What is a domain name in the first place?
The term itself may not make sense to everyone. Here’s the simple definition of domain name:
It’s the name you choose for your website or blog. The words that come after the “www” or “https” in the website address bar at the top left of your computer screen.
The entire line is called the URL (and that’s the complete website address).
But what we’re going to talk about today is simply the name you’d like to choose for your site.
It’s not as simple as deciding on a cute name.
First we’ll look at some guidelines for helping you choose your domain name, and then we’ll cover the steps you’ll take to purchase that name so you can use it legally.
**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I earn a small commission.
Best tips for choosing a domain name for your website
I’ll give you a few pointers that make sense to me (along with links to articles that expand on some of these tips so you can read more if you’d like).
Keep in mind, some popular domain name tips actually contradict each other.
I’ll include the different lists and you can decide what feels right to you.
Most common domain name choice tips:
- Don’t make your domain name too long. Anything over 3 words may be pushing it for people to remember.
- Always choose the “.com” version whenever you possibly can. If you do choose a different ending for your domain name, buy the .com version as well. That prevents someone else from buying your same name in the .com format.
- And on that note, I do NOT recommend buying the same domain name as someone else and just adding a different ending (like .net or .io etc.). Or adding an “s” to make it slightly different. Established sites and brands will overshadow you and cause confusion with your brand. Not worth it.
- Some people purchase their own personal name to build their brand around. The main drawback would be if you ever want to sell your blog or website. Most people don’t want your name as the name of their new site. It’s not a bad thing to do. Just something to think about.
PRO TIP: Before making your final domain choice, see if it’s available across social media channels.
Check Twitter, Instagram, FB, or others you’d want to market with, and see if your name is available.
[You can shorten/abbreviate it a bit for these social media handles also — but just make sure you can find some version of your name available.]
**Pinterest allows you to name your account anything you’d like, so you don’t have to worry about it being available there.
DEFINITELY DO NOT USE ANY TRADEMARKED WORDS/NAMES!
Do your homework and find out if any part (or all) of your chosen name is trademarked.
Here’s a reliable database to check for trademarks for free.
** Case in point: The name of this site (and my signature course) is “Women on WordPress”.
I AM allowed to use the term “WordPress” (which is trademarked) in the title of my course and site, but I AM NOT allowed to buy a domain name with that word in it.
Notice that in the website address bar the actual domain name for this site is “Women on WP”.
I’m allowed to shorten the trademarked name “WordPress” to “WP”.
How do I know that? I looked it up.
WordPress has certain rules that you can follow if you’d like to represent them, so to speak, by offering a course, guidance on how to use it, website building services, etc.
This domain name tips list will contradict the next one:
- Choose something simple and memorable.
- Avoid adding dashes or numbers to your domain — but that’s up to you.
- Try to add common key terms (very searchable in Google) that convey your blog or business topic/niche so people will have a better idea of what your business or blog is about.
- Don’t misspell words to be cute — it’s too hard for your audience/fans to remember when they do a search for your site or type out the URL.
These are the opposite domain name tips … LOL
- Don’t put generic words in your domain name — the more results a Google search gives for your term, the more you get lost in the crowd. So if you have a tiny house site, the term “tiny house” might bring up too much competition for your site to rank for that term anyway. [Maybe “Tiny Living/Life” is better.] But these are just opinions.
- Try to come up with something unique — like putting two words together (think Starbucks & Under Armour etc.), even if they don’t exactly make sense … it may just catapult your brand.
- A unique name absolutely can be misspelled, memorable, and a great choice (Flickr, Fiverr, Tumblr … to name a few). Notice that’s the opposite of what is said in the list above. 😉
- Try to think of a name that’s symbolic, or conjures up good feelings. Cinnabon reminds you of cinnamon bun, right? Ski-Doo sounds fun, doesn’t it? (Psst … it has a dash in it and is still the top brand of snowmobiles in the world).
I personally love this list that “goes against the grain”, but that’s my personality anyway.
If you enjoy “bucking the system” a bit, you can read more about this “opposite list” and the rationale behind it.
Can you buy a domain name forever?
Now let’s talk about buying your domain name and if you get to keep it “forever”.
Forever is a long time, but if you continue to pay for your domain yearly (or choose a longer plan if that’s offered — and don’t forget to set it on auto-renew!) your domain name will remain yours.
With the exception of the domain name service you purchased from going out of business, you can technically buy a domain name forever. Just don’t forget to pay your bill each year ahead of the billing cycle.
Where to buy the cheapest domain name
This is a burning question most people have, but the answer isn’t the right one!
The cheapest might be GoDaddy, but DO NOT TRUST them or purchase from GoDaddy!
If you search for domain names on their site (to see if that name is available for purchase) and you don’t buy it right away, they steal them and put them up for auction.
Yep … that’s right. The great name you researched and had your heart set on. If you search for it on GoDaddy, chances are very high that you’ll never see it again unless you shop for it at their auction site.
Let me tell you who I’ve always used and trusted (and they have great prices, too!).
The two best domain name services
In my opinion, the two best places to buy domain names (and search their availability!) are Google Domains and Namecheap.
They are both very reasonably priced, allow infinite numbers of searches to find just the right one, and they are large companies that are not likely to go out of business anytime soon.
I own many domain names with both of these services and really like them.
The best domain name service for speed of setting up your website is Namecheap. They are SO FAST with connecting your domain name with your website host and WordPress. I love that.
In just a couple hours (and usually much less), your purchased domain name is connected and your site is ready to play with and publish on.
With Google Domains, it takes at least 24 hours for them to connect your new domain name to your hosting company so you can access your site and start writing.
For me, that’s a big bummer. When I start a blog or set up a website for a client, I need to be able to access it right away for the best use of my time.
I highly recommend going to Namecheap and searching cool domain names and then purchasing with them as well. For under $10 a year for almost any domain name … it’s a steal!!
Once you’ve decided on the perfect domain name, here’s a step-by-step video of how to purchase your domain name from Namecheap.
This video happens to be the first lesson in my Blog-Launch Challenge.
It’s completely FREE.
Setting up your own blog can be really confusing, but I promise that you don’t have to be a tech wiz to get it up and going quickly.
Join our Blog-Launch Challenge if you’d like totally beginner-friendly guide to setting up your own blog in less than a week!
Choosing a domain name for your website: final tip
This one is REALLY IMPORTANT!
For the love of all that is gross and humorous … write out your domain name on paper (without the spaces!) and see what it looks like.
I’m not kidding.
Are there any surprises?!!
Pen Island .com learned the hard way … LOL
Congratulations on choosing a domain name for your website or blog! It’s no easy task, but I hope these tips were helpful.
Now you can move forward to the exciting step of setting up your blog and hosting.