This is the web’s most in-depth guide on how to choose a domain name. It’s also the web’s largest resource for domain name generators (to help you brainstorm ideas).
In this post, you’ll learn how to create a large list of domain name candidates, how to check which ones are available, and how to buy the best domain name for your target audience.
Let’s get started.
If you buy a hammer, its job is to drive nails, and you judge its effectiveness based on its ability to drive a nail.
Your domain name has one job too. When someone visits your website, your domain name must answer the following:
“Is this site for me? Am I in the right place?”
That’s it. That’s its job.
The quicker you can help people figure out whether they’re in the right place, the quicker you will:
So how do you help them answer that fundamental question, “Is this for me?”
In a word, clarity.
So what’s the best way to achieve clarity with your domain name?
For starters, you should avoid these five fatal domain name mistakes. (Cue the ominous music.)
These mistakes are common, and they’ll definitely erode your chances of success. Avoid them at all costs.
We celebrate cleverness in many walks of life. Cleverness drives innovation. It solves difficult problems.
But when it comes to choosing a domain name, cleverness is really the last thing you want. It’s the enemy of clarity.
It’s not a good idea to come up with a pun or some clever play on words for your domain name.
How do you know if you’re being too clever?
Here’s a simple test:
Go around to people who don’t know you, people who may not know anything about your subject, and tell them the domain name.
Then ask them what it means.
If they have to think about it for more than two seconds, you’re dead.
Because if someone has to think to figure out what your domain name means, most people will say “forget this.” They’ll bounce. On to the next link.
And if they bounce immediately after visiting your site, it’s going to hinder your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts. Google will assume your content isn’t meeting searcher intent, and your posts will rank lower and lower in search results.
We all would like to birth a brandable domain name, but creating a new word is a big mistake for the vast majority of bloggers. Not everyone, mind you, but most. Branding a new word means building an audience for a domain name you coined out of two different words, which — most likely — only means something to you.
No one knows what the word means when they come to your site. And even if they can figure it out, the extra processing time and thought severely hinders their ability to answer the fundamental question, “Is this for me?”
And how does that impact you again? Tick, tick, tick — and they’re gone.
Not only that, but the potential for misspellings is high when you’re using a brandable name.
For the average blogger, trying to brand a domain name like Google or Yahoo or one of those other big domains with a cool, unique company name is a huge mistake. Why?
Because it typically takes millions of dollars and a top-flight ad agency to pull it off. Or it takes an absolutely astonishing level of influence.
Either way, as a beginning blogger, you’re simply not equipped to succeed at branding a new word.
Once upon a time, it wasn’t a big deal.
It’s a bad idea for a couple reasons:
This is a case where exclusivity can hurt you.
Sure, it can be attractive when you only want a target audience to have access to your offering. But when you’re talking about building an online audience, the last thing you want to do is eliminate a potentially huge pool of prospective readers simply because they don’t understand the term you’re using for your domain name.
Using hyphens in your domain name is a no-no for several reasons. Let’s say, for example, you’ve got a cooking blog called Make My Cake, but makemycake.com is already taken. So you grab make-my-cake.com. Here’s what happens:
So, those are some common mistakes to avoid when picking a domain name for your new website.
Now let’s move on to the things you should do.
You might be surprised to know there are really only five major categories of good domain names for bloggers.
Once you understand the logic behind each of these categories and how much easier people can find and Google you if you use one of them, the sooner you’ll be on your way to reaping the benefits from choosing a good domain name.
And the best news? If you follow the formulas outlined here, you’ll almost certainly find a few available domain names your readers will love.
This type of domain name cuts right to the chase when answering “Is this for me?” because it explains right in the name the benefit you’ll get when you read this site.
Examples of naming the benefit are iwillteachyoutoberich.com, makealivingwriting.com, and teachyourchildtoread.com.
If you see a domain name that explains the benefit of reading the site right in the domain name, you can immediately answer that fundamental question with very little thought.
Let’s see. I’m a freelance writer, and I want to make a living by writing. Am I in the right place? No question.
This type of domain name answers that question by defining the target audience the website is meant to serve.
If you were to visit Problogger as an aspiring blogger, within two seconds of arriving and glancing around, you’re going to say, “Wow, I’d love to be a professional blogger. I need to read this blog.”
