How-to: Choosing Good Domain Names

There's a small digression in our latest Essential Short Guide to WordPress where we stop to talk about choosing good domain names. Here are some tips and traps to be aware of when choosing yours.
  • When you go to a domain registrar to get your domain name, take the time to run a few searches to find the best domain for your purpose and make sure it is available. All the obvious domains like business.com, abtaxis.com and bookshop.com are long gone. Be prepared to get creative. Absolutely do some research in your sector or chosen field before you buy.
  • Choose the best applicable domain suffix you can afford. The .com suffix is still king to a lot of people, having worldwide recognition for business. If you run any other kind of organisation, .org is good. For education, consider .edu. There are now lots of newer domain suffixes available, including countries of residence: .us, .uk., .fr, .ie and so on (United States, United Kingdom, France, Ireland). There are also subject specific domains like .photography, .pizza and .blog.
  • Some of these domain suffixes make sense in combinations like .edu.uk or .co.ie to localise where you operate.
  • You can localise further if you include your place of business in the domain name such as abtaxislondon.com.
  • Include keywords relevant to your website's purpose in your domain name search. This includes not only your name, or the organisation name, but the type of activity like davesplumbers.co.uk. As it happens, proactivitypress.co.uk is a good fit for what we do. However, additional considerations are:
  • Keep it unique and easy to brand; johnsmith-dot-anything isn't either of those.
  • Keep it short: proactivitypress.co.uk is acceptable; proactivitypressindependentpublishingimprint.co.uk is not. For one thing, it needs to fit on your business card. Second, nobody wants to type all that into their browser.
  • Make it easy to pronounce and spell: you have to balance the creative and practical. Naymz, Takkle and Speesees struggle. Meanwhile conscientious.com is just difficult for people with average reading and/or typing ability.
  • Language-specifc spelling is not always güd; most Western domain registrars don't accept non-Roman accented characters, so no güd.com.
  • Avoid hyphens in domain names; proactivity-press is asking for trouble. Either the dash gets left out, or people hear "proactivity dash press" and try to type the word "dash" in the site address as in "proactivitydashpress."
  • Avoid doubled letters: just because fiverr.com made it big thanks to their marketing budget, doesn't mean you can with tennerr.com. Similarly...
  • Avoid missing letters: social media site tumblr.com may be 'in' with the in-crowd, but as many people have to search for it after they type tumbler.com and get drinks containers.
  • Resist getting too clever unless you're a marketing genius and can make something of grano.la or curio.us. The period in the domain name often stops people in their tracks. Conversely...
  • Check your domain name isn't easily misread when you remove the spaces between words. Famous examples include:
    • IT Scrap - itscrap.com
    • Pen Island - penisland.com
    • Who Represents - whorepresents.com
    • Experts Exchange - expertsexchange.com
    • Dickson Web - dicksonweb.com
  • If you're paying for web hosting, check any starter offers that include a free domain name (just watch the renewal prices when the time comes)
  • Shop around to find the cheapest offer price for your domain name amongst multiple registrars - just decide quickly and grab it before someone else does.

There's a lot more to say around the art and science of choosing good domain names. Look out for a future post on this in 2021. RC

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