What do your visitors think of you at first glance? Your website domain is the first thing people will associate with your online business. It’s your business’s first impression and the calling card that will stick with you. When they type in your domain URL, they should instantly have some sort of association with your brand.
The goal is to have a clear, concise, and memorable domain that represents your brand, now and in the future. Once you’ve got your domain, it’s (hopefully) yours forever (after all, changing domains is an excellent way to confuse or lose your audience). It’s a small phrase with a lot of power.
Let’s go through the process of choosing a domain name that embodies your brand, engages customers, and proudly hosts your online business.
Bad domain names
A little bit of forethought can prevent you from a complete disaster… like some of these bad domain names that just really don’t do the job:
- Itscrap.com – Is it really that bad or is it IT scrap?
- Americanscrapmetal.com – American scrap metal or Americans crap metal? (seems like you have to be careful when using “scrap” in your domain!)
- Mp3shits.com – I think this one was MP3s hits, when MP3 was still a thing.
- Bendover.com – Maybe Ben Dover should have included his middle name.
- Choosespain.com – Oh, you want us to visit Spain…
- Oldmanshaven.com – This little cabin in the woods really is an Old Man’s Haven.
Imagine if you accidentally ended up with one of these domains. Sure, it may be funny from afar, but you’re branded with that on your business. Choosing a domain is like defining your brand. It takes a lot of thought and care, if at the very least not to end up with an unfortunate domain name.
What is a domain name?
The “domain” is the part of the website URL that comes after the http:// or https:// –
The domain is your website’s internet address. It designates your “property” on the worldwide web.
There are two main parts to your domain. The actual domain name and the top-level domain (TLD). The TLD is the part that comes after the period in your domain name. Most frequently, this is seen as .com.
The domain name is not the same as the web host. The domain name is your address on the web. The web host is the server where your website data is stored. So, someone puts your domain name into their web browser, and this directs them to the webserver that specific domain points to.
It’s like the domain is your friend’s address, and the web host is their house. You need the address to find your way to their house. Without the address, the house is still there—but no one will see it or come for the party!
Why is choosing a domain name so important?
Your domain name has a direct impact on the success of your website and brand. Just like real estate is all about “location, location, location,” your domain address becomes one of your key selling points.
The domain is your first impression on a visitor. The URL is the first thing they see (and type in) when they come to your website. A branded, clean domain can make an awesome first impression of your business. It defines your brand and becomes the “memory” people associate with your business.
But a bad domain name could get lost in the shuffle or worse, it could cause visitors to not trust your business. For example, “FreeMoneyForYou.com” isn’t very trustworthy, and visitors are likely to click away before the page even loads.
Plus, your domain name can affect SEO. Although an exact match is no longer a necessity for search engines, keyword-based domains can help boost your SEO ranking. We’ll get into this a little bit more below.
Take Leadpages as an example. Our domain name works well because it’s a memorable, simple brand name. It also tells a little bit about what we do: we use pages to get you leads. Google is able to see our domain alongside the rest of your site to put it into context for relevant web searches.
Your domain name will impact your brand, marketing, SEO, and more. So how do you go about choosing a domain name that you won’t regret?
Key domain considerations
A good domain meets five key criteria –
- Unique: Your competitor’s names aren’t similar, so customers won’t get confused
- Quick to memorize: It’s not complex or wordy. It has a “ring” to it that people can recall.
- Easy to pronounce: If someone says your domain aloud, it should translate into writing effectively.
- Understandable: It should be readable and make instant sense. You don’t want “Speed of Art” to come out as “Speedo Fart.”
- Trustworthy: Some domains just sound less safe than others. A website called “MakeMoneyNow” seems a little sketchy. Stick to a reliable brand name to avoid this concern.
1. Choose the right TLD.
Let’s start with the easiest part of the domain: the top level domain (TLD). Types of TLDs include:
- .com = commercial
- .org = organizations (nonprofits)
- .edu = educational institutions
- .gov = US government site
- .net = networks
- .biz = business
- .info = universal information
There are also local TLDs based on country. For example, .uk is for the UK, .ca is for Canada, and .it is for Italy. If you operate locally, you might consider using one of these TLDs, but you usually don’t want to restrict your business to one area only.
In most cases, you’ll want to use the .com suffix. It’s the simplest and most trusted TLD. Most visitors will default to typing .com into a browser. So when they remember your domain, they may instinctively put .com. If you use a different TLD, you could miss out on visitors simply because of the last few letters.
Regardless of the TLD you use, you may want to buy the other TLD options as well. You can redirect all the TLDs to your main site. This gives you a hold on your brand and prevents imposter sites from popping up. There are even some sneaks out there who will buy your other TLDs, impersonate you, and then try to sell the domain back to you at an astronomical price because they know you’re desperate to fix your customer service. So buying up the TLDs with the same primary domain prevents you from having to do damage control later on.
2. Be brandable.
Your domain name is the representation of your brand… so the domain itself has to be brandable! What’s this mean? Basically, you want it to reflect your business name without having any real specific meaning.
For example, Google and YouTube aren’t real words. These companies made up words that people instantly can associate with their business. It’s also more memorable, so people can quickly and easily recall it when they go to type it into the URL. Imagine if YouTube was called, “VideoSite” instead. It probably wouldn’t see as much success because it could be easily confused with VideoWebsite or VideosIT. It also just doesn’t sound as trustworthy.
3. Keep it short and sweet.
You want your domain name to be easy to remember and type in, so there’s no risk of visitors going to the wrong domain. We recommend keeping your personal domain under 20 characters without hyphens, underscores, punctuation, special characters, or numbers (unless there are numbers in your brand name).
You want something unique, but not complex. Make it easy for your customers to reach you.
