Whether you are starting an online business or just launching a personal blog or any other type of website, the very first and most crucial step is choosing the right domain name. This choice needs to be taken very carefully and thought out thoroughly because once you decide on a name, you will have to stick with it for the lifetime of your business or project.
Of course it’s possible to change the name later, but that comes with several disadvantages and challenges. It’s always better to take your time and make sure you are 100% confident and happy with the name you choose to launch with.
Unless you are willing to fork out a hefty amount of money to a branding agency or professional to come up with a brand name for your business/site, you’ll have to unleash your creativity and start drafting possible names and different variations until you finally settle on one.
While I can’t tell you what exact name you should pick, I can provide some general tips and guidelines based on my own experiences, successes and fails in this field, so here we go:
Brandable vs. Generic Name
This is one of the first things you should make a decision on; Do you want a catchy, brandable name or a more generic, keyword-rich name? Both come with their own advantages and disadvantages.
A brandable name is usually short, easy to remember, distinctive and more appealing. Ideally, it consists of one word, but two-word brand names are also very common. A brandable name is usually a made-up word (or more) that does not have a commonly known meaning, e.g. “Google”, “Pepsi”, etc. But it can also be a common dictionary word, e.g. “Apple”.
On the downside, because brandable names are often ambiguous or completely meaningless and hard to associate with a certain product or service at first glance, they require a great deal of marketing to create brand awareness and thus succeed.
Alternatively, you may consider a generic name for your website that consists of one or more common dictionary keywords. Generic names naturally market themselves as they often convey a clear idea of what the website is about, e.g. Hotels.com, Shoes.com, etc.
On the downside, it’s almost impossible to think of a good generic name that is still available for registration since most of the worthy ones are already used by others or taken by domainers/cybersquatters.
If you want my advice, your best bet is to come up with a brandable two-word name that consists of one common word that relates to the purpose of your business/project and another more generic word. For example, PhoneCzar, PizzaZing, etc.
Use an online dictionary and consider all possible synonyms of the words you have in mind.
Also, don’t be shy to try combing parts of different words to come up with a unique brandable name. For example, Pizger or Pizzger (from pizza & hunger).
The rule of thumb here is that the shorter the name, the better. Try to avoid names that are longer than 15 characters unless you have no other choice.
If you could go with a one-word name, that would be perfect. A snappy two-word name can also be a great choice and easier to secure. You generally want to avoid names with three words or more as those are mostly too long and easier for people to forget, unless the third word is a preposition (of, by, for, etc.) or an article (a, an, the).
Domain Extension (TLD)
The domain name extension, aka top-level domain (TLD), is the part that comes after the dot, e.g. .com, .net, .org, .info, etc.
The .com TLD is by far the most common and preferred by businesses and professionals as it’s considered sort of the “default” domain name extension. Although it was originally intended for use by commercial websites (hence the “com”), it works for any kind of website.
The biggest challenge with going with a .com extension, however, is that most names, including brandable and generic ones, have already been registered in this extension. So your options will mostly be very limited if you are looking for an available .com name you can get at registration cost.
Luckily, there are many other good choices for TLDs, and the list has gotten much taller recently after many generic TLDs have been introduced into the market and made available for public registration. Instead of having your options limited to .com, .net, .org and a few of the other old generic TLDs, there are now hundreds of new TLDs you can choose from (and more on the way).
Some of the popular new generic TLDs include: .online, .top, .best, .shop, .store, .site, .blog, .live, .deals, .io, and others.
While most new businesses still prefer the good old .com, newer TLDs are becoming more and more popular and accepted, so feel free to explore all the available options and don’t only limit your choices to .com names.
You will find many great names that are available for registration with some of the newer TLDs, like the ones mentioned above and many others. And if you are worried that a less popular, newer TLD might not rank as well in search engines…well, don’t! Google has confirmed that they treat all the new generic TLDs like they do .com and the other older ones.