How to Choose a Domain Name in 2022: 12 Expert Tips

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Task time:
3 hours
Difficulty:
Easy

When building a website, you’ve probably come across choosing a domain name, but what exactly is it?

Think of your website as a store on a street. The domain name is the sign out the front, pointing people inside. If it’s not the same name as your website, visitors might get confused and take their business elsewhere. It suddenly seems quite important, doesn’t it?

Well, don’t worry! We’re here to walk you through choosing the perfect domain name. Chances are, you might not get exactly what you want in a domain name, but there are a lot of ways around that. After all, you want visitors to find your website easily – and keep returning!

How to Choose a Domain Name: Checklist 

It isn’t easy picking your domain name – especially with so many common names already taken. In fact, statistics suggest that there were a mind-boggling 363.5 million domains registered across all top-level domains in the first quarter of 2021.

In this guide, we’ll take you through our 12 top tips for choosing a great domain for your site:

Research

Before you choose your domain name, it’s vital you know what makes a good domain name. You don’t want to make a hasty decision and regret it down the line.

The first three tips deal with the research we recommend you do before you jump in. Let’s begin!

1 Figure Out Your Audience

The first step in choosing a domain name is to find out who you want to attract to your site. Not all sites are made the same. For example, small online stores will want potential customers to visit their store, whereas those who run blogs will want returning readers who are likely to share posts on social media.

You have to take into account your target audience. Your grandma might not want to click on a site with the domain name “www.blackskullblood.com”, but your death metal-loving nephew definitely will!

You may think it’s as easy as just choosing your brand name – if Amazon can have “www.amazon.com”, why can’t you have your brand’s name? Well, two things:

  1. Brand domains are often already taken, or very expensive to buy.
  2. Brand domains don’t tell you anything about your company’s offering, and it doesn’t benefit your search engine rankings. This is something big brands won’t need to worry about as much as small or medium-size businesses – so, it’s worth considering before you take the plunge.

We think it wiser (as a smaller site starting out) to come up with your brand and domain name concurrently. It’s always best to hit the ground running, armed with all the knowledge, rather than find out down the line that you messed up.

You can always change your domain name to something more on brand once you’ve garnered an audience.

2 Keyword Research

A great way to find your target audience is to use a bit of keyword research. Search engines, like Google, are able to find and display websites when you search from them by locating a number of keywords in the related web pages. Perfecting this practice is known as SEO (or Search Engine Optimization).

For example, let’s say we were starting a business selling running shoes online, but we don’t have a domain yet. Using a keyword research tool like WordStream, we can see how many people are searching for running shoes, as well as other similar topics.

wordstream
Keyword research tool WordStream is free to use straight from the browser, so you can keyword search to your heart's content!

A “running shoes” keyword search has 246k search volume, but the competition is low. This means that you won’t have to battle much for the top spot on the page. The highly prized first position is 10x more likely to receive a click in comparison to a page in the #10 spot, so it’s important you aim for that.

3 Go Niche

Now that you’ve seen your keyword results, it’s time to find your niche. You can’t expect everyone online to find and visit your site. Better to find a niche and zero in on it.

In our example, we chose running shoes as our website’s product, and we saw it had good monthly traffic and low competition – but it’s still a bit too vague.

We tried another keyword search, “cheap running shoes”, to see what the results would be. We got a 4.4k monthly search and 60% difficulty for that, which is much more manageable for a website just starting out.

It’s important to have your keyword in your domain name, as well as your brand because it helps search engines find your page and give it to your target audience.

Want To Know More About Domain Names?

Ideation

Now that you know what type of markers you need to be hitting with a domain name, it’s time to begin the process of coming up with the perfect one!

As we’ve said, if you already have a brand name, it’s best to just go with that. But your brand name could actively damage your domain name if you’re not careful, so let’s go through some tips to keep your domain name in tip-top condition.

4 Keep It Short

It’s good to be descriptive and to have keywords in the domain, but people will need to be able to remember it and type it in easily. It has to be practical. For example, “www.cheaprunningshoesforsaleatthisadress.com” doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it?

Some of the most popular apps and their respective domains like to keep it short and memorable, such as Uber, Fiverr, and Monza. Notice that they also all end in a monopthong sound that trails off, either an “rr” or a “sa”. This does something to keep it in your head (and maybe they’re also really fun to say?).

The king of good domains has to be Airbnb. Not only is it catchy and short, but it also has the main keyword organically part of the title. Wonderful.

Top Tip

Tell a friend about a potential domain name, then ask them to write it down. If they can’t get it exactly right on the first try, you may need to go back to the drawing board.

5 Keep It Relevant

You don’t want to confuse your visitors by having a totally random or unrelated domain name. A user going onto “www.easycook.com” and expecting cooking supplies but getting hamster food is going to be very confused and will probably bounce quickly from your site.

If you’re having trouble, go back to your keyword research and see what your top results are. They don’t have to be the exact keywords, but it helps to be somewhat related. For example, “www.runningshoes.com” is descriptive but lacks pizzazz. It’s also already taken!

running shoes site
Running Warehouse has snapped up the domain runningshoes.com, potentially for a high price. Many buy a domain so they can sell it at a later date.

