Choosing the right domain name could quite possibly be one of the most important business decisions you’ll make.
Branding your blog or website starts with a strong domain. When you are starting a blog or a website, one of the first things you need to do is choose a good domain name and register it.
You want to choose something that people will think about when searching for you or your business online. Something that’s easy to remember and will stick in their minds.
If you play your cards right, you can even buy and sell domain names and make some money on the side.
This article may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.
Are All the Good Domain Names Gone?
At this point in the game, it might seem like all the good domain names are gone. The third quarter of 2018 closed with a massive 342.4 million domain name registrations. [source] So it’s pretty clear that there are still ideas out there for you to maximize.
You can pretty much kiss the idea of a one-word domain name goodbye (unless you’re willing to spend a boatload of money buying one from the current owner, most of those are already gone).
So it is true that coming up with a great domain name that’s not already registered isn’t always easy. Nonetheless, with some creativity and careful thought you can still create your own unique and brandable domain name.
How Do I Choose a Brandable Name?
What you want to do instead is come up with a brandable name or a dual/multi-word combination that has the ability to become a brand.
A brandable name is unique, catchy, easy to type, and easy to remember name. Brandable names can do wonders for any business.
Just think about Google. It’s a search engine, but what if it were just called searchengine.com? Would that stand out compared to other search engines? Not a single bit.
LettuceDiscuss is a website about branding, domains, web design, and legal compliance issues related to all of these things. All of these concepts are important in communication, hence the “discuss” part of the name. The “lettuce”part? It’s obviously a play on the phrase “let us,” but my goal in choosing “lettuce” instead is to create a name that’s truly brandable. Plus, it sounds a lot better than webandlegalinfo.com, doesn’t it?
If you can think of a brandable domain name and market it well, your brand could become a household name. So put on your thinking cap, bounce ideas off of friends and family, and then go to GoDaddy and see if your idea is available.
Should I Include Keywords in My Domain Name?
There was a time where domains full of keywords (also called exact match domains) were extremely popular and successful. Exact match domains contain the exact keywords people are searching for online.
People were buying up domains like bestdigitalcamera.com, babystrollerreviews.com, and bestumbrellastand.com, hoping to reach the top of the search results in their niches—even when the websites themselves contained weak or very little content.
Google caught onto this scheme and rolled out an update to its search algorithm. That update targeted and essentially penalized those low-quality websites that were previously ranking high solely because of the keyword advantage in their domain names.
So if you want to use an exact match domain and you find one that fits your niche, you need to work very hard and make sure your website contains valuable, high-quality content that will drive potential visitors to your site.
And even if you have the best content, will people really remember a generic keyword domain name (as compared to a brandable)? Which brand would stand out to you: lettucediscuss.com or webandlegalblog.com (awful, right)?
If you feel compared to use keywords, my recommendation is to shoot for a brand containing partial keywords as opposed to a domain name containing generic keywords.
Do I Need to Buy a .Com Domain Name Extension?
Do you need to get a .com? You don’t need to, but you probably should if you can.
There are several practical reasons why you should buy a .com domain if possible, as opposed to some other top level domain (TLD) like .net, .co, .io, .info, and so on.
A large percentage of the domain names registered by business entities in the United States are “.com” TLDs. As a result of custom and usage (and, quite frankly, consumer expectations), many blogs and businesses want their domain to be a .com. It’s easily the most desirable domain name extension to have on the web.
The simple fact is that when people think of sites, they almost always think of .com. When people think about your domain, they’re likely going to automatically think of it as a .com as opposed to something else.
Pavlov had it right with his dog experiments, for sure. We are mentally conditioned to think of .coms.
Also, dot coms are easier for people to remember. So if you choose another extension, that’s one extra thing for your potential visitors, clients, and others to remember. If you have a .org or a .net, it is just one more thing for people to have to remember. First, people have to remember your website’s name; then, they have to remember that your exxtension is not the commonly assumed .com. And you could lose some traffic to your .com competitor.
