How to Choose a Domain Name

Choose a Domain Name Carefully

So it’s time to choose a domain name. How about this one?

learnhowtogrillsalmonperfectly.com

People choose domain names like that all the time. And it’s a bad idea.

Before I explain why, I want to introduce some important terms I’ll be using throughout this article:

  1. TLD — top-level domain
  2. gTLD — generic top-level domain
  3. ccTLD — country-code top-level domain
  4. newgTLD — new generic top-level domain
  5. SLD — second-level domain (rarely used except to differentiate between the TLD and SLD)

Top-Level Domain (TLD)

A top-level domain is any domain name extension, like .com or .uk or .expert.

There are two major types of TLDs:

  1. generic top-level domains and
  2. country-code top-level domains.

Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD)

A generic top-level domain is any domain name extension that isn’t a country-code domain.

Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD)

A country-code top-level domain is a domain name extension created for a specific country. A country can impose its own restrictions on their own ccTLD. Some ccTLDs are available for anyone to purchase, like .tv (ccTLD for the country of Tuvalu).

New Generic Top-Level Domain (newgTLD)

A new generic top-level domain is one of many (very many) new TLDs that have begun flooding the Internet. A newgTLD is really just a gTLD, but it’s new!

Second-Level Domain (SLD)

A second-level domain is the part of the domain name that goes just to the left of the TLD. In my own domain name, myboringchannel.net, the SLD is myboringchannel and the TLD is .net. The term “SLD” is rarely used except when differentiating between a TLD and an SLD.

Phew. We got all that out of the way. Moving on.

Domain Names Should Be Short

Some domain names are long and they work. But not many. The ones we remember without having to think about it — those are the best domain names.

My own domain name is pretty long. I like my domain name. But shorter is always better.

Why is a shorter domain name better?

Typing a long domain name on a mobile device is a pain. Remembering a long domain name is difficult. Shorter domain names are easier to remember and easier to type.

Choose the shortest domain name you can.

Domain Names Should Be Memorable

Shorter domain names are typically more memorable. If you must have a little longer domain name, take time to ponder and make it memorable.

Look at my domain name. It’s myboringchannel.net.

My domain name is a little longer than I like. However, it’s strange enough (and short enough) that it’s memorable. Often when I tell people about my domain name, they say, “Who would choose a name like that? You’re saying your site is boring.”

The funny thing is, the next time we talk, I find out that they remembered my domain name. Usually they’ve even visited my site (probably to find out what makes it so boring).

Strike a balance. If you must choose a longer domain name, make it memorable.

Which Domain Extension (TLD) Should I Use?

Various domain extensions exist these days. Your domain name can be yourdomain.com, yourdomain.net, yourdomain.io, yourdomain.me, yourdomain.expert, yourdomain.camera — you get the idea. There are more than 1,000 TLDs (top-level domains) available to choose from, up from 280 in 2009.

So should you use a new TLDs (new options are rolling out continually), or should you aim for the king of the roost — the .com TLD (or another well-known TLD)?

Aim high. Buy a domain name with a .com TLD (or another common TLD like .net or .org). Find a short, memorable domain name with a .com extension.

But that’s easier said than done, because the .com marketplace is pretty saturated. In fact, all three-letter .com combinations are completely gone. And before you mock my domain name for utilizing a .net TLD, check out myboringchannel.com. I own that one too.

Why Should I Get a .com TLD?

My dad gets up in the morning and checks his sports at espn.com, then he reads his news at cnn.com. After that, he checks his auctions on ebay.com and then finishes up his morning coffee while checking his kids’ pictures at facebook.com.

Folks, .com is the Internet. It’s what we know.

Later, my dad checks his email. He spots a nasty email with a .ru extension. What’s that? He hears my voice in his head. Dad, if it looks weird at all, don’t open it. Delete it. I give him lame advice like that all the time because, frankly, I’m tired of cleaning up all the viruses he manages to acquire.

We tend to distrust that with which we are unfamiliar. We trust sites that end in .com (and .net and .org) because we’re familiar with those TLDs. When we see sites with strange TLDs that we don’t recognize, we equate them with nasty spam emails and viruses we’ve received. And guess what? In many cases, perception equals reality.

What If My Desired .com TLD Isn’t Available?

