You’ll probably want to use your company name or a phrase or question that people associate with your site.
The important thing to remember is that your domain name is one of the first things people see, and one of the first things they’ll ask you.
We always recommend registering your own personal name as a domain name as well. If you have a common name, such as John Smith, you may need to use your full name – first, middle, and last, in order to find a domain that is available.
Some tips when selecting a domain name:
• Keep It Short. The longer your URL is the harder it will be to remember, and the more likely people will misspell it.
• Make it Easy to Remember. A string of six random letters might be really short, but it’s not easy to remember. Your domain name has to stick in people’s minds in order for them to remember it, and to tell others about it.
• Consider your Brand. If you already have a brand name you really need to find a URL that works with your brand. People will try to type in the name of your company with a .com at the end anyway, so you might as well go with it. It goes without saying that you don’t use someone else’s brand or brand terms without their written permission. For example, WordPress is a brand, so you can’t use that term in your domain name.
• Use Keywords. Using search terms as part of your domain name can increase your search engine rankings and increase the chances of people finding your site. They need to fit into the name naturally, though. For example, WebDesign.com includes the common search term “web design,” assisting it in organic search engine ranking. What keywords would people search under in order to find your type of business? Can you work one or more of them into your domain name without it sounding too awkward?
• Be Relevant and Descriptive. It helps if your domain name describes what your site does in some way. It doesn’t have to be descriptive (Amazon, Google and Yahoo are all good examples), but it makes it that much easier, especially if you’re not Amazon, Google or Yahoo.
• How Does It Sound? Say your URL out loud—is it clear how to spell it? If someone tells a friend the URL over the phone would they have to spell it out? If you did a radio ad would it be perfectly clear how to spell it?
• Avoid Numbers. Numbers in a domain name can be very confusing. It is never clear if the numbers should be written out or not: 7 or seven?
• Avoid Homophones. 4 or for? There, their or they’re? Your or you’re? To, too or two? See how confusing that can be? When someone is confused, they usually just move on to the next thing – such as your competitor’s site.
• Consider Misspellings. Beware of words that are easily misspelled. If you do use them, buy the URL with the misspellings and redirect users to the correct URL.
• It’s Dot Com. Stick with the top level domains, like .com for businesses and .org for nonprofits. There are all kinds of other options out there, such as .biz, .info and .tv, but they’re just not as accepted and people are likely to type .com anyway. The iPhone includes a “.com” button, which shows you just how widespread .coms are. If you do use one of the other types of domain names, make sure you are using it for a specific purpose. For example, we have a live streaming training every Tuesday at 11am CST. We broadcast this at iThemes.tv. See how we used our existing brand for recognizability with the .tv domain for a specific, singular purpose?
• Ask Other People. It’s easy to think you have a killer domain name and overlook the fact that it could easily mean something else. Getting a different perspective can save you some embarrassment.
• Avoid Hard to Read Letters. Certain letters next to each other can be hard to read, depending on the font, like l and i (lilili) and m, n and r (mnrmnrmnr) or v and w (vwvwv).
• Buy What You Need. If the URL you love is taken you can always make the current owner an offer. It will cost you more money, but it can be worth it in the end. And it might be less expensive than you think. Spend some time brainstorming and come up with lots of ideas. If you have a few you like, it might be worth registering them all just in case. There’s nothing worse than spending weeks debating a domain name, finally deciding and discovering that someone beat you to it.
However you get there, you need a strong URL that works. It can be something practical that just does the job, or it can be something memorable that helps your site spread. Re-branding your site later on can be challenging, so choose wisely the first time.