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How To Choose A Domain Name For Your Blog
Choosing a domain is not as straightforward as it seems, it’s not just a case of stringing two or three words together and attaching “.com” to the end. How to choose a domain name for your blog? The answer is very carefully!
The process does need some honest research because your chosen domain name needs to be right the first time. If it isn’t, you will either lose visitors now or further on down the road.
Changing your domain name after you have established your website is an extremely difficult job. If you’re not a tech wizard yourself you would probably have to hire one to complete the task successfully. Even then, you would most likely still lose rankings and subsequently many visitors.
Fear not, though! If you follow the guidelines featured in this post, your chances of making this costly mistake will be minimized.
When your content features in the search engine results, the user will typically be swiftly glancing through the headlines and will click on the URL and brand that stands out the most. Your domain name, your brand, needs to be that one that stands out from the rest, the one that indelibly etches itself into that user’s mind.
Using SEO to reach number one in the search results is the best way to get noticed but you also need a catchy domain name, one that looks professional and trustworthy.
So, some thought needs to be put into the domain name selection process. You can, if all the gods are working in your favor, get the job done in a couple of hours. However, it’s not unusual for it to take several hours spread over two or three days, especially if you have chosen one of the more popular niches for your blog.
I wouldn’t take any longer than this. You could go on forever wasting your time looking for the non-existent “perfect” domain name. There comes a point when you just have to go for the best option, the one that ticks the most boxes.
If you haven’t yet chosen a niche for your blog, I advise doing this first before you choose your domain name. Take a look at my previous post:
Exactly What Is A Domain?
Okay, I know some of you reading this will be complete beginners, so let’s make it absolutely clear what a domain is.
All domains consist of two parts. The first part to the left is an individual registered name that identifies a particular website. The second part to the right, including the dot, is a top level domain, or TLD and is often referred to as the extension. The domain name to the left is actually a sub domain of the TLD.
Together, the two parts create a web address that identifies the location of a particular website in just the same way as a street address identifies the location of a particular building or part thereof.
When you buy and register a domain it is your piece of online real estate, your property to furnish with content, rent out or sell as you please, just like a physical property.
Finding Your Optimum Domain Name
I have used the word “optimum” rather than “perfect” because, as I implied before, it is very unlikely that you will find the perfect domain, so do your research and find the best one that you can. If you follow these hints, you should be able to achieve that.
No More Exact Match Domains
From the early days of search engines up until quite recently, an exact match domain, or EMD for short, was a must if you wanted to rank highly in the SERPS (search engine results pages). An EMD is a domain name that contains your exact main niche keyword.
Thanks to Google, this is no longer necessary as they have stated that websites will no longer be penalized for not having a domain name that reflects the content of the site, instead placing the emphasis for ranking on the quality and value that the actual content delivers to their users.
This does not mean, however, that you shouldn’t have some form of keyword included in your domain name. Having all or part of a relevant keyword included can still boost your SEO indirectly as you will be able to use your domain with the keyword name within your content.
When you link to your other content from within a post, the URL (uniform resource locator) of that other content will include your domain name keyword plus, if you have optimized your content correctly, another keyword within the file name of that content.
In this way you will be peppering your content with keywords that people are searching for without the risk of being penalized by Google for “keyword stuffing”. As the name suggests, keyword stuffing is the practice of filling up your content with popular keywords, which comes at the cost of losing quality and value.
So, finding a domain name that contains all or part of a major niche keyword is a lot easier now that you have the flexibility of not having to find an exact match. It isn’t totally necessary to have a keyword in your domain name if you are having difficulty finding one or if you want to use a name you have in mind, but it can, as I say, help with SEO if you do.
Go For A “.com” TLD
There are many new and clever TLDs appearing on the market now but if you want your blog to be taken seriously as a trustworthy business and you want to reach a worldwide audience, .com is the TLD of choice.
The .com TLD has so much going for it compared to other options. It tells the world that you are an international entity. Statistically, .com domains rank higher than other domains. People who see a brand automatically assume .com is the extension when they type in the web address, particularly if they have a mobile device with a .com key on the virtual keyboard.
