How to Pick a Great Domain Name

by Scott on June 22, 2011

in Business Tools,Getting Online

[flickr size=”small” float=”left”]http://www.flickr.com/photos/62871344@N03/5721040814/[/flickr]

Your Domain Name, or your website address, is going to be with you for a long time, so make an effort to pick a good name from the beginning.  The biggest thing you need to remember is that your domain name needs to be memorable. It’s not as important that it contain your name or your company name.  Your website is  a major marketing tool for you, and if you tell someone your domain name, they better be able to remember it, or you’ve done something wrong.

Think about a few popular web services like Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Those name are not descriptive at ALL as to what the company actually does, but they are super easy to remember.  That’s the direction you want to go in.  Think memorable instead of descriptive.

So here is my non-exhaustive list of basic tips for you to get started on picking a domain name:

(Almost) Always go for the .com

This one should be obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of people grow frustrated that they can’t find the “perfect” .com name and go with a .net, .org or the dreaded cess-pool of .info, .us, .me or something else hideous.  Don’t do it!  Stick to your guns and eventually you’ll find something that works for you AND ends with a dot com.  Now, if you actually have a cause or a non-profit, by all means use the .org extension but avoid it otherwise.

Never, ever use a dash in your domain name

This has got to be my biggest pet peeve of website names.  It just screams that you were lazy or too un-inspired to take the time to get a domain name that is memorable.  Think about it… It is not 100% critical that your name or company name be spelled out in your web address.   If your company name is Joe’s General Contractors, you may not be able to get that as a domain name.  But something equally (or more) memorable would be agreatcontractor.com or yourfavoritecontractor.com.  People will remember that.  If you go with Joes-General-Contractor.com, people will think you don’t want them to visit your site.  And finally, say that out loud…   Joes-DASH-General-DASH-Contractor-DOT-com.    See what I mean?

Don’t pick a name by committee

I’ve also found that if you start to pick a website name via committee, dashes end up all over the place.  The one that always sticks in my mind was when the Pasadena Symphony and the Pasadena Pops merged into one organization.  Their website ended up being www.PasadenaSymphony-Pops.com.  I can just hear the meeting where everyone wanted to be represented.  But guess what….  Very few people are going to remember the dash (see above) and it sounds like you caved to group pressure instead of taking the time to pick a truly unique name.

Use Adjectives

You started to see this in my advice above with the words “great” or “favorite”.  People remember these words and oftentimes it’s even better than your company name.  Great words to mess around with include:

  • Great (greatfoods.com, makingthingsgreat.com, agreatguy.com)
  • Favorite (yourfavoritedesign.com, myleastfavorite.com)
  • First (firstdesigngal.com, gettherefirst.com, comeinfirst.com)
  • Your (yournextsite.com, yourbestlook.com, yourperfectcolor.com)
  • Best (thebestinthewest.com, onlythebest.com, areyouthebest.com)

Basically anything you can use to differentiate your self from others makes a great adjective or modifier.  Don’t go too crazy with multiples like TheSuperAmazingFirstCompanyEver.com.  Keep it simple but memorable and you’re on the right track.

Your Name?

In some cases it will be appropriate to use your own name as the domain name.  Unfortunately for me, Scott Reynolds is apparently quite popular and I wasn’t able to pick it up… But if you’re going to be displaying your work, need an online portfolio or just want a copy of your resume online, using your own name can be a great way to do that.  If your full name isn’t available, try to go shorter – maybe just a last name or a slight variation.  Stick with the .com extension and avoid the .me extension, nobody will remember it.

Real Words vs. Something Quirky

If your website is going to be a web service or a web-only business, then it makes sense to explore some of the more quirky combinations of letters out there.  In most cases, the website name will also and up being the name of the company (or vice-versa).  Some examples are Twitter, Flickr, Quora and Gliffy.

But unless you’re still in a very early stage of coming up with your idea, you can waste a lot of time trying to find the right name AND website at the same time.  Go with something simple to get started and when the money is rolling in, you’ll be able to get any name you want…

If you’re ready to buy your name now, go to GoDaddy – by far the best domain name service out there.

And if you get confused in the process, check out my post on buying domain names at GoDaddy.

At the end of the day, your domain name choice is up to you.  Spend some quality time working through the process – It can take me a few days to find the “right” name for a new idea.  As always, if you have any questions or want to chat about your idea, get in touch.

 

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