With just a bit of tweaking, we could call it “www.roadrunner.com”. We still have the word “run” in the title, and a user looking at that domain could work out that the website probably has something to do with roads or running. Roads + running + running shoes!

User Insight

Greg Scott is a published author and longtime technology and cybersecurity professional. His personal website “www.dgregscott.com” is where he publishes his blog and snippets of his newest writings centered around cyberattacks

Your domain name is your brand on the internet, which is where everyone finds their information these days. Find a name that represents you or your company or service and build your brand around that name

Your domain name is your brand on the internet, which is where everyone finds their information these days. Find a name that represents you or your company or service and build your brand around that name. If you’re a for-profit entity, then register your name in the .com top-level domain name (TLD) namespace. Some of the newer TLDs might catch on, but .com is still where everyone looks.
Sometimes, people register names they hope will become popular. This is where technology and extortion meet, and it’s the Internet equivalent of buying up blocks of concert tickets and scalping them. You don’t need to succumb to extortion. If somebody registered the name you want, and now wants to sell it for a pound of gold, then find another name that works. Here’s an amusing article from Wired Magazine back in 1994 about mcdonalds.com during the original Internet gold rush.
If the name you want is taken in the .com namespace, don’t try to use the equivalent name in other namespaces.  At best it looks amateurish, and it will confuse your audience. It might also violate generally accepted naming conventions. For example, dot org names are for nonprofit organizations, and dot net names are for companies that do something around managing the Internet. If you are a for-profit entity with a .org name, then sooner or later, you’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do. With apologies to Lucille Ball.
Here is how I selected my domain name. My name is Greg Scott. I’m an author and want to build a book brand around my name. But an artist in Georgia, also named Greg Scott, sells paintings on his website, gregscott.com. He registered the gregscott.com domain name a long time ago and built his brand around that name. But my middle name is Greg – or Gregory, and my official first name is Daniel. I sign my name, D. Gregory Scott, and derive pleasure from messing up computer systems that expect a first name and middle initial. Greg is easier to spell than Gregory, I prefer informal language, and so I decided to build my internet brand around dgregscott.com. But I also registered dgregoryscott.com and a few other variants to protect myself. Take a look at my website, https://www.dgregscott.com.

6 Keep It Coherent

One of the most important things to remember for a domain is to keep it understandable. You want customers to find your site quickly whenever they think of the brand, instead of having to spend hours trawling the internet to locate your business.

No Hyphens or Numbers

A simple way to make your domain easier to locate and remember is to avoid using hyphens or numbers. This can be an issue if someone reads out your website, particularly because hyphens are often missed entirely, and numbers can confuse people – should they type the digit (e.g. 4) or spell it out (e.g. four).

Example:

  • www.cardcollector98.com
  • www.cars-4-sale.com

No Confusing Words

It’s also better to avoid abbreviations or unusual spellings where possible. If a customer would typically spell a word differently from how you use it in your domain name, it’ll make it difficult for them to locate your site in conventional searches. The idea is to make your domain memorable and easy to type – so don’t try and be too fancy!

Additionally, it can be tricky when you have two or three words in a row. “Classic Arcade” makes sense when written down, but in a spaceless domain name, it blurs into “www.classicarcade.com”. Someone glancing over the name might write off your website, thinking it’s for classic cars and not an arcade, which is something you don’t want.

Example:

  • www.therapylmk.com (Therapy Let Me Know)
  • www.bankinsurance.com (actually about riverbanks)
  • www.pleaseamedic.com (Please A Medic)

No Misspellings

Another important point is to make sure there are no spelling mistakes in the domain. Not only would it make your site look unprofessional, but it could also affect how people find you.

If you’re buying multiple domains for different international territories, make sure you have all of the words in your domain spelled right, especially in case of international differences. For instance, the US English “color” vs the UK English “colour”.

Luke Lee is CEO of PalaLeather, a fashion brand that has existed since 1890 and has made the move to online retail.

A domain name helps define whether someone is going to your website or not. It is the first thing visitors will notice.

It should be relevant. A good domain name doesn’t necessarily have to be something catchy but something that’s at least relevant to your business.
Custom domains give you more control over your branding. This means that you can express your personality through your website design, logo, color scheme, and even your messaging. However, this comes at a cost.. Custom domains are much more expensive than their subdomains.
It is true that a lot of websites use unique URLs. However, very few can rival those that are search engine optimized. They can increase their rating in search results by using keywords. Additionally, you may tailor your content to your audience because you have total control over your URL.
You can control your domain authority and raise customer engagement with custom domains. When someone visits your company’s website, for example, they will notice the domain name, which demonstrates your reputation. This maximizes your conversions and revenue.
Try to think about what type of person would visit your website. Is it a professional website, a personal website, or a blog? Once you have decided this then you need to decide on what keywords should be used. This will help search engines understand what your site is specifically about.

7 Think Local

If you’re a local business looking to get discovered by customers nearby, you may decide to add a local element to your domain. For example, you can add the city you’re based in after your brand name, quickly highlighting to visitors who – and where – you serve.