If you think of a domain name and the .com version is taken, keep on researching more viable names until you find a great one with the .com available. If you think up a really good one, one where you think “This is it!”, and the .com is taken, then it is okay to go for .net or .org. These two TLDs will still rank well but first consider the following scenario.
You pick the name “mywebsite” and “mywebsite.com” is taken but “mywebsite.net” is free, so you buy that domain. Someone then hears of your brand but doesn’t know your web address. That person is likely to type in “mywebsite.com” and click through to your rival’s page instead of yours.
Definitely do not use country code TLDs or any of the new generic TLDs. Country code TLDs, such as .au for Australia or .co.uk for Britain, tend to limit your audience to that particular region, excluding many thousands, perhaps millions, of potential customers from the rest of the world.
As for the new generic TLDs (gTLDs), say John Doe is reviewing and recommending digital products online, so he picks the “.digital” TLD and chooses the “johndoe.digital” domain. Now anyone trying to find his website is liable to type in johndoedigital.com, or something similar, which will lead to an error page.
So, .com it is then! (Or perhaps .net or .org at a push.)
Define The Reason For Your Blog
As well as using a keyword that describes the subject of your blog, try to couple it with a word or words that explain the purpose of your blog or what it is trying to achieve. There are several ways you can do this, here are some examples:-
- Include a word or two that explain how your blog will benefit the user. Something like “LearnTrainspotting.com” or “HowToTrainspot.com”. It is clear that the user will benefit by learning all about trainspotting.
- Have your domain name identify your audience. For example, “SeriousTrainspotters.com” or “TrainspottersOnly.com” It’s clear who the target audience is here!
- You could have your domain name identify what you, the blogger, is all about: “InternationalTrainspotter.com”.
- Then you could just make it clear to the user what the main topic of your blog is: “TrainspottingTips.com” or “TrainspottingNews.com”.
By the way, all of these domains were available at the time of writing, should trainspotting be your thing.
Keep It Short, Keep It Simple
Your domain name must be unique and brandable, something that sticks easily in the memory. It needs to roll easily off of the tongue for people to pass information about your website to others by word of mouth and easy to spell so that people aren’t likely to make spelling mistakes when typing in your web address.
You will find the shorter your domain name is, the more it is likely to meet these criteria. More domains are twelve characters long than any other length, so this seems to be the ideal. You are unlikely to find a name shorter than this but if you do get lucky, don’t go under six characters. It’s more likely that you will have to settle for longer, if so try to keep under fifteen characters.
Although having said that, if it comes to choosing between a memorable, easy to spell domain name of twenty characters and a less memorable, harder to spell one of fifteen characters, go for the twenty every time.
All of the one word domains were taken years back, so you are probably going to have to use two or three words in yours. Two is better but in any event try not to use more than the three words because it can become confusing once you get into four or five words. For example, if you have a website called ScrewsNailsBoltsNutsWashers.com, is anyone going to remember the correct order of words when trying to search for it?
Avoid using words that people in general have problems spelling correctly, use words that are easy to spell and easy to pronounce. Don’t be tempted to mis-spell words on purpose just to secure a .com domain. Your potential visitors will probably spell the words the correct way and miss your website completely. Even the great Flickr.com were missing so many potential users who were spelling “Flicker” with the “e” that they had to buy the domain Flicker.com and set up a redirect to their original site.
Spelling mistakes can also be an issue if you were to include numbers or abbreviations in your domain, so also avoid using any of these. Potential visitors will be unsure whether or not to enter the actual digits or to spell them out. The same applies to abbreviations.
I guess SEOSteamroller.com goes against this last piece of advice but as I say, there is no such thing as a perfect domain! I believe that where an abbreviation has become a keyword in its own right and people generally write the abbreviation usually rather than the long hand, it’s okay to use it.