You can still have a successful and memorable website with a newgTLD. You don’t have to choose a popular gTLD. Choose the one you really want. Some make clever use of the new domain extensions. How about call.us? Or blo.gs? Such domain names are definitely short and memorable. However, domain names like these lose some SEO (search engine optimization) punch because the SEO value is in the SLD, not the TLD. “Blo” doesn’t seem like a very useful keyword to me.

New generic TLDs can be quite useful and memorable when tied to a certain niche. For example, yourname.camera might be very effective if you’re a photographer.

Not only can newgTLDs be closely related to a particular niche, their use can help a prospective website owner purchase a keyword-rich domain name, often impossible when buying a domain name using a popular TLD. As I mentioned, the .com market is simply over-saturated.

So if you’re unable to find a domain name that suits your preferences and has a popular TLD like .com, you may well want to purchase a domain name with a newgTLD.

Choose a Keyword-Rich Domain Name

When I say keyword-rich domain name, I mean a domain name that makes use of the main key phrase that you’re interested in ranking for search engine results. For example, my website is about how to make a website. So the key phrase “how to make a website” would be very nice to use in my domain name. Domain names like makeawebsite.com or makeablog.com would suit my needs quite well, but of course they’re already taken.

And if such keyword-rich domain names are available, they’re typically for sale for a very high premium.

That being said, it is important, if possible, to use the key phrase you’re interested in ranking for in your domain name. That will help you as your strive to improve your website’s SEO (search engine optimization).

As you can see, I didn’t make use of the keyphrase “how to make a website” or anything even remotely close to it when choosing my own domain name. I simply couldn’t find such a domain name and still use a popular gTLD. So I went for unique, fairly short and memorable.

Choose a Unique Domain Name

If your SLD (second-level domain) is already in use with a different TLD (e.g., you want yourname.io, but yourname.com and yourname.net are already taken), think carefully about purchasing it.

If myboringchannel.com and myboringchannel.net were already in use when I was choosing a domain name, I would not have purchased myboringchannel.info or any other version of that particular domain name.

I want my domain name to be remembered. I don’t want people remembering the .com and .net versions of my domain name before they remember mine!

So if you do decide to purchase a domain name with a newgTLD, try to choose an SLD that isn’t already in use.

Choose a Reputable Domain Registrar

My recommendation is Namecheap. I use them for all my websites.

  1. They offer very low-cost (or free if you find a special) privacy protection.
  2. They provide top-level customer support and technical assistance (24/7 live chat with minimal wait times).
  3. They are up front about their costs and services, and they are not aggressive in their sales approach.

Privacy Protection

You may think that privacy protection isn’t a big deal. It is.

If you don’t have privacy protection turned on for your domain name, anyone in the entire world can find out exactly where you live, what your phone number is and other private details about you. Do you really want that? That sounds awful.

Customer and Technical Support

Namecheap’s interface is simple and easy to understand, especially when compared to other domain registrars’ websites.

Many domain registrars don’t provide instant customer or technical support. Namecheap does, via online chat. Their representatives are quick to respond and most problems are resolved within a few minutes.

Honest Marketing

Unscrupulous domain registrars exist. Some hide pertinent information. A registrar I checked the other day offered a .com domain name for $1 with free privacy protection. What they left out was that the domain name went up to $30 the following year with a privacy protection cost of $15 per year. That’s $45 per year.

Your total cost with Namecheap (or another reputable domain registrar) will always be made clear up front and will be on par with industry standards. Even better, their privacy protection is always offered at a very low price.

Watch out for upselling. Some especially notorious domain name registrars will upsell so aggressively that it’s almost impossible to emerge from their sales funnel unscathed. You don’t want to feel pressured or confused when choosing a domain name. You’re not buying a car, after all.

Let’s Sum It All Up

Here are the main things to remember when you choose a domain name.

  1. Keep your domain name as short as possible.
  2. Make your domain name as memorable as possible.
  3. Use a popular TLD if possible (.com, .net, .org); otherwise try to make clever use of one of the newgTLDs.
  4. Use the keywords you want to rank for in your domain name (if possible).
  5. Choose a unique domain name. That way folks will think of your website instead of someone else’s.
  6. Choose a reputable domain registrar like Namecheap.

I’m Happy to Help You Out

As always, contact me if you need assistance with anything.

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