This can also help to boost your local SEO efforts and rankings. “By how much?” you may ask. Quite a lot, as it turns out! As per a 2019 Statista report, 56% of online consumers in the US had searched for local businesses via mobile browsers. And in 2020, 93% of consumers used online searches to find a local business.

Final Checks

Now that you know your audience and what to avoid when it comes to a domain name, it’s time to make sure everything is in place. Domain buying is its own business, with many large companies snapping up domains for potential products that never see the light of day or just to prevent other companies from having them.

Don’t be disheartened if you find one of your domains taken, though! Just keep at it, and eventually, you’ll have the perfect one fall into your lap.

8 Check Registrars

domain.com
Domain registrars like this sell domains you can buy and own

Once you have the perfect domain in mind, you should check to see if anyone else has had the same idea! There are many places to buy and secure domains, but the most reliable options are:

  1. com – Best value for money.
  2. NameCheap – Best for domain security.
  3. Bluehost – Best for all-in-one convenience.
  4. HostGator – Best for ease of use.
  5. DreamHost – Best for domain transfer.

A lot of time, effort, and research will go into picking and finding your ideal domain. When you find something that’s suitable, you’ll want to secure it as soon as possible. Since the price of domains is relatively low-cost, this is worth doing right away – even if you aren’t 100% sure about the name just yet!

9 Get The Correct Domain Extension

We all know the common domain extensions: .com, .net, and .org.

It tends to be easy to pick the extension which offers you the best version of your domain. For example, if your brand name with the .com extension is taken, you can opt for the .net domain instead.

These domain name extensions tell those who visit the site something about it: such as the type of organization you are, what you offer and your location. With that in mind, it’s worth taking the time to assess the options available to you and choose one that truly matches the needs of your business and users.

The most professional is a standard .com extension. In the past, if you didn’t have this, you would’ve been judged terribly. Thankfully, these days are over, and many online stores now like to experiment with their domain extensions.

shirtz.cool
The Australian fashion outlet “Cool Shirtz” uses a www.shirtz.cool domain extension, which adds to its general image too.

There are lots of site extensions available, and we’d recommend taking the time to browse and settle on the one that works best for you.

10 Brand Power

This is less easy to quantify, but you want your domain name (and brand) to have brand recognition – that certain je ne sais quoi that’s going to bring in visitors and make them keep coming back.

You have to imagine people wanting to come to your website based on the name alone. It’s what they’re going to be typing in each time to find you, so make sure it’s not too dry and boring, but also not too abstract or misleading.

We suggest having a play around! Ask friends, colleagues, and significant others for their ideas or pitches.

Buying Domains

Now that you have your perfect domain, it’s time to commit and buy it! In this last section, we’ll walk you through which registrars to go with, what prices are typically on offer, and what you can do once you’ve finally secured your chosen domain!

11 Buy The Domain

You have your perfect domain. It’s available. Time to buy it! But where do you buy it from? As mentioned before, we have a list of the top five domain name registrars to choose from, but we’ll summarize below:

  1. com – Best value for money.
  2. NameCheap – Best for domain security.
  3. Bluehost – Best for all-in-one convenience.
  4. HostGator – Best for ease of use.
  5. DreamHost – Best for domain transfer.

Whichever one you choose to go with, you can probably expect to be paying around $10-$20 per year for a domain, though many do offer cheaper, lower-quality domains.

Additionally, domain extensions can often increase the price of a domain. A .com is going to cost more than say a .biz domain name, due to the standardization of the former across the internet.

Website Builders

Many website builders will also throw in a free domain or let you buy one, meaning you can purchase a domain and start building a website all on the same day. Some will even give you a free custom domain for a whole year!

Here’s a quick list of the best website builders who also gift domains:

  1. Wix
  2. Squarespace
  3. GoDaddy
  4. 1&1 IONOS
  5. Zyro

12 Buy Multiple Domains

Once you’ve found your perfect domain and bought it, don’t stop there!

Take a page out of the books of larger brands and purchase multiple domains. Change one letter in your domain and see if it’s available. This is a useful practice for many reasons:

  • If you need to expand, you already have the domain
  • You can make different regional or other language versions of your site
  • Stops competitors from ripping off your brand

It may seem petty, but you’ll thank us in the long run!

13 Choosing a Domain Name: Summary

In this guide, we’ve given you some top tips to help you pick the very best domain name to suit your needs. By following this guidance, you’ll be able to find a domain which will resonate with your customers and is simple for them to remember, while also conveying some essence of your brand and its values.

Use this quick reference guide to make sure you’ve covered everything:

Choosing a Domain Name: Quick Reference

  1. Figure Out Your Audience
  2. Keyword Research
  3. Go Niche
  4. Keep It Short
  5. Keep It Relevant
  6. Keep It Coherent
  7. Try Local
  8. Check Registrars
  9. Get The Correct Domain Extension
  10. Brand Power
  11. Buy The Domain
  12. Buy Multiple Domains

And, for more info about domain names, why not check out the range of related articles on our site?

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