When there’s more than 284 million registered domain names online, you’re going to want yours to stand out. But you also want to be easily remembered, have a URL that accurately describes your business, and it would help if it ranks well in Google. Right?
It’s very easy to buy a domain name that you come to regret later. What was useful and fashionable years ago suddenly is unwieldy and a pain in the butt to describe now. You might take what you can get if your favoured domain is already taken, only for that to expire later on and you’re stuck with one you don’t like.
Even worse, you could pay a great deal more for it later, or even spend quite a bit of money rebranding and redirecting years after you’ve become established just because that domain you’ve always wanted has suddenly become available.
It might be tempting to buy up quick to stop other people from taking the one you’re currently considering, but it won’t hurt to take a few minutes to ensure what you’re getting is what you want, what works, and what will stand you in good stead for the long haul.
The four things you should consider when choosing your domain name are:
The Human Perspective
You want a domain that’s simple to read, simple to say, and simple to remember. It also helps if it’s easy to type.
It’s one of the core values of marketing to be memorable, and simplicity is usually best. If you can create a url that is no longer than two or three words, with no phonetic bits to confuse people’s ears (razinghomes.com and raisinghomes.com might sound exactly the same but mean the total opposite of each other – confusing, right?), and doesn’t have unusual spelling, you’re well on your way to creating a domain name that works for you.
It probably does sound a bit fun to do some teacherstalking.org, but I’m sure the people behind Teachers Talking have other ideas. In the same vein, ferrethandjobs.com still cracks me up although they soon changed to ferrethjobs.com before going offline – no ferrets getting frisky to see here.
Have a look at how your words run together. Are there any surprises there you haven’t thought of? Send your proposed URL to a friend and ask for their initial reaction. Write it down, say it out loud – how does it roll off the tongue? any word that ends in “s” only to be followed by a word that begins with “ex” is a recipe for disaster so probably best to avoid that combination!
Unless you’re super-niche and you’re expecting a super-niche audience, it’s a good idea to steer clear of slang and corporate-speak. Different countries also have different vernacular and that can actually work in a lot of cases (see skintdad.co.uk for example), but outside the UK and Australia, “skint” and other colloquial terms might be unfamiliar.
The Brand Perspective
You’re always going to want people to know what you’re about in the shortest amount of time possible. You don’t really want a URL that doesn’t accurately describe what you do, or at least isn’t easily understood fairly quickly. It’s best to do some research and some brainstorming to find out what’s popular, what works, what sums up your business and what gives the right impression.
You might consider calling your blog or website something reasonably long, but that doesn’t mean your URL has to be the exact same name. The URL is like your business card, it should be short and sharp and to the point – just giving the recipient enough info to get started. You can then expand on your site if need be, but unwieldy URLs aren’t usually going to be useful when giving prospective audiences a snapshot of what to expect on your blog.
Back in the day there were a handful of choices – .com, .net, .org, etc, and a lot of them had extra extensions depending on what country you were in.
While it’s still sensible to stick to what works, there are also other options to consider, especially if they work particularly well with your business name or genre. Newer ones include .biz, .info, .me, .shop – all sorts of things (a larger list is here) that might describe your work more accurately. Do keep in mind though, most people’s minds revert to “.com” when trying to remember URLs, so an exotic one might mean you’re missing out on traffic.
There’s no way around the need to be unique when it comes to business names. Not only do you want to be memorable and hopefully the only one – but you also don’t want to get yourself into legal trouble either. Do some Googling to see what business names and URLs already registered are similar (or the same) to yours. You can search through business directories, phone books, and blog curation sites like Bloglovin‘ to find out who is blogging under what name and make your decision from what you find.
The SEO Perspective
Just about everyone is looking to rank well in Google to help all those people searching for exactly what your blog provides. If you’ve got a clever and funny blog name but it has no bearing on your actual content, then your URL is not going to be the first few options a searcher sees when they’re looking for what you’ve got. You don’t have to make it boring as hell just so it ranks well, you just need to be able to strike that balance between cute and useful.
For many, their URL is going to be dependent upon their blog or business name, and if your blog content isn’t easily identifiable from the name, then it’s going to be that much harder for your blog to show up in search results. Not impossible – because with consistent posting and hard work to get yourself out there and linked to, you can begin to build credibility – but just that little bit harder without the natural traffic that you could be getting.
For the super-expansive lowdown on how to make a great URL that ranks highly in Google, you have to read Moz’s SEO Best Practices for URLs. It’s going to take you through what a URL is, how to make a great one, and what are the ways search engines prefer. In a nutshell, if you’ve got keywords in your URL that pertain to your content, the better your SEO results. Keeping in mind the content you write will populate the longer URLs directing to each blog post, which means there are more chances for your keywords to show up naturally. But if you can create an original URL for your site that contain the keywords for your content, you’re halfway there.