Also prone to mis-spelling or uncertainty over spelling are words that have double letters, so avoid these also if you can. Imagine the confusion a domain called stresssolutions.com would cause with respect to how many times to type the letter “s”.
It’s a marginal thing but if your domain does have two or three words, putting the main keyword first could have a small influence on rankings. However, if this makes the domain name not make sense, less memorable or not available, then leave the keyword as the second or third word. As a rule, the further to the left you can place the keyword, the better.
Definitely No Hyphens!
When potential visitors type your domain name into the search engines, they are not going to think of typing in hyphens and even if they did, they may not enter them into the correct position.
If you take on a hyphenated domain name just because the same name unhyphenated has been taken, users on Google are going to search the unhyphenated version, by-passing your website completely and landing on your rival’s page.
Hyphens also make it more difficult to verbally communicate a web address. For example, “John hyphen Doe hyphen Designs dot com.” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easy as “John Doe Designs dot com.”
Apart from these three points, hyphenated domain names are often associated with the more low quality, seedy and spammy websites and you don’t want to be associated with these if you want to build up an audience of quality.
Don’t Box Yourself In
The only people that fail with their online businesses are the ones who get disheartened when they don’t see any results for the first few months and give up.
If you get your head down and persist with your efforts to deliver valuable content to your audience, you will see results in some months time. There will come a point where you have established yourself in your niche and you have gone as far as you can with your particular branch and you will need to expand.
What I am building up to say is, you need to pick a domain that immediately says what your website is about but try not to pick one that will tie you to your original niche and not allow you to expand.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean. You start off by writing about the best treadmills. It goes very well, you start earning good commissions but you have gone as far as you can with it, so to keep the business expanding you decide to start writing about the best stationary bicycles.
If you have called your domain along the lines of BestHomeTreadmills.com, people looking for stationary bicycles aren’t going to be attracted to your blog. It would be better to choose a domain with a broader scope, something like HomeGymMachines.com, that will allow you to start off with treadmills and then gradually expand through the range of home fitness equipment as your business grows.
Your Own Name As A Domain?
You could consider registering and branding your own name as a domain if you are blogging about a professional service that you provide, such as Web Designer or Content Writer, for instance. I would advise thinking carefully about doing this, at least until you have a few years experience in this industry. I do, however, recommend registering your name as a domain and “parking” it. This prevents anyone else registering it. Just in case you want to use it later.
A “parked” domain is one that has been registered but has not yet been put into use by the owner. The owner may have bought it with the intention of using it later, preventing someone else from using it or simply to sell it on at a profit.
Branding your own name can take a very long time, which is why I recommend against doing this when starting out. Wait until you have about three or four successful blogs up and running and the experience that comes with this. Once you have established your name, though, you can build yourself a highly regarded online reputation and you are not limited to keeping to your original niche, you can branch out as your business expands.
Also bear in mind that at some point in the future you may want to sell your domain and blog for a handsome profit. You cannot really do this if the domain is your own name.
Free Online Tools To Help You
If all that I have written so far leaves you confused or apprehensive at the prospect of finding your ideal domain name for your blog, I apologize for that, but it is a very important component of your online business that needs all of this attention to detail.
With most of the obvious domain names taken, it can be a long and drawn out process thinking up original names and manually checking their availability. The good news is, there are several free online domain name generator tools that can help you find some viable ideas and check their availability for you, speeding up the operation. Here are some of the better ones.
Type your niche keyword into LeanDomainSearch’s search box and it will return you many domain name suggestions by either adding an appropriate word to your choice of before your keyword, after your keyword or both. You can set it to return .com domains only and you can arrange your results by popularity, length or alphabetical order.
Results that are available will show up on a clickable green tab. When any becomes unavailable the tab will turn red. If you find one you like and click on it, a pop-up will appear confirming whether the domain is still available or not and whether it is also available for Twitter.
You will also be invited to either register the name and start a site with WordPress or to just register with BlueHost. I advise against either for reasons that I will tell you about in the “Registering Your New Found Domain Name” section below.
