How to Choose the Right Domain Name
It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.
If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>
A lot of online business owners have asked me this question..
“How do you choose a domain for a new blog or project you're working on?
What factors do you take into consideration?
What's a deal-breaker for you?
Any examples of bad domains you've bought in the past?”
Here are our expert replies.
Connie Ragen Green of ConnieGreen.com says:
I've got 561 domains, so choosing them has become something I am comfortable with.
For me, choosing the right domains is like choosing the right name for one of your children or pets.The name must be catchy, not too long, and let people know what to expect.
You also absolutely must have your own name as a domain. Someone else had my name when I was first online and wanted to sell it to me. By then I was already using my middle name – Ragen – so I was not interested in purchasing ConnieGreen.com at a premium price. The next year she let it go and I bought it for ten dollars!
I like to use a verb at the beginning of my domains, so it will seem like I am requesting you to take some type of action – write, start, click, live, market, sell, reinvent. It all begins with a keyword search for the phrase that will describe what I am doing, over at Google's free site – Keyword Tool External.
Keep your domains as short as possible. I've seen ones that are so long – ThisIsMyBusinessNameAndIAmGoingToSqueezeInEveryPossibleKeyword.com – and those will not serve you well.
No matter what anyone tells you, there are still plenty of excellent domains out there, and you'll find the ones that will describe your business in just the right way. Think of it as your virtual real estate and enjoy the investing process.
Shannon Cherry of S.A.L.E.S. System Formula says:
My name is Shannon Cherry. And I am a domain junkie.
Yup, I admit I love buying domains. So much so I have 83 right now. (And no, not all of them are in use!) Part of the reason I have so many is that I buy them through CherryPickedDomains.com, a reseller site I own. (Yes, I own the domain too. But that one is cute and turns a pretty little profit!)
Usually, I try to buy domains with one or more keywords in it that I know are ranked high. I also look for ways to incorporate the product or service I am selling into the title. For example, my S.A.L.E.S. System Formula program also works as a great domain because Sales and Sales System are well ranked.
Looking back, there are a few I shouldn't have purchased. And two of them I blame Bob The Teacher for. He suggested I buy ExplosiveExposure.com and ExposureExplosion.com Honestly they could have been good for me, especially since Bob knows I like alliteration. However, there was one thing that ended up hurting these… (and truly, I am certain Bob would have NEVER thought of this): the words Explosive, Explosion, and Exposure, paired with my last name, Cherry, brings on some… shall we say… interesting search results.
So now I have another criteria to my list. All keywords, including ones in my domains, have to be rated PG.
Susanne Myers of AffiliateTreasureChest.com says:
I like to start with a little bit of keyword research before I buy a domain name. I try to figure out what one of the main keywords is for the topic the site will be about. Then I play with those keywords and other words around it until I find something I’m happy with that’s still available.
I stick to only .com domain names. I have bought .info and .net in the past, but not for important sites where I eventually want people to remember the domain name. No one ever remembers to add a .info or .net and will go to the .com version of the site instead.
I stay away from names with dashes or numbers in them for the same reason.
Now, let’s look at some bad examples:
My first mistake was to go with a .info extension. If I remember correctly, the only reason I did it was because the .info was cheaper at the time. The second reason I don’t like it is because it is a little hard to spell and misspellings are pretty common. I made that mistake with a few of my domain names.
When this domain was registered there was some talk in the SEO community that it might help to have dashes between keywords. It doesn’t and just makes it almost impossible for people to type the domain name and get it right.
I haven’t put nearly the time and effort into either one of these sites that I should have and part of the reason is because I ended up not being very happy about the domain name.
Nicole Dean of .. here! .. says:
The advice we've gotten so far has been awesome.
My favorite domain names are usually two to three words max. Although I've got a few really good four word domains like this one (NicoleOntheNet.com).
