Would a rose smell just as sweet if it were called by any other name? Sure. But 1-800-Flowers would probably have one hell of a time selling too many bouquets of “dickadoodles.”
Your name matters. Let’s find you a rose!
In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know, including what kinds of names to avoid, great tools for finding open names, what taken domain names are actually worth, and how to register the domain of your dreams once you find it.
Rule # 1: Avoid weird spellings
Domain names with overly oddball spellings (especially when it’s also your business name and e-mail address) will end up about as annoying for you as the girl whose parents named her “Gennipher” instead of “Jennifer.” And for the exact same reasons. You’ll constantly be correcting people and having to explain how to spell it.
Good = FreeSiteGuide.com, Bad = PhreeSiteGuide.com
Rule # 2: Shorter is better
Pay attention to the number of characters in your domain name because no one wants to spend all day typing it. 8 – 12 is the sweet spot, though up to 15 is fine. Near 20 and beyond is way too long.
Good = FreeSiteGuide.com, Bad = CompletelyFreeWebsiteGuide.com
Rule # 3: Never infringe on trademarks
Never use a domain name with someone else’s trademark in it, unless you have explicit permission to do so. Otherwise, you’re just asking for legal issues. Major companies are vigilant on these things, whereas even smaller ones have attorneys (see also: trademark trolls) who will happily sue you for the commission.
Good = SmartPhoneRepair.com, Bad = iPhoneRepair.com
(If you’re unsure, search the USPTO database here.)
Rule # 4: Avoid similar sites
If there is already an actual functioning site online with a very similar domain name, find another one.
Good = FreeSiteGuide.com, Bad = If FreeSiteGuides.com (or .co) were already an actual functioning site with live content.
Rule # 5: No dashes, No numbers
Always avoid dashes and numbers in your domain name.
Good = FreeSiteGuide.com, Bad = Free-Site-Guide1.com
Rule # 6: Always Google It First
Always run a search on Google for the domain name (with and without the .com / extension) to look for any potential issues. These can be issues with similar sites, or they can be that your SEO will be facing an uphill battle against whatever horrors came up when you searched your name.
Case in point, I once forgot this very basic step for an otherwise good domain name, only to find out afterward that it had a definition on UrbanDictionary for “one who masturbates profusely” that came up first on Google.
So, yea, check Google before you register. 😉
Rule # 7: Don’t overpay
It is common for people to buy domain names and then immediately put them up for sale at a ridiculously unreasonable price, a price that it definitely isn’t worth.
The vast majority of domain names that I buy are either unregistered or expired (I’ll get to that later in this guide), available for $12.99 or less. And I’ve got a lot of great ones at that price.
Always try to go that route first. But if you find one for sale, either directly or through an auction, don’t get screwed on the price.
Rule # 8: Profanity will limit your marketing
If you have a word in your domain name that the polite world finds offensive, you’ll likely be censored by search engines and find limitations in where you can run ads.
Rule #9: .com is always best
While we are definitely seeing more and more “non dot coms” out there creeping up in national ad campaigns (and multi-million dollar companies), .com’s remain king in terms of value and perception.
If your domain will be representing a brand, especially one that people will actually be typing into their web browsers (versus clicking on links), try and stick with a .com.
How To Register A Domain Name
To register a domain name, you’ll use a “domain registrar” service like Name.com, GoDaddy.com, NameCheap.com, etc.
It doesn’t really matter which one you use, though some are cheaper than others (I personally prefer Name.com and they usually have coupons codes), and you’ll be handling all of your domain related business through the one you ultimately buy your site from.
A year of registration is around $11.99, plus any add ons they sell you on.
Sidenote: Most of the major domain registrars like GoDaddy and Name also offer web hosting services, which I would not recommend using. Name.com’s hosting is just plain awful, GoDaddy is “ok” at best. There are better options. I’ll get to those, or click here to skip ahead)
How To Find A Good Domain Name
First, a little humble brag…..I’ve snagged some pretty amazing domain names over the years, the kind of names where people compliment me with “wow, I can’t believe you got that one!”
I only say that to drive home the point that the below tools can help you do the exact same, so long as you use them and remember our ground rules.
ExpiredDomains.net: This one is by far, hands down, the absolute best resource for scoring a great name without having to pay some ridiculous price. Every day tens of thousands of domains expire (meaning someone had the name, didn’t pay to renew it).
Step 1: Make a free account on there.
Step 2: Search “Expired .com”
Step 3: Click “Show Filter”
Step 4: Click “no hyphens, no numbers” and show 200 results.
Step 5: One by one, search keywords relevant to what you’re needing. You can search “begins with, ends with, or contains,” depending on what you want.
If it says it’s available, then go through our checklist (reminder: Google the name to look for potential issues, avoid trademarks, etc). If all is well, then go to Name.com and register the name.