This is my next favorite domain name generator after LeanDomainSearch because it’s so clean and easy to use apart from an unsolicited pop-up wanting me to sign up for Bluehost. The results stand out well and it is plain to see the available domains from the green-colored “Buy” button to the right. Unavailable domains are indicated by “WHO IS” in big, red capitals. Clicking on “WHO IS” will take you to the registrar who the owner of that domain is registered with, where you will be offered a chance to bid for that domain. I advise against this. More on that further down the page.
WordPress has a perfectly good domain generating tool on its IsItWP website. It uses the Nameboy search engine, so it is pretty much the same. You can find it using the link below:
This one requires a little more thought at the input stage as you have to enter two or three search terms. As the brand suggests, Name Mesh then knits these terms together in various ways to come up with your domain suggestions.
As before, available domains are in green, unavailable in red. There are options to set a maximum character length, whether to include the more popular TLD extensions and whether to hide already registered domains. There is also a box where you can select your preferred registrar. Annoyingly, whatever you click in will open up another window with your chosen registrar.
The numerous suggestions are grouped in various categories, the most useful of which is headed “Common” and “Similar”. Clicking on a domain you like will result in a pop-up that will inform you if it is also available with Facebook and Twitter. It will also urge you to buy hosting with Bluehost. Again, please read the rest of this post before committing yourself.
The previous domain name generator tools I have shown you are pretty much the same in the way you input the information and the results you get. I just wanted to mention Dot-o-Mator as it is a little different from the others in that you can input any words that you might like to appear in your domain name.
You can enter two columns of lists of words, one column for the beginning words, one for the ending words. Then, by clicking the “Combine” button, Dot-o-Mator will mix your input words in various combinations and return all of the available domains that there are. You can also click another button to view the taken domains. It doesn’t produce as many suggestions as the other tools do but the ones that they do tend to be all of usable quality.
The Simple Thesaurus
Finally, if you’re stuck for words don’t forget the good old-fashioned Thesaurus. This tool is very useful if you are lost for words or if you are looking for an alternative synonym to a word that has already been taken during your domain name search. Simply insert your word in the search box, press return and watch the many alternatives appear below. And, of course, it’s free to use.
Registering Your New Found Domain Name
Before You Go Ahead
Before you go on and register your new found domain name, it pays to be safe and run a few checks first.
As well as by using SEO, you will also probably want to promote your business through social media. To keep your brand constant, you also need to be able to use your same domain name on all of the social media sites that you intend to use, or think you may want to use as you progress. It makes sense, then, to check the availability of your domain name across these social media sites now to ensure that you can have consistent branding across all networks.
You can do this by simply performing a Google search but to be doubly sure there are more free tools that can check for you as well. Both Namechk and knowem? will check your domain name over all social networks in an instance.
It’s not going to happen with everyone but one or two of you may be worried that your chosen domain name may already belong to a registered business. You can check that your domain has not previously been trademarked using the link below:
While on the subject of possible copyright infringement, deliberately registering an established brand name with your choice of alternative TLD extension and then going to publish content will almost certainly result in a costly lawsuit against you.
Finally, give your domain name one more check to make sure that there aren’t any hidden words in the lettering that may prove to be embarrassing once you have published your website.
Be Wary Of Buying Pre-Registered Domains
As I hinted at just now, I advise against buying or bidding for any already taken domains that are for sale, at least until you have done some research on the history of the domain that you are interested in. Unless you do, you don’t know what type of content was published on previous websites that the domain was used for, it could have been something that still carries Google penalties, which will affect your business detrimentally. Not only that, it’s liable to cost a lot of money to buy, too, at least for the first year.
Not all of these pre-registered domains will have a sordid past but many will. You may be able to check the history of a domain for free using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. You can find this tool on the link below:
Who To Register Your Domain With?
Whichever registrar you choose, I recommend always to take up the option of buying domain privacy along with your registration. If you don’t purchase domain privacy, your personal details, name, street address, telephone numbers and email addresses are there for all of the world to see, leaving you more open to spamming and scamming. So for me, domain privacy is a must.
