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Choosing a Great Domain Name

There are three rules that are now cliche for finding and buying great real estate, it's "location, location, and location".  So here are my three rules for selecting a great domain name, keep it "short, simple, and catchy".  Almost all the famous sites have domain names that follow these rules (i.e.: Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, etc.). 

The main problem you will run into is finding a great domain name that is available.  It seems like all of the good and easy to find ones are already taken.  Like finding great real estate, to find a domain name for your site will take time, and research. 

What I can do to help you is provide you with some guidance to selecting one.

Tip: Several domain name registrars (such as GoDaddy, and others) offer suggestions for domain names variations if the domain you're looking for is not available.

Rule 1: Keep it Short
Generally the shorter the domain name the better, primarily because in most cases it will be easier for your visitors to remember.  As a guideline I would not try to exceed eight characters in length, but remember there are almost always exceptions to suggestions such as this one. 

Rule 2: Keep it Simple
Like short domain names, it should be simple to remember, and easy to spell.  You don't want your visitors to struggle to figure out how to spell your domain name.  Try to keep you names down to one or two words at the most, and avoid names with three or more.  A great example of a two word domain name is Facebook. 

Rule 3: Make it Catchy
To be catchy these days, you seem to have to have your domain name under the .COM TLD (Top Level Domain).  If you're a commercial company, the .ORG and .NET TLDs just don't have the same impact.  Although if you truely are a non-profit (for the .ORG) or you are an ISP (.NET) then they may be very appropriate.  Other things to consider is the geographical regions you will be servicing, so you might want to register your domain in the local TLDs (such as: .UK, .CN, .JP, etc.).

If you're using foreign words (no matter what language you're targeting) can that have complex pronunciation, or strange combinations of letters, this can be hard your visitors to spell or remember.  If you can, try to pick a domain name that is descriptive to what you're marketing.  For example, if you're selling time/space widgets, if WIDGETS.COM is not available try WIDGETHUB.COM. 

You should also consider if your domain name is brandable.  This can be an important consideration to some organizations because their domain can also be their company name.

Other domain name considerations:
  • Avoid using numbers or hyphens in your domain name.  Visitors can leave out hyphens or type the words for numbers. 
    • For example, If you a domain like 1- WIDGETS.COM, people might accidentally use ONEWIDGETS.COM instead of the correct name.
  • Some sites can get away with using acronyms for their domain name, but you should be careful when using them because they can be hard to remember if they're not popular.
  • Can't find a domain name that you like?  You may need to consider looking into buying one.  There are several sites that allow you to search for available names and buy or bid on them.
  • Be careful of unintentional misinterpretations of your domain name.  Famous examples are: Pen Island.com (penisland.com), Experts-Exchange.com (orignally, expertsexchange.com), and the list does go on.
Security/privacy considerations
  • You need to protect your brand, there are a few popular scams that you should be aware of.  There are people who will buy variations of popular web site brands to scam your visitors, spam with them ads, and whole host of other nefarious activities (such as stealing your user's account passwords).
    • Buy your domain name in the all the popular TDLs (i.e: .ORG, .NET, and what ever else is appropriate).
      • For example, if you own WIDGETHUB.COM, you might also want to buy WIDGETHUB.ORG, and WIDGETHUB.NET.
    • Buy popular misspelling and variations of your domain name
      • For example, if you own WIDGETHUB.COM, you might also want to buy WIDGETSHUB.COM, or WIGETHUB.COM.
  • You also need to be aware that when you buy a domain name, that you have to provide a physical mail address, phone number and email address that will be made publicly available via WHOIS.
    • It's worth noting, that some domain name registrars offer services to protect your privacy for an extra cost.
Tip: If you still need more help in selecting a name, check out the following article (Domain Name Research Tools).
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