Domain names - 6 tips

You’re all ready to go with your wonderful business idea, and your next step is creating a lovely online home for it. When you are about to start your own website, you may have some questions. Actually, you may have tons of questions!!

But you’ll need to start with the most crucial thing first, without it you can’t get started; choosing a domain name for your website & blog. And not just any domain name… But the perfect domain name. In this post we share six tips to get to that perfect domain name. And first we briefly explain what a domain name exactly is…

What is a domain name?

Your domain name is what people type into their browser to get to your website. Or if they get to your website after clicking a link, it’s what they see at the top of their browser (in the address bar). For example, our domain name is websiteswithaheart.com. You can think of it as the address of your website. But instead of writing it on an envelope, you type it into a browser…
Like a postal address, a domain name (or website address) has to be unique. Otherwise, your browser wouldn’t know which website to display if you typed in an address. So, you won’t be able to use a domain name that someone else is already using. You need your own unique name. There are a few rules that are good to know and some names will work better than others. Here are six tips to get to that perfect domain name.

Tip 1 – Know the domain name rules

Really there is only one rule: you’re allowed to use only alphanumeric characters and hyphens. So you can use the letters a-z and the numbers 0-9 and the – (hyphen or minus sign). You can’t use any other characters in your domain name. So !”£$%^&*()_=+{:@~<>?,./;’#[]¬`| and are all out (sorry). Myself, I would have loved to use a ♥ in my domain name, but alas.
The other thing you need to know is that domain names are case insensitive. So it doesn’t matter if you use capitals or not: xyz.com is the same as XYZ.com (or xYz.com or any other combination of uppercase and lowercase).
Oh, and domain names can be a maximum of 63 characters long (but that’s waaaaay too long anyway, so you probably want to go for something shorter).

Tip 2 – Keep it simple – Shorter is usually better

You will give your domain name to people when you meet them and talk about what you do. You will put it on your business card and in your email signature. If you advertise anywhere you’ll want to include it with your email address and phone number. In all these cases, people will have to write it down or remember it and type it into a browser to get to your website. If your domain name is really long, people may have trouble remembering it or not bother to write it down. And if you’re including it in an ad with limited space or where you pay by the character (like classifieds), it’s going to help you if your name is short and easy to remember.
If at all possible, keep your domain name short, simple and easy to pronounce.

Tip 3 – Choose a unique name

This is quite important. Unique-ish isn’t good enough, because people may get it wrong in some way and end up at a totally different site. Nowadays it may be difficult to find a name that’s not already taken and totally unique, but a good domain name is at least distinctive enough that people don’t confuse it with something else. Also see tip 5 below on choosing the best extension for your domain name; registering hobby.net if hobby.com is already in use by someone might not be the best way forward. We have also written a separate post to help you generate ideas for choosing a unique name and also a post on what to do when your name is already taken.

Tip 4 – How to check if a domain name is available

Nowadays, choosing a domain name goes hand in hand with checking whether it is available. There are millions of websites out there already, which of course means that quite a few names have already been taken. So there may be a possibility that someone else already owns the name you’d like for your site. In that case you have several options (separate article). But usually it’s best to take it as a sign and move on to look for a different name. The perfect one is out there, just waiting for you to discover it…

To check whether your name is available, you can start by typing it into a browser and see if there’s a website on it already. If not, chances are the name is available. But you can’t be 100% sure yet. Someone might have just registered the name without building a site on there yet.

To be 100% sure you need to check the availabilty of your domain name online at a companies that specializes in selling domain names (called a domain registrar). Important: also see our post with frequently asked questions about domain names under question 11 and 12 at the end of the post for recommendations about where to check for availability.

Tip 5 – How to choose the extension for your domain name

Nowadays there are many different domain name extensions. The best known and most popular/desirable are still .com, .net and .org, however the best choice for you depends on what you exactly do and also sometimes where you are based. Dot com names are generally used for companies. Dot net for network organisations or groups, and dot org by organisations and not-for- profits.

If you have thought up a brilliant domain name and the dot com is still available this might be the best choice. However, if you notice that only the .net and .org are free, and if you type in the website address in your browser and find another company using the .com or .co.uk name already, it might be better to think a bit longer. Especially if they are doing something very similar to what you will be doing. For example, if you plan to sell books on creativity, and creativitybooks.com is already in use, but creativitybooks.net or .co.uk are still free, it might still not be a good idea to register and use the.net or .co.uk name. A large number of people might accidently type in the wrong extension and end up on your competitor’s website instead! Also it might cause some hard feelings with the owners of creativitybooks.com. Best to start with good energy and it is always better to start with something unique.

If you are based in the UK and your market is also UK, then a co.uk domain name is the best choice for you. If the .com is also available it would be good to register both. Both can be pointed to your website at the same time. The same accounts for other countries and extensions, such as .nl for the Netherlands, .be for belgium etc.

There are millions of websites online, and it is a bit harder nowadays to come up with a unique domain name than when the internet was still young. Many new types of domain name extensions have been created, and these sometimes give you the possibilty to be creative with your domain name and extension. An example is one of our clients that uses livingmybestlife.today ! Another examples is walkingholiday.info

Also see our posts with domain name brainstorming tips, and domain name tools for generating ideas.

Tip 6 – Register your domain name yourself

When you are getting your website set up by someone, it is often easy and not an uncommon practice to also let them register the domain name for you. However, we advise against this and let all our customers register their domain name in their own name. This means you are the one who pays the annual bill for your domain name , and you have full control over it. We have more than 10 years experience working in webdesign and we have seen a few cases where our clients had fallen out with their previous web designer, and unfortunately you are in a very dependent position if they choose to be unhelpful. They could for example take down your website or be slow and unhelpful when work on your website requires access to your domain name details. We can point you in the right direction, but to be sure and safe, always register your domain name yourself.

These tips are part of our Domain Name e-book – Finding and Securing the Perfect Domain Name with lots of useful info, domain name brainstorm tips and creative ideas, domain name tools and FAQ about domain name registration.

Subscribers to our newsletter list receive our domain name e-book as a welcome gift – once you have subscribed you will be directed to our downloads page :)

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