How to Choose a Domain Name

By the end of 2012, the Internet held nearly a quarter of a billion registered domain names, many of which did their owners no particular favors. Choosing the right domain name is a critical part of defining your business online, and just as important as choosing the right host (if not more so). While “” may be an accurate representation of your business and your brand, it’s heavy mental furniture when stacked up against something like “”—and you want to keep things light and lively for your potential customers when they’re searching the Web or typing in the address bar.

When it comes to selecting a domain name, striking a balance between these critical elements—simplicity, memorability, relevance—is the key to catching the elusive lightning of success in your online bottle. At its core, a successful domain name includes a clear mention of your brand (essential for good SEO and avoiding customer confusion), creative composition (the better to wedge itself in customers’ brains), and compact construction (to make sure it stays wedged long enough for them to visit your site). If you miss some or all of these components, you might just find yourself with a website that gets a lot of hits, but for all the wrong reasons.

If you think you’ve got a winner, make sure it’s available for purchase (either unregistered or available from a previous buyer) and that your desired name is also available on popular social media sites before you print up those business cards. A love of consistency may be “the hobgoblin of small minds,” but it’s an essential part of building a strong brand that resonates with the public.

And given that fewer than ten percent of domain names are “premium” enough to resonate with the masses, a quick run through the Rosener equation might not be a bad idea, either.

When you are ready to buy, you have a variety of options, including independent registrars, but many hosting providers will also be happy to help you with registration. Be sure to take the time to investigate all your options.

Choosing the right domain name doesn’t have to be a hit-or-miss proposition. By keeping your domain name clean, creative and compact, you’ll be well on your way to making your website—and your brand—a force to be reckoned with.

Choose the right domain name for your business in nine easy steps.

How to Choose a Domain Name for Your Business

A good domain name can make or break a business, or at least significantly impact website traffic and brand recall. Like finding great real estate — and often just as critical — choosing a domain name can be overwhelming. To simplify the process, we’ve hand-picked our favorite insider tips for selecting the perfect domain name.

The 9 Essential Elements to Consider When Selecting a Domain Name

  1. Use your domain as a branding tool

    Think of your domain name as the most important marketing tool to create buzz.

    According to, the right domain name “can directly impact your image, instantly establish trust and credibility, and gain more recognition among all stakeholders.”

    Branded domains aid in word of mouth marketing.

    TimeHop, the site and app that shows you what you were doing a year ago on social media channels, started out as the not-so-catchy, according to 

    • is easy to remember, brandable, and really speaks to what this startup does.
    • The startup just received $3 million in new funding from Spark Capital.

    Branded domains also build credibility in earning links.

    Consider building a domain around meaningful words with mass appeal.

    According to Nielsen, branded websites are the 3rd most trusted advertising source for Internet users, tied with editorial content.

    Eliot Silver( reports that many domain investors weigh the value of potential for brand development higher than the value of current traffic or revenue.

    According to, Trek Bicycle Corp. recently purchased for $245,000, one of the biggest sales reported in the first half of 2013.

  2. Be short, catchy & memorable

    Being easy to say and spell is crucial in increasing pass-along rate. Anyone should be able to pronounce your domain.

    According to, of the 200 million+ registered names, only an estimated 5-7% are premium enough to resonate with many people.

    Research by McKinsey & Company shows word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.

    “Domain King” Rick Schwartz says to know which domains have face value. For example, any has value (3 numbers like There is a market for these domains. says the most effective domain names are a relevant and memorable call to action.

    • “The best domain names tell the prospect in an easy-to-remember way what to do next, where to go for information, why to request a demo or when to place an order.”

    Ask yourself: Does the domain pass the “radio test” — is it nearly impossible to mistype it after hearing it?

  3. Consider the extension

    In 2012, more than 250 million domains were registered.

    • Roughly 102 million ending in .com (48%)
    • 14 million .net
    • 10 million .org
    • 8 million .info
    • 2 million with .co

    Nearly 84,000 domain names are registered per day.

    Approximately 21% of .com and .net websites are just one-page sites. 15% are registered, but don’t point to a working site at all.

    Top level domains (TLDs) – the most valuable extensions – are crucial when choosing a domain name.

    One option is to purchase several extensions (.net, .info, .com, .biz) and direct them all to the same site with 301 redirects.