So you’ve immediately answered the question, “Is this for me?”
And if you’re a TV junkie looking to connect with your tribe and you land on couchpotato.com, you’ll know right away that you’re in the right place because you can read the latest gossip on TV shows and find deals on things like DVD box sets of popular TV series and so on.
The logo says it all.
The word “only” creates exclusivity with your audience. It helps to make it feel like a club or private community.
Here’s another template to try:
This type of domain names your blog topic.
Examples are lifehacks.org, dailywritingtips.com, nerdfitness.com, and artofmanliness.com. Those domains name what the blogs are about.
Check out nerdfitness.com, for example:
Same thing with artofmanliness.com:
When you see that name, you get a sense right away that they’re targeting men who want to learn more about the essence of being a man. The macho stuff. The ways of a gentleman. Just the vintage look and old photos alone convey the story to the target audience.
That’s a very different feel and a different audience than men who might gravitate more to, say, Men’s Health Magazine, which is more focused on men’s fitness and wellbeing — and the cover usually shows a half-naked guy with killer six-pack abs.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You use your own name as your domain name. Examples would be StevePavlina.com, MarcAndAngel.com, and JohnChow.com.
Using your own name as your domain can still be a good thing. But — and it’s a big BUT — only if your desire is to turn your name into a brand name. So if your desire is to brand yourself like Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, or one of those celebrities, it can be a good idea to go this route.
But you have to understand that while a website branded with your name can be a blessing, it can also be a curse:
Many bloggers who have successfully branded themselves end up regretting it later. Their blogs feel like a prison cell, with their owners as the sole occupants. The brand is based on their personality and voice, which means it’s a challenge to bring in guest writers and editors.
So let’s break down the pros and cons:
The upside of using your own name is a closer bond with your audience, and you gain more influence as you brand yourself.
The downside is it takes a long time to establish yourself as a recognized authority and build up your personal brand to the level of celebrity status. And while you’re busting your butt trying to brand yourself, your domain name isn’t helping you build your audience any faster because it fails to show any benefit to your readers.
But you want to know the worst thing about using your own name? You can never escape.
Let me repeat that:
You can NEVER escape a blog you have branded with your own name.
It’s not a “real business.” In other words, you could never sell it to anyone. Because if you sold it and you ever left, it’s worth nothing because the entire thing is tied to you. So consider this carefully before you decide to use your own name.
Okay, you probably don’t need a template for this one, but here you go:
This domain reverses our philosophy because it names what you are doing as a blogger rather than what the reader is doing or seeking.
For example, Social Media Examiner examines social media. Man vs. Debt is about one man’s (the blogger’s) battle against debt. Foundr tells the stories of founders, entrepreneurs, and business owners. Each one names the topic, but they do so from the blogger’s perspective, not the reader’s perspective.
A second way to use a pursuit domain is to name the mission of your blog. For example, for a blog whose mission is to feed all the hungry children on earth, the domain could be FeedTheChildren.org. That clearly defines the pursuit of the blog.
So when you’re looking to use this topic for your domain name, the secret here is to clearly identify your pursuit or mission in a way that matches your reader’s worldview so that THEY can see themselves in YOUR pursuit.
Here’s another template option:
Now that you know all the pitfalls to avoid and the five types of good domain name categories, you need a process you can use to find your own perfect domain name.
What do we mean by “perfect”?
The perfect domain name is one that instantly defines your blog’s mission statement to the exact group of people it was meant to serve.
Here are the steps for finding it:
So, for example, let’s say you wanted to start a blog in the very popular cooking space, and you are a master barbecue chef with a whole slew of techniques, recipes, and secret tips. You want to dominate in a niche that has a large and passionate audience of predominantly male enthusiasts.
In your blog, you want to brand yourself as the “King of Barbecue.” And your mission is to empower every barbecue enthusiast with a backyard and grill with all the tools and tips they need to become the “Barbecue King.”
So, choosing first from our domain name templates, you could combine topic #3 (naming the topic) with topic #1 (naming the benefit), and you would get:
I Will Teach You How to Become the Barbecue King.
Not bad, but let’s keep going.
With this target niche in mind, we’ll use tools discussed in the following sections to pull together a bunch of great domain name choices. And then we need to see what is available from the choices we create.
You want to really take some time in the brainstorming phase because you’re going to need a good-sized list.
