Choosing your blog’s domain name is undoubtedly the most important part of starting a blog.
It’s the one decision you’ll need to make early on in your blogging journey but will need to live with for the rest of your blog’s life.
Although changing your blog’s domain later is entirely possible, it will have a severe impact on:
- your brand,
- search engine rankings,
- and social shares
Therefore it’s important to take your time to consider all the available options now and choose the best domain name before you start.
In general, a great domain name is all of the following:
- Easily communicated through word-of-mouth
- Descriptive of the blog’s content
In line with those, I’ve put together a list of 10 useful guidelines you should keep in mind when choosing a domain name.
1. Keep it Short
The shorter your domain name, the more memorable it will be to visitors. You’ll quickly notice this by looking at the names of popular websites we use every day, like google.com or amazon.com.
In fact, a study based on Alexa data found that the top 50 sites have an average of 6 characters in their name, and that there is a direct correlation between name length and popularity.
In addition to being popular, shorter domain names are also much less prone to typos by your visitors. The less characters there are, the less likely they will get one of them wrong.
Short domain names also appear better in social media updates, especially on Twitter, which allows only 140 characters.
Try to keep your blog’s name under 10 characters, using no more than 4 or 5 syllables.
2. Make it Easy to Pronounce
The aim for a domain name is to be memorable, and the best way to achieve this is to make it easy to pronounce.
Since you’re most probably going to tell people about your blog verbally, your domain name should be easily said. A name that runs off the tongue is better remembered than a clever tongue twister, so avoid using syllables that are hard to pronounce after one another.
Using alliteration (words that begin with the same letter) can also help readers remember it better. For instance, bikeblog.com might be much easier to remember than cyclingblog.com.
3. Make it Easy to Type
Going hand in hand with the previous guideline, your name should be one that won’t often be misspelled. Since recurring visitors often come back to your site by typing it into their browsers, you should make sure that your name is not prone to spelling mistakes.
Avoid words that are commonly misspelled, like the famous trio: tough, though, thought.
English is a difficult language, but it can be understood through tough thorough thought though.
Also avoid names with repeating letters. For instance, dogsschool.com will almost always be misspelled as dogschool.com.
4. Use Keywords if Possible
The use of relevant keywords in your name can often aid in search engine optimization. This will help Google recognize what your blog is about and might lead to higher search rankings.
Keywords also help new visitors determine what the blog is about. Users can quickly discern the purpose of a blog like bookreviews.com than a branded name like amazon.com. A branded name like Amazon takes years to be ingrained in users’ minds, and even then, new users will always be in the dark.
5. Stick with .com Domain Extensions
Internet users have become accustomed to .com domain extensions (or top level domains). It is used by all top websites such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
Visitors are much more likely to type .com behind a blog name than any other extension. Even though your customer might remember your blog’s name in this case, they’ll still end up on the wrong blog.
In recent years, new generic domain name extensions that are much more comprehensible by humans have become available, such as:
Although I predict that these names will do well in years to come, Internet users are not used to them yet.
So for the time being, I recommend sticking with .com. You wouldn’t want to have someone type in photographyblog.com even though your domain is photography.blog.
A better use for the new generic domain extensions, at least until they become more mainstream, would be to use such a domain as a shortened version of your .com name, to be used on social media and elsewhere. For instance, you can register photography.blog in addition to photographyblog.com, and then have both point to the same website. Then use photography.blog whenever you include the link in a Twitter update.
But be aware, some of the names in these categories can be ridiculously expensive.
6. Check for Hidden Words or Phrases
Hidden words in domain names can often result in embarrassing moments. For instance, kidswear.com has nothing to do with swearing toddlers, but everything to do with children’s clothing.
Also, the name jackassociates.com might look good at first glance, but I’m sure Tim Jack and his associates have little to do with any kind of donkey.
Scrutinize your chosen domain for hidden words or phrases to avoid embarrassing moments like this. Show your domain to others to see if they spot additional hidden words.
7. Avoid Using Numbers or Hyphens
Numbers are difficult to communicate verbally. For instance, if you tell someone that your domain name is food4thought.com you will always have to add that “the 4 is the number four, not the written out version.”
Hyphens can be confusing for all the same reasons. If you happened to be interviewed on a podcast in future, it’s much easier to say that your blog is “genuine book reviews dot com” than “genuine dash book dash reviews dot com.”
Hyphens have also been associated with spammy websites, since hackers use them to confuse people into clicking on pay-pal.com instead of paypal.com, for instance.
If you need to register a very long name, hyphens could be used to make the domain name more readable. In this case, it is a good idea to purchase both the hyphenated and un-hyphenated version of that name.
Darren Rowse from Problogger.com has often told the story of how he purchased the domain digital-photography-school.com, which it much easier to read than digitalphotographyschool.com. Although the blog has become one of the highest ranked photography blogs on the internet, a great deal of traffic is lost to people who still type in the un-hyphenated name.
8. Check for Copyright
Checking for any copyrights on your name (or part of the name) is very important. This is extremely important as it can lead to all sorts of court cases and other problems.
Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome.com often tells the story of how he purchased the name intheleed.com as the name of his blog about preparing for the LEED exam. When his blog started to gain traction, he was contacted by the copyright owners of LEED and asked to change his name. He changed it to greenexamacademy.com, but instantly lost all his search engine rankings and other previous marketing work.
It would appear that some companies wouldn’t mind you using their name in a domain (at least for the time being). But that could change in an instant, forcing you to find a new name and start from scratch.
9. Make Sure it’s Intuitive
When a visitor sees your domain name, they should be able to figure out what your site is about. It should come natural to them
For example, the initial name that I chose for BloggingDegree was bloggraduate.com. But then I starting asking friends what they thought about the name, and at first glance most thought it was a blog for graduate students. I therefore chose the name bloggingdegree.com which does a much better job of explaining the gist of the blog.
10. Make it Broad Enough for the Future
Lastly, don’t choose a name that’s too niched down or too specific. For example, if you started a blog that sells red scarfs, you might think that redscarfs.com would be a great name. But what if your business expands in the future, and you choose to introduce scarfs of different colors?
Try to envision what the future of your blog might look like, and choose a domain name that’s broad enough to allow for expansion.
How to Find a Good Domain Name
If you’re having trouble finding the perfect domain name, some brainstorming help might be just what you need.
There are numerous domain name generators available for free. My favorite is NameMesh, which generates hundreds of domain names based on synonyms of the words you search for. It also checks the availability of each domain name and display only the available ones.
Where to Register a Domain Name
Registering a domain name can be done at any domain registrar. The largest one on the Internet is GoDaddy and Namecheap. I’ve personally used Godaddy to register domains and can attest that they are competent at what they do.
However, if you’re hunting for a domain name, you’ll most probably need web hosting as well. Many web hosting companies offer a free domain name when you purchase one of their hosting packages. The one I personally recommend is Bluehost, which has been the host for BloggingDegree.com from day one, and I have never had any problems with them.
Choosing your domain name is an important step, and you should not approach it lightly.
Although the good ones might be taken, with a little bit of creativity and brainstorming, you’ll find the perfect name. Take some time to think it through.