How do you find your keywords? Brainstorm a list of what your site is about. Is it recipes? Fashion? Travel? Write down all the words you can think of that people will be searching for, and the key words in your content pieces. You can also check sites like Google Keyword Tool, Buzzsumo, Keyword Tool, etc to find out what are the popular searchwords are for your genre.
The Legal Perspective
Copyright and Trademark
Obviously it’s going to cost you a lot of time, money, and heartache if you’re sued for infringement because you’ve started trading as a company with the same name as, or can easily be confused with another company. To a lesser extent you might just piss another blogger off who has worked hard to establish themselves, and are now losing traffic to you. Copyright is difficult to control on the World Wide Web, but there are avenues for people to take if their intellectual property – including blog names and URLs – has been compromised.
I can’t stress enough to check and re-check other blogs, sites, and company names before you embark on your URL buy. There may be people out there with the same blog name as the one you want, but they haven’t bought the official domain or their blogs are left stagnant (which actually happened to me! So I started a blog with that name and it’s been going five years without incident). It is up to you whether you want to take that opportunity and make something of it, or if you’re not entirely confident it’s available for you to use. It will be obvious what you can’t have, as someone else will be currently using it – but you need to do your homework to avoid future legal battles and one hell of a headache.
You can do this by first checking trademarked business names, and then doing an informal search for other current blogs and sites. In the US, you can check who owns what at Copyright.gov and uspto.gov – The Patent and Trademark Office even have a Trademark Electronic Search System to make searching easier. In Australia, you can search for a registered business name at asic.gov.au, and search for registered trade marks at ipaustralia.gov.au. Doing Google, Bloglovin’, Facebook, and Twitter searches for the blog name or URL you want will turn up all the people currently blogging under that name. Who knows, you might be inspired to choose something you like better than what you had in mind, thereby bypassing legal and blog-community troubles down the road.
Do you have a URL tale of woe? Nailed it right off the bat? I’d love to hear!
Further Reading: If you’re reading this article you’re probably in the beginning stage of starting a blog – if so, check out our 5 step guide to starting a blog.
Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.
I would like to purchase a domain name, but my preferred choice is already taken by both a .com and a .net site. I really like my name and would still like to use it with a recognizable ending. Would a non-organization, non-nonprofir .org be frowned upon by the general public?
Yes, I think so (plus I think you need proof of nonprofit status for a .org but I could be wrong). There’s so many other extensions these days, why don’t you try one of those? Have a look here: https://www.name.com/domains
.org domains are supposed to be used for non-profit organisations but there is no control over top level domains. The best (ie worst) example is Associated Press, which wanted to use ap.com but found it was taken so now use ap.org. No way is AP a non-profit organisation. Most 2LD domains have controls. Here in Australia you have to provide an Australian Business Number to use a .com.au domain name, and be a registered non-profit organisation to use .org.au. There are ways around even that (“I’m a web developer and I’m registering on behalf of a client”), but it’s open slather with TLDs.
I didn’t think there was anything stopping anybody from using a .org for any type of website besides old-school thought that is “should” be for non-profit organizations. It would be nice if it were, but since that’s not the case and there are so many for-profit .orgs, what do you think the public perception of .org websites is for those who aren’t a non-profit? Does it only work for AP since they’re so big?
Thank you for your time.
My only concern with other extensions is that the average user is only familiar with .com, .org, and maybe .net. I’ve read again and again elsewhere that users are becoming more familiar with other extensions, but based on non-tech savvy people I know in real life I really doubt this is the case for the majority of potential users.
hi Stacey, this is very important topic. Domain name should be choose carefully because copy right can become an issue for you.sometime it may difficult to choose domain name according to both seo perspective and brand perspective.
Do you think there’s a penalty for not having a .com? For my domain .com was taken so after much deliberation I went for .net – will I have any repercussions because of this?
Useful post. Before choosing the domain name, business oriented keyword and smart and sweet in minimum letters is important.
Thanks for your great tips, i think branding is most important thing . So, before choosing a good domain name you should to choose a gold domain that’s goes brand later. Obviously SEO is a factor to get your online business in top.
Thanks again for your detailed information.
I think you might be right :)
Informative post but i would also like to add choose one that doesn’t need explanation and don’t choose a domain based just on keywords in the URL. Main keywords are not the key for high ranking in your domain name, although this is a factor just keep it short and simple if you can.
Yep, that’s a great tip!
Choosing domain name is the name of the business.So always check it weather user friendly and infringements.1.Keep the domain name very short 2.Easy to pronounce 3.Memorable.