Why didn't I just put this blog on NicoleDean.com? Well, when I started this blog, NicoleDean.com was not available. It was owned by a lingerie model. (NOT me.) Plus, I didn't have to worry about people thinking my name is “Nicole Bean” instead of “Nicole Dean” which happens more than one would think. (Although I do own NicoleDean.com, now.)
My unbreakable rules for choosing a domain are:
- No hypens. Been there. Done that. Regret it to this day.
- No numbers. Do I spell it out “four” or is it the number “4”?
- Nothing difficult to spell. Although I once was really excited about using a domain with the word “catalyst” in it — I find that no one could spell the darned thing.
- Domain must end in .com. I don't mess with other endings.
- Domain must NOT have any copyright names in it. I would not recommend using “Google”, “Disney”, or any other company name in your URL or prepared to be “ceased and desisted”.
- If I'm looking to sell the site down the road, it must be generic enough. For instance, I wouldn't buy “NicoleKnowsTomatoes.com” to teach about growing tomatoes if I planned to sell the site ever, because I'd have to find someone named Nicole – or who wanted to call themselves that — to buy it.
And my big, bad unbreakable rule.
- It must pass the Oprah test.
What exactly is the Oprah test? Well, I picture Oprah saying it out loud. “Today I have with me, Nicole Dean, author of Blah blah blah and owner of NicoleontheNet.com”. Is it memorable? Easy to spell?
It's not just the Oprah test, though. It's the Willie Crawford test, too. If I'm in an interview with Willie Crawford and he introduces me – I want people typing or writing down my URL easily – and remembering it long after the fact.
You can't do that with MyNumber1-BestHome-Remedy-Treatments4New-Mothers.net.
Why is this Important?
A difficult domain is actually wasted opportunity and wasted traffic slipping through your fingers. If you're promoting via audio or video (in webinars, iTunes interviews, on BlogTalkRadio, live radio, TV, or even your own podcast) – you need a domain that is EASY to remember. It has to make it into the person's ears and to his brain and stick.
Plus, honestly, it's a credibility issue. Would you really buy something from MyNumber1-BestHome-Remedy-Treatments4New-Mothers.net? I hope you wouldn't even think of getting out your credit card for a site like that. SCARY. And would you feel comfortable referring it to your friends? Not a chance.
What impression is your domain giving of you?
How to Avoid the REALLY Bad “Oh My GOSH I CAN'T BELIEVE I DID THAT” Ones?
I'll also touch on avoiding really bad ones.
BAD ones that I've run across in the past include:
Yes, strategic capitalization was intentional. lol.
In fact, I, myself, was nearly guilty of a doozy. My degree, as you may or may not know, is in Psychology. And, I believe that a HUGE part of business success is what's in your mind – just as much as your marketing & business skills. You have to overcome your personal obstacles – and Lordie, did I ever have a lot of them.
Anyway, awhile back, I was trying to brand myself (I was reaaaaally struggling and focusing on branding for awhile until I gave up on it all together) – and I thought Marketing Therapist had some potential. I came up with a bunch of cool tag lines and headed to buy the domain.
I searched it in Go Daddy and amazingly it was available. So, I was about to buy it when my husband walked into the room and said …
“Uhhh… Nik. Sweetie? What in the HELL are you doing?”
Well, after some confusion, I realized he was reading MarketingTheRapist.com rather than MarketingTherapist.com – because it was in all caps on the screen. Yeah. Marketing for rapists is not even close to what I'd planned to do. I'm hoping no such thing exists.
So, I'll give you the same advice as I give my friends who are expecting a baby. Run the name by your most juvenile, dirty-minded friends – before signing on the dotted line. You'd be amazed at how something totally innocent can go bad in a big hurry.
It’s Your Turn.
So, now, I’ll pose this question to you. What are your best tips for choosing the right domain name for your blog? I’d love to hear your comments!
PS. I have created brandable reports from several of the previous Expert Brief columns that you can use to earn commissions by giving them away.
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Mike PaetzoldDecember 9, 2010 at 8:56 am
Lots of good tips here. I too stick to .com except for my play site. That was a dmoain I needed just to play with new things and was never going to be promoted so saving a couple dollars was worth it.