4. Start with keywords.
Keywords are a good place to start when brainstorming your domain name. A URL keyword may help you rank higher on search engines, and it will likely make sense to your customer if it’s related to the services you offer.
But you don’t want just a keyword in the domain name. This is confusing and generic. It also doesn’t stand out or catch your attention. Rather, use keywords as a starting point when looking for inspiration for your brand and domain name.
For example, the Leadpages team might look at the keywords “lead magnet,” “landing pages,” “website,” and “lead generation.” These are all services we offer or words related to our main mission. We took the first two keywords, combined them, and came up with Leadpages as a business and domain name!
Get more info about domain SEO with GoDaddy’s article, “Can including keywords in a domain name improve search ranking?”
5. Have fun with it!
Choose a word related to your business, and then change it up a little bit. Squish words together. Add a couple of extra letters. Use some historical or mythical references. You’ll want to do a little bit of research and digging to get inspiration. Be creative while still relevant to your business mission.
Here are some examples to inspire you:
- Product/services: Coca leaves and Cola berries are the two main ingredients in Coca-Cola.
- Brand mission: Amazon is the biggest river in the world, which is how Bezos envisioned his company expanding.
- Condensed: Skype is a squished together version of their original idea, “sky peer to peer.”
- Language: Sony comes from the Latin word “sonus” which means sound.
- Myth/history reference: Nike came from the name of the Greek goddess of victory. Their prominent swoosh logo resembles her flight.
- Simplicity: Uber is easy to spell and easy to remember, and it refers to the colloquial word for “the best” or “super.”
We can’t stress this enough: you want your domain name to be memorable, unique, and straightforward.
6. Try a domain name generator.
At this point, you probably have a slew of keywords, ideas, and variations in your head. Want even more ideas? Try a free domain name generator. These can help you come up with ideas based on keywords and phrases, regardless of where you are in the brainstorming process. They also help put your ideas into a domain format.
7. Don’t encroach on anyone’s territory.
Trademark or copyright infringement can kill your business. We don’t want to scare you, but it’s true. Even if it’s an accident, you could end up getting a hefty lawsuit that could kill your business.
But it’s easy to make sure this doesn’t happen. When you come up with a domain name you like, Google it! Look through the first two pages of search results to see if there are any similar domains. You especially want to make sure a competitor or business in the same market or industry is using a similar name.
Image credit: google.com/maps
For example, in New York City, Bloomingdale’s is a famous department store. A few streets down, you’ll find Blooming Nails. Though the nail salon is using a play on words to gain attraction, they’re not in the same industry or too similar, so there isn’t an issue of trademark.
Just be careful and smart about your domain, and you’ll be good to go.
8. Claim your domain.
Now that you’re pretty settled on a domain you want, it’s time to put a stake in it. You want to grab ownership of everything related to that domain, so you can avoid any dilemmas or imposters in the future.
Start by checking out the other TLDs with your domain name. You may want to buy up as many TLD versions as possible as well as any common misspellings of your site. This does two things:
- It prevents frauds from impersonating your site, tricking customers, damaging your reputation, and/or trying to sell you their domains at a high price.
- It also corrects customer error. If someone incorrectly types your domain into the URL, they will still be redirected to your site. This ensures you don’t miss out on potential customers just because of a mistyped letter.
You also want to register your domain on all social media platforms. This helps you retain control over your branding across all avenues, while giving you the opportunity to grow or pivot your marketing as necessary. Even if you’re not using Instagram right now, you might want to in a year (especially since social media sites are a huge place to generate leads). You don’t want another business or user to already have your domain—which can then confuse your customers and damage your street cred.
9. Fight for your domain if it’s already taken.
If your domain name is already taken, you can still go after it if it’s important to you. The current owner may sell the domain to you, especially if the site is currently blank (aka “parked”). Some people buy up a bunch of domain names as an investment, waiting for a new business to come and purchase the domain from them. You can find out who owns the site with the who.is tool, so you can contact them to inquire about the site.
If the domain is “taken” but empty, it may be owned by a domain-flipping marketplace. Check out the following marketplaces to see if your domain is up for bid or sale:
Be careful if you’re buying an existing domain name. You don’t know what previous owners have done with the site, and some search engines may already have them on the “no-go SEO” list if anything illicit or “off” was going on. Lifehacker has a good article that tells you how to acquire the domain name you want if it’s already taken.
10. …Or get a new domain.
Sometimes it’s not worth fighting someone who owns your domain. It can be costly, time-consuming, and confusing. Likely, your social media handles and trademark may already be taken also
It’s okay to keep brainstorming and trying out different domain names until you find one that you love and that’s available!
11. Just use Leadpages.
All Leadpages accounts come with the ability to publish your site to a free Leadpages Domain. It’ll look like this: yourdomain.lpages.co.
This feature makes selecting a domain name a lot easier. You don’t have to worry as much about someone already having your domain. The “lpages” portion ensures you cut through the noise of the thousands of domains out there, so you can get exactly the brand name you want in your URL. (You still want to ensure you’re not infringing on any trademarks, and don’t forget to stake a claim through as many channels as possible.) Learn more about choosing a domain name on Leadpages here.
If you already have a domain, Leadpages offers unlimited publishing to your domain and website. You can connect the external domain to your Leadpages site and then use our platform to create new pages, which you can even publish directly to your WordPress website.
Get more info on the Leadpages features and offerings here.
This is your domain.
Choosing a domain name is an important part of your branding and marketing. It will determine how visitors find your “online real estate” and interact with your site.
But the process doesn’t have to be that hard. Get a little creative, have some fun, and go with a domain that feels right for your business.
We love our community, so post your own Leadpages domain in the comments below!