I think if you can get all three, you’ve hit the jackpot!
anyone can tell me what should be the length of domain name ?
My main domain http://www.TheBabyBoomerEntrepreneur.com has it’s pluses and minuses.
On the plus: People remember it, I get lots of calls from journalists doing stories on baby boomer entrepreneurs
The minus: No one can spell “entrepreneur”. Even if you can spell it, you can’t type it! Seriously. I type 60 wpm until I come to entrepreneur then its e n t …
I also hated my email address. Takes forever to type. I actually registered a shorter domain that I use for email and redirects to the full domain.
Before you register a domain, type it out three times fast and get five people to spell it. If it doesn’t roll off your fingers (and tongue) try again.
I think spelling entrepreneur is not going to be a big issue, most people spell it right (atleast those who are looking for information in that subject matter).
But, yes its very lengthy domain… smaller identities tend to stay longer in people’s subconsious minds
(e.g. ‘problogger’, ‘viperchill’, ‘theculturist’ etc)
Ah we live and we learn, do we not?!
Nice post.!! Now i’ll purchase SEO friendly domain. Thanks for sharing this informative content.
Very useful article, thanks!
You’re welcome, Patricia :)
Also good to check to make sure the unique URL is available on all or most of the social media channels. You can use http://namechk.com to check. Twitter has a max of 15 characters for it’s URLs. (I learned that the hard way after buying a 16 character URL.) After purchasing the domain, best to claim on all the social media channels, even if not using at the moment.
Yes that’s a good idea!
Stacey I was REALLY aligned to get a good one in Blogging from Paradise Dot Com ;) In my case I had to scrap my old one to get clear enough to see the new one. I deleted over 3,000 posts, felt light, and chose to blog about my life. I blogged. From paradise. So I looked it up, grabbed that sucker and didn’t turn around. 2 days after the blog went live someone commented that they tried to gobble up the domain and found my blog.
That’s it; be authentic. We all have our own domains waiting to be used, for our benefit and for our audience’s benefit. For me I needed clarity in letting go old sites and a brand unclear. For other people it’s a different release usually.
Your tips are dead on because if you factor in these 4 things you’ll know what to choose. No need to agonize, or to worry, about your site, or domain, if you get super clear on your direction.
Another note; avoid marrying to a domain, like the domain itself will get you traffic and dough. It won’t. Your creativity and commitment to your craft get you traffic and dough as a domain only takes you so far. A name is a name, and you give the name its worth. I built Blogging from Paradise on that idea by publishing eBooks and posts regularly and now a podcast. I carried the name through my creativity. Like a perfect storm of scenarios, I got a good one and made it work well.
Stacey, fab post!
You speak the truth, as usual Ryan! How liberating is it to delete 3000 posts and start again! That would be so fun.
I often use domain suggest a tool to find a domain name. Some of the bloggers advise to avoid the exact match domain name, how your opinion ?
Yeah I’m not a fan of the exact match domain name if the name is long or doesn’t translate well.
Domain name should reflect the services you are providing. For an example, If your niche is education market then you should choose a domain name that justifies your services and work.Although Choosing a domain name that grabs attention is the best practice.
It depends on so many different things if it’s a blog – particularly a personal blog. So many factors to consider! Not always a straight decision.
I realize the importance of the domain name. Thanks for sharing the excellent tips.
I remember the angst I felt when deciding on a name for my site! Geez, talk about pain! LOL
I wanted something that inferred what I did, to a certain extent, which was writing and editing. I finally settled on Wording Well, figuring I could create a logo of an old water well, but customize it to be filled with words instead of water. ;)
I asked for input, too, from a few friends. Inking Well was an option, but Writing Well was not. Someone had already snatched that one up!
I’ve since re-designed my logo image to that of a laptop and have included other things in it, such as the words “Stellar services. Superb rates.”
Now there is NO mistaking what my site is about! :)
yes it’s not all about the domain, is it? I think people get caught up in that, but once you get to the site you can flesh it out.
I opted for a unique domain. It may not say what I do but it is easy to say and remember for my clients.
Stacey, great article. What about changing my URL. My sjfpc.com website ranks on the first page of Google search for estate and tax attorneys in Philly. Should I consider changing it to a more descriptive name and risk loss of ranking.
How does it really work if you do change; are you penalized on all the search engines? Does a redirect save your status.
Your insights would be most appreciated.
Thanks for this question. I am very interested in knowing more about this as well.
We chatted about rebranding and redirecting here: https://problogger.com/rebranding-your-blog-the-resources/ so you might still keep the ranking if you keep the original domain as is and redirect to the new?
I think: No matter how much we read about it, beginners always tend to screw it up when it comes to choosing domains.
