the pairing word will result in porn stuff.
    Got any suggestions on juicing the hot words? Trying to keep it succinct.
    Tx,
    CDN

  • John Slocombe Feb 3, 2015, 6:19 pm

    Great information on how to choose domain names.

  • Two Small Potatoes Nov 2, 2014, 2:08 pm

    Hi Brian!

    I’ve been checking back to your site periodically and toying with the idea of actually registering my new blog’s domain and possibly trying to monetize it. I currently use just a free Wordpress theme and would like to stick with Wordpress for a paid hosting site. I’m just not sure of the order in which it’d be best to follow the process. Would it be best to buy my domain name from GoDaddy, then go to HostGator to migrate my site from WP to HostGator?

    Thank in advance for your advice!

    Two Small Potatoes

    • Bryan Haines Nov 3, 2014, 7:49 am

      Hey Two Small Potatoes!

      This can be confusing at first – but it isn’t hard.

      Like you said, the first thing you’ll want to do its buy your domain and then your hosting. If you buy your domain from GoDaddy, you’ll want to update your name-servers so they point to your host (this is done inside of your GoDaddy account). You can also buy your domain with your hosting from HostGator and avoid this step. And while a domain costs a couple dollars more from HostGator it is also a little easier.

      Last week I published a free guide to setting up a blog. Aside from actually purchasing the domain and host, there is a section about installing WordPress in your HostGator hosting space.

      WordPress makes their basic themes available for free on self-hosted blogs as well. You can continue to use your theme (Twenty Fourteen) once you switch – at least until you get settled and then find a premium WordPress theme you love.

      I would love to hear how you make out with the transfer!

      Bryan

  • Dom Aina Mar 3, 2013, 4:33 am

    Excellent article! I have bought a domain from DomainKa and I am satisfied with their service and assistance. Keep it up!

  • Stewart Feb 10, 2013, 1:35 pm

    Good advise. I have a name already in mind, but have not tested it. Yours is one way. This will help to get going and get committed!

    Best always.

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