An Essential Guide to Choosing a Great Domain Name
Despite Shakespeare's assurance that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," we know that the likely success of a website stinks unless it has a decent domain name.
Fortunately, there are a number of techniques and approaches we can use when we set out to create a great domain name. Let's take a few minutes to explore them and look for some inspiration.
1. Play Around with Words
Take a pencil and paper, or use your word processor if that makes you more comfortable, and start listing words that relate to your new website. Juggle them around a bit. Look for alliteration or other grammatical devices that aid in memory.
One of the best resent examples of this approach is Groupon. They had the idea of promoting Internet coupons to large groups of people. In the brick-and-mortar world Toys "R" Us is an example of playing with words.
You might add a word like "town," "country," "street," "mania" or "o-rama" to your idea. Admittedly some of these are better than others, but you get the idea.
2. Keep it Short
Turing to the Bard again, Shakespeare said that "brevity is the soul of wit," and equally as true is that short domain names are more memorable and therefore easier to find when web users fire up their browsers. You're allowed as many as 63 characters in your domain name and as few as two. As a rule, try to keep yours fewer than 20 characters in length and the shorter the better. However, unless your business is already well known by an acronym, it's better to stick with real words when you're developing your domain name.
3. Consider Keywords
Have you fully researched which keywords will bring your most highly valued visitors to your site? Do this legwork and then look at your keyword list. Salting your domain name with a carefully selected and fully vetted keyword might give you an advantage over a competitor. It might also allow you to tweak an already taken domain name in a way that works well for you. However, don't do this to the detriment of the quality of your domain name. If you feel that adding a keyword to your name "cheapens" your brand, don't go there.
4. Capture the Idea
This approach is exactly the opposite of working with keywords. A good example, which we hear advertised all the time on the radio, is Gotomypc.com. When I'm away from my computer and you need to access it for some reason, what do I need to do? I need to go to my PC. When you want to protect your identity from being stolen, a company with a name like LifeLock would be a good place to check out.
These kinds of names are difficult to create, but it's certainly worth putting in the effort. They can be extremely effective.
5. Don't Dash Off and Fill Your Name with Hyphens
I've been there. Someone already owns the name I want and my web hosting service suggests 47 similar names, most of which are the-name-I-want-but-with-hyphens. What could go wrong? Well, lots of things.
First, these names get very long, very quickly, and if you're speaking your domain name, are you going to say all those hyphens? Finally, when potential visitors enter your URL without the hyphens, where do they end up? Your competitor's website?
6. Stick to a Dot-Com Domain, Usually
Similar to the situation sited in the previous point, if your ideal name is taken, you'll be coaxed to buy the same name, but as a dot-net, dot-org, or dot-info, among many others. More often than not these will be far less successful—that's why they haven't already been snatched up.
However, in some cases an alternate top level domain (TLD) can be okay. A media business might do well with a dot-tv TLD, for example. If you're bold enough to go this route, make sure you know where your visitors will go when they mistakenly enter your URL as a dot-com.
Finally, consider these tips to finding a great domain name, bounce ideas off friends and do your keyword research. Then, as you're ready to pull the trigger, ask yourself this question, "If I were starting search engine back in the day, would I have called it Google?"