TrafficColemanDecember 9, 2010 at 9:02 am
I have had my domain for sometime now, but when I look back on it. I will say I did a good job on picking something you can remember and is catchy.
“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”
The MomDecember 9, 2010 at 9:08 am
hmmm…. “Run the name by your most juvenile, dirty-minded friends – before signing on the dotted line.” so Hubby is your domain name check? hmmm…. 😀 lmao!
I remember brainstorming with you when we finally arrived at “Remarkable Wrinklies” and laughed and laughed… then checked it with J, and he suggested we wait until the morning cause we were sitting poolside sharing a bottle of wine. Oh, yeah, there’s that too… 😀 Check it with someone who didn’t help you put the hurt on a bottle of wine.
Now whenever I tell someone the name of my blog “Remarkable Wrinklies” they tip their head and then inevitably say “I LOVE that!” Thanks Nik for the domain name brainstorming session and thanks J for putting the skids on until we took off our wine goggles. 😀
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:07 pm
No comment on the wine. lol!
I love your domain, mom. One of our best ones.
NicoleDecember 9, 2010 at 9:18 am
Another tip – just like the word “Hit” be careful of the word “Expert” after any word ending in “S”. 😉
MarketersExpert.com <- Bad MarketingExpert.com <-Good Who watches your back, baby?!
The MomDecember 9, 2010 at 9:38 am
You DO have to think like a junior high kid, yes?
MelDecember 9, 2010 at 10:07 am
My site comes off pretty well according to these rules… healingthatfeeling.com sounds memorable and doesn’t have any difficult to spell words or numbers in it.
I could also sell it but I’m holding on to it.
Bob the TeacherDecember 9, 2010 at 10:27 am
Sorry I was out of town on this one to get a brief together for you. Connie, Susanne, and Shannon did a great job of sharing their tips; and your addition of the “Oprah” test would have been my contribution because I love doing (and teaching about) teleseminars so much.
And I would have written this a few minutes ago, but I had to go buy a few new domains that I had thought of last night 🙂
Anyway, the big thing I’d add to this doesn’t have to do with domains but about what you do with them after you buy them.
So many people have more domains than they can really handle because they get ideas of a “great” domain and rush off to get them. Like Connie, I’ve got plenty (496 as of now). And I have to make sure that everyone of them goes somewhere.
Point domains you have on hold for your own benefit to your blog or other website. Domains that are benefit driven keywords should point to a specific blog post if you have on the topic; or to an affiliate product that is relevant to the name.
Next, make sure you don’t fall into the GoDaddy trap of adding hosting for each domain (or email accounts for that matter). I’m a reseller of GoDaddy at Shylar.com and do enjoy their domain registration services.
But you should remember that most hosting companies that run cPanel allow for unlimited domains on the same $10/month hosting plan. So don’t fall for the domain and hosting for $3, $10, or $20 and up per month plans that you see offered by places like Intuit, VistaPrint, GoDaddy, etc.
You also get unlimited email accounts from cPanel hosts, too, so there’s no need to add that when you are in the checkout line with your domains in hand!
p.s. My newest domain that breaks one of Connie’s rules:
http://www.StartImpactingMorePeoplewithLessEffort.com which is the
new tagline for my SIMPLE events and home study course 🙂
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:10 pm
Great tips. I was shocked to find that some of my friends were buying now hosting for every domain. OUCH.
And, yes, GoDaddy is the master of the upsell. I had one guy yell at my because it cost him $200 for a domain after I told him to get one. I was like “What did you DO?! It should have been less than $10!” And, sure enough, he’d added on every single feature that they offered because he thought he needed it. Yowza.
Debra ConradDecember 9, 2010 at 11:30 am
I learned a long time ago that you need to say the domain out loud.
I had a business (years ago) named Red Roof Workshop… try saying that quickly when answering the phone – Wed Woof Workshop is what it sounded like.