Some people may think of other TLDs as “second-rate” because the owner either couldn’t afford to buy the .com name or some other business had the foresight to register it first. This wouldn’t apply to businesses that have a preference for another extension, like .net, or organizations that choose .org, of course.
Some of these issues can be resolved by good branding and search engine optimization. This will make it easier for people to find your website when they type it into a search engine.
But one big problem still remains: Your email address is likely going to be tied to your domain name. For example, I want email addresses for lettucediscuss.com to end in @lettucediscuss.com. People tend to default to .com when thinking about domains. As a result, if your email ends in TLD you may end up confusing your potential visitors or losing potential opportunities from people who want to contact you.
The bottom line is this: Try to get a .com if you can.
How Do I Buy a Domain Name?
Someone recently asked this question in a small business group I’m in on Facebook. There are several different ways to purchase a domain name. Here are a few ideas.
- Buy a domain name from a domain name registrar
- Search for domain name brokers
- Look for expired domains
- Contact the current owner and make an offer to buy
How to Buy a Domain through a Domain Name Registrar
The first and most popular way to purchase a domain name is through a domain name registrar.
A domain name registrar is an entity that manages the reservation of domain names. GoDaddy, Bluehost, Namecheap, and Domain.com are some of the most popular domain name registrars. These companies operate in accordance with the guidelines of the designated domain name registries.
Buying a domain name from a registrar is very simple. Each registrar has an easy registration process. All you have to do is think up your great idea, visit the registrar’s website, make an account, and purchase in less than 10 minutes.
How to Buy a Domain Name from a Reseller
The domain name industry is full of opportunistic people who buy domain names without any intention of even using them. You can also visit domain name brokers, for sale and classified sites, forums, auction sites like GoDaddy Auctions, and other websites to find your perfect domain name. You can do this on domain marketplaces like Flippa and Sedo.
How to Buy an Expired Domain Name
Sometimes you can find your perfect domain name by searching through a list of expired domains. I’ve personally had success with this option.
All you have to do is go to a site like expireddomains.net. You can choose to search for expired domain names by entering keywords and other criteria that’s important to you.
This option allows you to search for the right name without having to pay a commission to a reseller. When you find a domain you like, you can just buy it from a domain name registrar (just like you would if you were simply registering a new domain name).
How to Buy a Domain Name from the Owner
In some cases the name you want has already been registered by someone else but they aren’t using it at the time. In those cases you might be able to contact the owner and make an offer to buy the domain name. The owner’s contact information may be available via ICANN’s WHOIS Lookup, on their website, or from the domain name registrar. Shoot them an email and let them know you want to make an offer.
These are just a few suggestions on where to buy your domain names.
Don’t Let Opportunities Pass You By
If you do think of your perfect domain name, or even a good domain name, and it’s available for you to buy, don’t delay.
Buy it NOW! Seriously. If you’re thinking of it right now or anytime while you’re on this website, you can scroll to the bottom of any page, enter your domain name, and if it’s available click on the button to take you straight to GoDaddy where you can make it yours.
I’ve been in the unfortunate position of thinking up a great name, finding that it’s available, and then sleeping on it. And when I finally went to register the name, it was gone like the wind.
Similarly, in 2003 I had the opportunity to purchase my own name as a .com. Yes indeed, my first and last name as a .com. Talk about a branding opportunity!
Well, I didn’t buy it at the time. But someone else who has the same first and last name did. And they’re currently making excellent use of the name. Ugh.
Don’t lose opportunities like I did. If you snooze, you lose.
Even if you don’t plan on using the domain right away, purchase it anyway before someone else does. You can buy a domain for under $10 so it is one of the least expensive investments you will make.
Domain names aren’t expensive. You can buy them in many places for less than ten bucks, so seize opportunities when you have them.
Likewise, domain names aren’t permanent. You can buy a name and register it for one year or multiple years. If you end up not using the domain or you don’t want it anymore, you don’t have to renew.
Registering a domain for multiple years will normally save the most money. And most registrars have an option you can select that will auto renew your domain so it doesn’t expire on you.