Domain Registration – The Easiest Option
If you want to register your domain and move straight on to building your website with no extra steps in between, then registering your domain with your website hosting company, the people who run the servers that your files are stored on, is the way forward for you.
The main drawback with choosing this option is that it also becomes the most expensive way of registering a domain and starting up a website. Although you may get a bargain for the first 12 months, the domain typically becomes more expensive than what an independent registrar would charge when it comes up for renewal.
If you don’t mind spending a little more that can become a lot more for the sake of simplicity and you want your website host to be your registrar also, I think you will find it difficult to beat Bluehost for combined price, customer service and facilities for setting up your WordPress website.
Bluehost throw in free domain registration for the first year but this can be a false economy as they will make their money back in subsequent years. Their plans start at 59.40 USD for one year’s hosting plus domain registration. Domain privacy will cost 11.88 USD per year.
You may be able to get a discount when you sign up for Bluehost if you first search Google for “Bluehost coupon codes” and noting down the best ones to enter at checkout.
Domain Registration – The Most Economical Option
Although you have to complete one more step to use the more economical option of an independent registrar, it is quite a simple step. You have to redirect the “Nameservers” from those of your registrar to those of your host. It’s just a matter of replacing some typed code in the settings and most registrars and hosts will walk you through this step.
It used to be until recently that you could get a .com domain with GoDaddy for just 0.99 USD per year. You may still be able to find one with them for that price but it’s more likely to be over 12 USD now. Renewals after 12 months will be charged at 18 USD to 25 USD per year.
It makes much more sense to register with Namecheap. You can register a .com with Namecheap for between 8.88 USD and 11.88 USD per year and it stays at that price. The fact that they also offer domain privacy for free cements them in as the best option moneywise.
It may only be a small saving over the first two years of your website’s existence, but after that you could be saving around 10 USD to 20 USD per year per website using Namecheap. This may sound trivial but if you were to have ten registered domains, which could happen as you become more successful, you will start seeing savings of 100 to 200 USD per year.
Namecheap’s customer service and after sales service is, in my opinion, second to none. Bluehost’s is good but Namecheap’s is even better. Another plus is that Namecheap won’t hit you with as many upsells as Bluehost and GoDaddy. They will hit you with some but in a more subtle way. Just make sure you untick the optional extras that you don’t want at the checkout.
I suggest before you register to perform a search on Google for “Namecheap coupon codes”. Copy or write down the best of the valid ones you find to enter in the appropriate box at checkout.
From there, you can go ahead and register your domain.
Once you have registered your domain, go and make yourself a cup of tea, walk the dog, do the shopping, anything that will use up an hour or two as that is about how long it should take for your domain to become active on the system. Sometimes it might take a little longer.
Namecheap is also great for bulk checking the availability and price of all of the suggestions you find using either the domain name generators or from off of the top of your own head.
When you click through the link above, click on the little gear wheel in the search box. This will take you through to the “Beast Mode” tool. Copy and paste or enter manually your potential domain names, select the price range that you are willing to pay, select which TLD extensions you are interested in and click on “Generate”, then watch the tool rein in the availability and pricing information on all of your input domains.
A Little More Involved Than You Thought It Would Be?
When you first get into this blogging business, if you are like me you probably thought that thinking up a domain name and registering it was going to take two seconds.
If I have now persuaded you that it is worth taking your time to find the right name now and joining the best registrar now to save you time, money and misery later, then writing this post will have been all the more worthwhile for me.
You are probably going to have one or two (maybe more) disappointments where you think you have found your ideal domain only to find it is already taken or you have created a rude word by joining two words together or some other setback. The important thing is not to let it get you down and try again and again, if necessary.
As I said before, but it is worth repeating, the only people that fail in this business are the ones who give up when they come up against an obstacle. This is a business where you are going to hit obstacles and you need to get used to overcoming these to succeed.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this post, anything to do with SEO or this website, please use the comments box below. Alternatively, you can send a message using the contact Stephen form.