So… if the domain is going to be one that you will be sharing with others verbally… then spend some time saying it out loud. Not as if you are Saying Each Word separately but as if you were using it in a run-on sentence in a conversation.
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:12 pm
THAT is a great example. I’ve tried to say it three times and am doing the “Wed Woof”, too. lol.
Great tip about saying it out loud. I do that, too, as part of the Oprah test.
JillDecember 9, 2010 at 11:47 am
Another reason to try to keep your domain name short – it’s hard to fit a really long url on a business card.
just doesn’t line up very nicely!
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:13 pm
GREAT point, Jill. Or a billboard or sky-writer, too! 🙂
Pelle RylanderDecember 9, 2010 at 11:09 am
Thanks for sharing this. Some were new to me, and the “Oprahtest” is really a nice one.
I am not very thorough when I pick my domain names. Target the main keywords, or as close as I can get it, and no strange spellings. I use .com if possible, but I ‘m not afraid of .net. But I live in Sweden… :o) Here you rank well no matter what you do…
I went over the cliff once when supertargeting a keyword. I had no thoughts of things like copyrighted names back then.
Wedding Dresses was my niche-to-be, and I spotted a lot of searches on the name Oleg Cassini.
So I bought olegcassiniweddingdresses.com.
I never even had the time to start uploading my files – I got a mail almost instantly from the Cassini company telling me “no no no no…!”
That was my short career as a wedding dress affiliate. But we separated as friends
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:11 pm
Ooh. Lesson learned, right?
Thanks so much for commenting, Pelle!
Peggy BaronDecember 9, 2010 at 11:48 am
“Marketing the Rapist” LMAO!
In my earlier days, I almost bought a .info or was it .net? name because I wanted THAT name. Just before I hit the buy button I checked to see what the site looked like that had the .com name and it was a p.o.r.n related site. Whew, glad I checked!
I made the mistake once of buying a name that was really long. Sheesh, I got really sick of typing that!
Thanks for the domain name buying tips.
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:14 pm
Another excellent point, Peggy. If you get the .net or .org – be sure to check the .com to make sure people who type it in from memory don’t think you’ve gotten a new job in the adult industry. 😉
LizDecember 9, 2010 at 11:54 am
Hey Nicole, Connie, Shannon and Susanne, all great tips and suggestions for domain names.
When I was picking domain names back when, I picked ‘Homenotion, I mean talk about a domain name goof :-
But I managed to do OK with it, I actually rank in the Google top 3 for ‘internet home business ideas’. I mention that because even with a bad domain name it’s still possible to rank well, you just need to develop your keyword links.
I’m a bit more savvy with my domain names today it just takes some practice but you can’t go wrong with the strategies and suggestions mentioned above 🙂
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:16 pm
Absolutely. You can rank with any domain. 🙂 Don’t you just love marketing?!
BobDecember 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm
I hear this all the time. However, where is the proof that the domain name has any significant bearing on what the search engines see? It’s the description that gets people to read a blog or web page, not the URL.
Also, why wouldn’t sub-domains be just as good. Buying all these domains cost a fortune in the long run.
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:19 pm
The question was about choosing a domain for overall business image, branding, resell value, credibility, and effectiveness, not just for its impact upon SE rankings. I agree. You can get any domain to rank well with marketing.
Thanks for your comments. 🙂
Terry RetterDecember 9, 2010 at 12:28 pm
This thread was worth more than one chuckle – thanks to all for that. Good suggestion from Bob about the hosting rules. I don’t have as many domains as some of your readers – only 25 or so – but I do continue to look for available domains with important anchor text words for my market. Would have been better to have the knowledge that I have now when selecting my store name – yoursmartkitchen.com which is pretty good but does allow for some confusion on what is being sold in the store. The recommendation to have all of your low use domains active and pointing to your primary site is another good one. I now control about 40 sites that point to my home domain and sub domains and it helps with authority quite a bit. Will be pushing that strategy more for the next year.
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm
Glad we can make you chuckle. 🙂
Come back soon!
