Have you needed to find a domain for a website before? Maybe you’re looking now? With seemingly every web address taken already, how do you find a new one?
I’ve started a few of my own websites over the years and this is the part I struggle with the most.
So I thought I’d do some research and look in to it in detail to give you all some advice.
Firstly, there’s more to a domain than you think. It affects you in a multitude of ways: with search engines, brandability, trust, the list goes on.
So it’s worth thinking carefully about what you want people to see.
#1 Is it brandable?
You might think that if you were blogging about coffee, selling beans and related gadgets that you’d try for something like the following:
Now obviously that will be taken but it’s also a bit too generic – it doesn’t sound like much of a brand.
Studies have actually shown that exact match domain names often don’t do as well when ranking in search engines anyway. Meaning, they haven’t been as high on the first page of Google, or even on the first page at all.
This is possibly due to the owners trying to game the system and being too clever by doing everything they technically need for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), but not actually producing a website that people want to visit that much.
As you can see from the video below, Matt Cutts (former head of web spam at Google) admits they aren’t putting as much emphasis on keywords in the domain.
Try and be more creative when coming up with ideas – use a thesaurus (thesaurus.com) to find similar words if you’re stuck.
You might come up with something like this:
It’s a solid name, however, it’s not particularly easy to say, and there will be a lot of people who don’t actually know how to spell it.
Instead, you could come up with some better names such as:
If you own a shop which is already called Coffee Club, you might find that it’s already taken, but you’ll need to incorporate that name because people already know it. So it’s fine to go for variations like:
If you’re an individual such as a personal trainer, just use your own name. It’s more likely to be available, and it’s all about you and your services anyway. Just don’t do it if your surname is difficult to spell – in this instance, use your first name with another word.
Consider combining words as well to make it more brandable. The words ‘group’ and ‘coupon’ were combined to create groupon.com which is a good place to go for local discounts.
If you need a trendier name, try one word and add either one of these to the end: ‘ster’, ‘able’, ‘ful’, ‘ify’ and ‘ly’. This may not make much sense at the moment but they create uniquely brandable names, and they’re only one word which is ideal most of the time. They’re more likely to be available as well. They would like this:
What are your competitors’ names? What kind of items or services are you selling? There are a few things you will need to ask yourself during the process.
Write five words that describe your business and what it stands for. This will be a good starting point for your brainstorming session where you write down anything and everything whether you think it’s good or not.
Below is a video showing how to get started with your creative process.
If you’re serious about your business, you’ll need to take his advice on checking if it’s trademarked.
UK trademarks: https://www.gov.uk/search-for-trademark
#2 Extra Characters
When you tell someone, or when they say it to you, how does it sound? Ask someone you know to say it in a sentence so that you can hear how it will sound from the other side when you might eventually have to talk about it.
Try to avoid things like hyphens and numbers. They’re not easy to say when you’re telling someone over the phone or face-to-face – I have direct experience of this from making the mistake with mine many years ago.
Numbers are an absolute last resort as they will make you look unprofessional.
Hyphens don’t sound great and they’re awkward to say (and remember for the other person) but I had to use one as I went through many ideas and they were all taken.
So avoid domains like this:
#3 Try to make it short
After everything else, it should be as short as possible.
This will help when you or others say it, when people share it and to make sure it’s not cut off when displayed on other websites.
Having said that, you don’t want to be too short and make it difficult.
So try to avoid this:
And stick to the full word:
Clearly, ‘science’ is much easier to say and remember than ‘sci’.
#4 Think about the extension (.com)
If you’re operating solely in the UK, then a .co.uk is perfect.
If you’ll be selling globally, then a .com name is going to be your best bet if you can find one still available. If you can’t then try different variations.
If you’re still having trouble then .net or .co will be fine. This gives you a lot more options to play with.
The thing is, if you become successful enough, then you will eventually need a .com anyway as most people will use that first if they can’t remember what it actually is. And this means you could lose them.
You will also need to purchase as many of the other extensions as you can so that no one copies you. This should be on the back burner until you can afford it, but you may forget and someone could buy the same domain name but a different extension and start to make money from something that you started.
Sure, you can sue them if this happens, but do you really want to spend time and money going down that route?
If you find one that you really want, but someone already owns it, you can contact the owner by visiting the site and asking if they will sell. It’s likely to be a very high price though. And usually will only happen if it’s a terrible website that clearly doesn’t get many visitors.
You can also do this if someone has bought it but not created a website. This happens when people think of a good idea for a name and wait for someone to purchase it from them.
You will often find on 123-reg.com when searching for a domain name, that others appear at a much higher price. This is when someone has bought it to sell on, which you can buy if the price isn’t too high for you.
#5 Expired Domains
If you’re still having trouble, take a look at some expired domains that people don’t want anymore. This could even help you to come up with some alternative versions which actually are available.
One website that can help with this is www.expireddomains.net
#6 Name Generator
If you’re still stuck then don’t worry, this isn’t an easy thing for anyone, plus I know a few websites that will be able to help you out.
Shopify’s generator: www.shopify.co.uk/tools/domain-name-generator
You can use this website to find variations of domains. Simply input an important word and press ‘Generate names’:
You will then see a selection of available domains:
Also, make sure to check CunningBot’s domain search engine which will help you find available domains using popular prefixes, suffixes and related words. It’s a great alternative if Shopify’s version doesn’t help.
#7 Is it Available on Social Sites?
Before you settle on a domain and part with your cash, you need to know how easy it will be to set up profiles on social networks using the same name.
As it happens, you can do this across all of the sites at once using Name Checker: www.namecheckr.com
If you’re not called anything, you won’t sell anything.
Make sure that you don’t spend too much time thinking of a name. The one thing most people do wrong at the start is spending too much time planning and not doing.
So spend a few days thinking of a name, a week max, and then go with it.
At the end of the day, if you really had to, you could change the name of your website. It’s a pain because you will have built up some links to your site in that time, amongst other things, but it can be done.
If you’re really not sure, then choose your top 3 to ask friends and family.
If you need more feedback then use surveymonkey.com to ask lots of people at once. You will need to pay a small amount for asking a question, but you will receive more feedback, and unbiased at that – they’ll tell you what they really think.
At the end of the day, once you’re established, people will associate certain things with your name and won’t think twice about what it means.
Do you know what Nike means? No, but you associate sports, clothing, and athletes with it anyway. That’s because they have spent a lot of time and money on making sure that happens through advertising and sponsorship.
So as long as you don’t choose a bad name that no one likes, and you provide a good service or products, you’ll be fine.
Brandable: Don’t add hyphens or numbers.
Extra characters: Avoid numbers and try not to use hyphens.
Length: Use as few letters as you can without cutting the word off and making it look strange.
Extension: Try your hardest for a .com unless you’re only servicing the UK, then .co.uk will be better.
Expired domains: Try these for more ideas or to even find one you like.
UK trademarks: www.gov.uk/search-for-trademark
Purchase domains: www.123-reg.com
Expired domains: www.expireddomains.net
Shopify’s generator: www.shopify.co.uk/tools/domain-name-generator
CunningBot domain search engine: www.cunningbot.com