I spent months breaking my head in choosing a domain name. Initially I had ‘exploreontarioparks.ca’ and then some one scared me by saying ‘Ontario Parks’ (a public organization) can sue me for having their copyrighted name in my domain name. Then I changed to ‘parksbloggerontario’ ‘http://parksbloggerontario.com/’ (which is my current domain) .
But soon after I realized thats too long and not very easy for people to remember. But I let it remain (because I got too tired of changing domain names and identity). And mostly because I couldn’t change my facebook page name more than once (my fb page has about 8000 highly engaging followers).
After almost two years of blogging, I have read hundreds of articles on internet marketing and have followed and observed thousands of fellow bloggers. If I were to start a website now, I damn sure would get it right!
so, the point is that there is no work around for ‘learning from mistakes and experience’ .. :(
So true! I wish I could have had the original domain I wanted, but had to put “the” in it – which some people forget :(
Thanks Stacy for these tips, you have done a fantastic job by writing this article.I loved your point to point explaination, hands up for you
Hi this is informative post , Whenever I step in to this blog I always find Informative post .
This is very important topic , selecting domain name is the first and most important task while developing any website.
One of my friend wants to start her website for her services , she is having her own beauty care shop and 2 /3 branches in different states . she want expand her business and want to create website her shop name is very big so what do you think ? What are the possible ways that she can choose her domain name ?
It always help, before we purchase a domain name to check it to web master tools for it’s history (bad SEO)
Ooh great tip!
Great article :) Thank you
You should definitely review your domain name a figure out if it’s going to be a good one for you. If it’s easy to remember that’s definitely a good thing. I usually make a list and do some other research to figure out good domain names.
Such good ideas, thanks BJ.
Hello Stacy and thanks for the great tips. I too struggled at first when selecting my domain name. I tried different things and then decided upon my name. When it was not available, I added keywords at the end until I found one that was available. I still wish I could have gotten my first and last name. I like the idea that when using your first and last name, you don’t limit yourself to a certain niche. When you add keys words at the end readers make not expect to see articles outside those parameters.
I ended up getting my first and last name, with the extension .me – not as useful as .com, but it means you have more control over the keywords!
Once again found a great information. A question that often hits my mind is that Can I use .org domain for a long term blogging site. Means I always read that choose only .com domain to engage worldwide audience. So, is it good to use .org for such site ?
By the way thanks to introduce such an awesome post about domain names.
I would stick to .org being only for non-profit organisations.
very useful article nice information to learn thanks for sharing this,,,,
Great article. Choosing the right keyword is essential but one must know how to optimize it after. If the domain is business focused, it is better adjust your domain name based on the target market you are aiming.
The uniqueness of the domine, the domine name should also someway or somehow correspond with the program you are using it for. If done that way, it can help people fine the site and the products that are sold on that site.
I’ve been struggling with this domain name question for awhile so hopefully you can help me- my site and it’s branding is all based around a term I created called Inner Social Media-ness (connected to how we relater to social media, like the way we say we all have an inner weirdness). My web designer told me to not use innersocialmedianess.com as my main domain as no had heard that term so she set me up with a domain with strong key words (why-social-media-for-business.com). We set up the innersocialmedianess.com as a redirect to the site. Fast forward two years, both my biz and blog have gained traction, especially all the branding work I’ve done with my unique name.
Question is – I’d really like to make the innersocialmedianess.com my main domain and have the one as a redirect (so that all my content will still go to my site). I read about something called 301 redirect, is this a good idea? Or what else do you recommend? My biz is starting to build up some traction with that branding and I’d really like to get rid of the key word domain.
My name is Laila and I am a domainaholic. (cue: “Hi Laila!”)
I buy domains the way most other girls buy shoes. In the past month I’ve purchased 8 domains. On a whim. I’d suddenly come up with an idea and it will seem like the best idea in the world and I’d go and buy the domain immediately.
Then after a few days (sometimes just a few hours) of working on the site I’ll realize, this is really time-consuming and not fun at all. I have tons of domains that are just sitting there, waiting to expire… not even hosted!
OMG! Shiny object syndrome anyone?
By the way, I know a person who purchased the domain of their name, but misspelled their name. Hahahaha… what a waste of $10 :D
Having a generic domain’s good for SEO but mostly bad for branding unless you can get that one or two keywords that specifically relate to what you’re offering i.e. the Hotels.com example offering hotel bookings.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. I really enjoyed reading your blog, you have lots of great content. I look forward to reading more posts from you. However, it;s more help full to us, that’s a great think … :)
This is very important topic. Domain name should be choose carefully because copy right can become an issue for you.sometime it may difficult to choose domain name according to both seo perspective and brand perspective .
Very informative post, Thanks.
Wow! There’s much more to it than meets they eye. Thanks for the gre