ShariDecember 9, 2010 at 12:29 pm
I agree with many of your points, especially regarding .info names. However, my most profitable sites are .net domain names. If I’m not planning to buy towards selling later, a .net domain name doesn’t bother me.
You didn’t mention privacy. What are your thoughts about having your WhoIs info private? That’s where GoDaddy gets you – they charge a steep price (at least I think so) for privacy. 1and1.com is way cheaper (privacy is included if you want it), but I find them not as user friendly as GoDaddy.
Dale L AndersonDecember 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm
The great part about domain names is if you don’t embarrass yourself, your only out about $10 and who knows, you might even make some money with it.my big boo boo was:
western-saddle-horse-tack-for-sale.com my thought was I could sell a lot of stuff from there so of a western garage sale, I have not maintained the site for the past 5 years and still get 50 unique visitors a day, even sell a horse from it some times.
Needless to say I don’t do much in the way of verbal promotion, I have thehorsebarn.com for that, even got a call last month from a lady who remembered my domain from 2 years back, the most important thing is to get a domain and get it up.
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:27 pm
“The most important thing is to get a domain and get it up.”
Exactly! And, “TheHorseBarn.com” is very memorable and easy to say.
Doug ChampignyDecember 10, 2010 at 12:55 am
Great post, as always! Why didn’t you take marketing-therapist? For 40 years the media has bugged David Bowie to say whether his album was titled Aladin Sane or A Lad Insane, so I was aware of the issue before booking my first domain name in 1982, way before the WWW came along. I was never willing to let the search engines decide where t break up the names, so I have a number with dashes in them – it really helped in the old days when Yahoo! and Alta Vista ruled the roost.
I always go for keyword names for the SEO value, either with or without dashes. When I’m bringing out a big product release, I’ll book it both with and without the dashes, using the former for the blog supporting it and the latter for the product itself. But I also have a couple of domains that are only 4 letters long – the letters say nothing, but those ultra-short domain names are great to use or referral links, especially in e-mails or on Twitter where space is limited. A link like http://c-be.com/7/ doesn’t take much room…
The wisest choice I’ve made, though, is my 0-domination.com – by using subdomains I now have web-2.0-domination.com, etc., and can upgrade them to 3.0, 4.0, etc, just by renaming the subdomain.
Merry Christmas to you & yours…
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:32 pm
Great points. I incorporate keywords whenever possible, but also take into consideration that…
Google.com doesn’t include the words “internet”, “Search”, or “Engine” in it.
Amazon.com doesn’t have the word “book” in it.
iTunes doesn’t have “online music” in it.
They’re all branded by what they do.
So, although I agree there is value in choosing keywords, I get tired of the gurus saying you HAVE to do it. (Not you, of course, but you know… we’ve been hearing that for years.)
And, I might add that the 0-domination.com is pretty cool. 🙂
george akwoweDecember 10, 2010 at 3:21 am
These are great and useful tips and strategies no doubt. But like any thing else in life, there may be some exceptions. While the preferred choice for domain name extension is “.com” I am aware of guys who have achieved online success with other extensions
like “.org”, “.net” etc. Well, may be name branding might have done the “magic” here.
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm
Yes, I agree. These are what I consider best practices for choosing a domain, but there is no law that will dictate whether or not you’ll succeed with any domain.
Great feedback. Thank you!!!
SherryDecember 10, 2010 at 10:17 am
I remember back several years ago when all the SEO rage was to add hyphens between words. I can’t even remember why they thought it was beneficial. I bought one domain with hyphens and it was always a big pain in the butt to type correctly, even for me and I knew how to spell it. The site still makes some Adsense money each month, so it’s more than paid for itself over the past 5 years, but I rarely do anything with it.
Sheila AtwoodDecember 10, 2010 at 11:39 am
This was great advice from all of you. I am one of those has bought lots of domains…some have worked and some have not. I am much better at choosing them.
Thanks for the Oprah Test.