    A .com TLD is ideal because it’s the gold standard and most Internet users who remember your domain are going to assume you use it.

    The historic performance of .net and .org has not closed the gap with market leader .com.

    According to Frank Schilling of, ccTLDs issued and minted by the country you live in, such as .uk for the United Kingdom and .ch for Switzerland, are close behind the .com.

    On his blog, Schilling said .com (short for .commerce) was not the dominate TLD when he started using the Internet in 1993; most content was on .int, .mil, .edu, and .gov sites.

    • The trend took off when major brands like Yahoo, eBay, McDonalds, and Fox started using .com.

    According to, the .co TLD is starting to gain traction in the startup space with websites sich as and

    The company that founded the .co TLD,, recently launched — a bundle of online services for removing barriers between coming up with a cool idea and building a web presence.

    The domain landscape has been expanded with new generic top level domains, or gTLDs (i.e. .research, .search, .pizza, .blog) that anyone can purchase and run. 

    • In June 2012, 1,409 gTLDs had been applied for.
    • 230 had more than one applicant vying for it.
    • It cost $185,000 to apply for a gTLD, and could cost $2 million+ to land one and set it up.
    • Google applied for 101 gTLDs, Amazon for 76. They competed for 23 direct matches.
    • The .com will remain the gold standard.

    Frank Schilling predicted that the “new gTLD window will bring some significant changes that we should all prepare for,” noting that we should all keep an open mind and embrace these changes.

    If you’re still unsure of which extension to choose, has a TLD recommendation generator you can try.

  4. Protect your trademark

    Beware ofcybersquatting. It’s not uncommon for competition to register a domain with different extensions in an effort to steal traffic.

    Investing in all TLDs is an advisable precaution to protecting a trademark.

    According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), 2012 saw a record of 2,884 cybersquatting cases covering 5,084 domain names — up 4.5% from 2011. 

    The Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) provides for damages from $1,000 to $100,000 if a party registers a domain in bad faith with the intent to profit from a brand’s goodwill.

    In 2013, Donald Trump sought $400,000 in damages over four websites that use the real estate mogul’s name and brand.

    In turn, avoid registering a domain close to a competitor’s and be cautious of violating a trademark that could lead to a lawsuit.

    Check the trademark database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ( for registered trademarks matching your desired domain name, similar names, variant spellings, and synonyms.

    It’s wise to invest in mispelled or closely spelled domains.

  5. Brand yourself, personally

    Registering your own name is a great way to build your personal brand, even if you’re not ready to do anything with it yet, go ahead and purchase it.

  6. Be creative

    Most single-word domains are taken, try these creative approaches to finding a domain name that fits your brand:

    • Compounding two whole words
      YouTube, FlightsCity, SEOBook
    • Using a phrase
      Six Apart
    • Blending parts of two words together
    • Tweaking a word
    • Affixing a word with a prefix or a suffix
      Shopify, Travelocity
    • Or making up a completely unique name
      Etsy, Odeo

    Use these to help brainstorm names:

  7. Avoid hyphenated domain names

    Hyphenated domains have no branding and little SEO value. They detract from credibility and can act as a spam indicator, making it difficult to earn links.

    They also negatively impact word of mouth because they’re difficult to say without spelling it out.

    They cause a loss of type-in traffic because people don’t recall hyphens or hyphen placement.

    According to, type-in-traffic accounts for 50% of all visitors.

    Rick Schwartz wrote on, “Type-ins are the validation of value regardless of opinion.” He added that type-in domains are born every day. 

    For example, reports that the name of the newest member of the Royal Family, hand-registered by Luc-Andre Biggs, is now seeing around 7,500 unique visitors a day.

    Schwartz noted, “If a domain has no type-in traffic, then it should be specific, commercial, and preferably only 2 easy to spell words.”

  8. Check availability on social media sites

    A good rule for making yourself discoverable is to keep the same name across platforms. Check that your domain is available on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 

    Try a tool like KnowEm ( that allows you to check for the use of your brand, product, personal name, or username instantly on hundreds of social media websites.

  9. Don’t let your domain name expire!

    Even big brands have let their domains expire.

    According to, there’s sometimes more than 20,000 domains expiring on one day.

    Keep your contact information up to date. You should receive notifications, don’t ignore them.

    Set a calendar reminder when you purchase your domain.

    If your registrar offers auto-renew then take advantage of this functionality.


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