Because let’s face it: Your best domain ideas will probably be unavailable. You need lots of prospects here.
Using our process above, here’s how we’ll go about finding our killer barbecue domain name:
I used a thesaurus to find synonyms for both “barbecue” and “king.” You do this by typing your word into the thesaurus search window.
In the examples below, you can see how the thesaurus will return all kinds of synonyms for your keyword from every usage of the word.
You can get some great ideas using a thesaurus.
When I typed in “king,” some interesting synonyms popped up, such as “emperor,” “czar,” and “kaiser.” I hadn’t considered those titles before. They got me thinking, but I still preferred “king” as the ultimate pursuit of our target barbecue enthusiast.
But then I came across the word “maharajah,” and this got me thinking about barbecue as a more transcendental experience. The barbecue king as spiritual master of the grill or “The Guru of Barbecue” has a nice ring to it, no?
You can use the thesaurus effectively by inputting some of those new synonyms back into the search window. This will yield a whole new crop of words.
Using a thesaurus can help you unearth ideas you never thought of, which can lead to some great domain name combinations.
But what do you do if a thesaurus doesn’t produce any winners (or if you think a thesaurus is too “old school” for you)?
Thinking of good domain names can be tricky sometimes. Thankfully, there are numerous domain name generator tools that can help you brainstorm ideas.
We’ve compiled the web’s largest list of domain name generators (sorted alphabetically) so you could have a go-to resource.
And, yes, some of these generators have designs that would’ve seemed dated in 1999. But don’t judge a book by its cover.
Hopefully, by this point, you’ve got loads of ideas.
But just in case you’re still feeling a little stuck or unsure, here’s how each of the four approaches we’ve discussed work in real life in the Top 11 blogging niches.
So, got a good list of ideas? Excellent…
Once you’ve gathered your list of candidates, you’re ready to head on over to a domain name registrar to see if any of them are available.
Once you go to Namecheap, here’s what you’ll find:
You can search for domains one at a time, but most people don’t realize you can also search for a bunch of domains in one fell swoop. Namecheap calls it “Beast Mode.”
You can access it by clicking the “Use Beast Mode…” link at the top of the page, or can use keywords and click “Beast Mode” next to the search button:
Choosing a bulk option like Namecheap’s Beast Mode is a huge time-saver. You’re able to select what TLDs (top-level domains) you desire (Examples: a .com domain name extension, a .net domain extension, a .co.uk extension, etc.), whether you’d like to see “premium” domain names in the search results, how much you’re willing to pay, and more.
Here’s what it looks like:
Upload (or enter manually) your list of candidates, click the “Generate” button, and Namecheap will show you which ones are available.
Once you have this list, you need to choose the best one. And the way you do this is by identifying the characteristics of a great domain name. Here’s a checklist:
Did one domain name jump out?
Buy that bad boy before someone else snags it!
If you’ve read this entire post, you’ve probably realized it’s a lot of work to come up with a good domain name.
Yup, it is. I wish I could just hand you an “Advance to Go and Collect $200” card for your quick pass to blogging success. But the truth is, there’s no silver bullet here.
So you might be wondering, “Is it really worth all the extra effort to find a great domain name?” Good question.
Truthfully? It depends.
A great domain name alone won’t make you a successful blogger. A lot of other elements have to come together first.
And the kicker?
It’s not even going to be a deal-breaker if you have a bad domain name right now. In fact, if I had to put a number on just what percentage your domain name actually influences the success or failure of your blog, I would say it’s something like 10%.
But here’s the thing…
That 10% could be the difference between blogging success and blogging obscurity. Or, to put it another way:
Can you really afford NOT to take every possible advantage available to you?
A horse race is sometimes decided by a nose. A close election can be decided by only a few votes. The difference between victory and defeat can come down to that little extra something one of them has that the other one doesn’t.
For you, that difference may come down to your domain name.
So the next time you find yourself asking, “What’s in a name?”…
Perhaps it’s everything your customer is looking for right now.
If you take the time and put in the extra effort, you will ultimately find the perfect domain name. One that shines so bright it will become a beacon in the night that calls to your ideal readers.
Choose wisely, and we’ll be pointing to your blog as an example of doing it right.
The post 30 Domain Name Generators (+ How to Choose a Domain Name) appeared first on Smart Blogger.