Lisa WellsDecember 10, 2010 at 1:43 pm
Nicole, why weren’t you there to save me when I bought my main business name – coast2coastbusiness.com. Do you know how many times I have said “coast the number two coast business dot com”? About a gazillion. LOL.
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:24 pm
oooh. How can such a short domain become such a poop?
I would definitely get coasttocoastbusiness.com if there’s any way, and just redirect it. That’ll save you some hassles. 🙂
NicoleDecember 10, 2010 at 5:22 pm
For those who’ve asked in email…
I’ve been trimming my domains. I have nowhere near 500, nor have I ever.
I’ve been hovering around 100 domains for a few years. I’m aiming to get down to about 75 and am close. Then, aiming for a steady 30-50. 🙂
LorettaDecember 15, 2010 at 9:45 am
Give them away as stocking stuffers LOL
NellDecember 10, 2010 at 9:01 pm
I saw a domain name listed in a magazine today. 7 words long. Seven. S-E-V-E-N! Come on people. There’s gotta come a time when you sacrifice the cutesy name you just HAVE TO HAVE so your user doesn’t have to type a book to get to your website 😉 I’m ranting, yes.
Alaina FrederickDecember 10, 2010 at 8:58 pm
I love all of these tips and I’m also a domain junkie. I have over 15 domains and most are just pointing to a page on my main site. Then rest are just sitting there taking up space. I have to admit when I got dinkerandgiggles.com it was because it was the name of my company. Every month it is the top search into my site. So it tells me that no one knows how to spell it and that people are at least remembering enough to do a google search for it. My other domains are with purpose like breastfeedingtipsfornewmoms.com.
AllisonDecember 17, 2010 at 12:27 am
MarketingTheRapist.com? Oh god, I laughed till I cried.
Shannon (Living Life at Home)December 17, 2010 at 3:24 am
Where in the world was this post a few years ago…I have made all of these mistakes with domains and come to similar conclusions – especially the Oprah test. You should be able to say your domain and have it easy to remember and not have any confusion on how it is spelled. I so wish I had realized that sooner.
As always great info, that can save a lot of grief later. And thanks so much for the laugh, your examples are memorable 🙂
Caitlin - BrandBucketDecember 21, 2010 at 4:10 am
The best way to pick your blogs domain name is to get a .com and find a name that is more about short memorable potential that descriptive keywords. Something that is one of a kind. I love the unique invented words.
Prague Hen WeekendDecember 23, 2010 at 3:27 am
I need a domain name that has “designs” at the end, but I cant seem to think of one. It needs to sound good, give out some suggestions. (eg: Carbon Designs, but that is already taken)
TimDecember 23, 2010 at 12:19 pm
Great tips, Nicole. I went through the same process of picking some terrible domain names before setting up a list of processes and rules to abide by.
Elisabeth KuhnDecember 31, 2010 at 7:36 pm
what a great post — and discussion!
My own personal Oops domain was this one:
No, no! It’s not about growing hair on the back, but about having it grow back!
It still gets quite a lot of sign-ups, but oh, well… I wonder how many it would get if it were a better domain name…
And my seemingly smart and witty name LinguisticLeverage.com kept getting so many snarky remarks about cleavage that I’ve just about stopped using it. Sigh.
On the other hand, why the prohibition against dashes? Then again, I just found myself struggling with some new names that I tried to say out loud on a podcast and a video:
i.e., traffic dash dashboard dash bonus dot info! Yikes!
Not sure I’ll ever get visitors that way… I think I’m going to try to avoid dashes as much as possible in the future.
Thanks for a great post.
BrianApril 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm
I’ve purchased about 20 domains so far and each time I do I read through about 20 articles on choosing the best domain name, LOL! No lies! I find that it helps me with inspiration. I enjoyed these two articles, but I very much liked all of the comments and lil tid bits that people have left here as well. Thank you all!
JamesOctober 13, 2011 at 11:10 pm
Another thing to take into consideration is branding vs. keywords. Which is more important depends on what kind of business it is. Ideally, it is nice to have both, but often this can be very difficult.