Your domain name is the first impression most people will have to your website and can be the foundation of your brand. There are many things to consider when coming up with your domain name, but whether a domain is good or not really comes down to two important questions: “is it representative?” and “is it easy to share?” I’ll describe how you can determine if your prospective domain names hit these criteria.
Is your domain name a good representation of what’s on your website?
If you can get a strong association from your domain to your product, the first step of growing your brand is done without spending a penny on marketing. How? Consider a customer who is thinking of recommending your website to their friend, but can’t remember it because the association between the domain name and what the website does is weak. Having a strong association will make both your domain and product memorable, and thus more easily shared. You want it to work in both directions. When someone sees your domain name, they should be able to get some idea of what they’re going to see when they go to the website. And likewise, when someone is thinking of your product, it should be easy to recall the domain name. This may seem obvious, but there are a lot of domains that give absolutely no indication of the website contents. Do you have any idea what sbnation.com is just from the url? It stands for “Sports Blog Nation,” but how likely are you going to be to remember that if you’re not incredibly familiar with the brand already?
I had trouble remembering quantcast.com for the longest time. From the name alone, I would expect a site called quantcast.com to be about quantitative financial analysis forecasting, but it’s actually a service for website demographic information! glassdoor.com was the same way for me; I understand the analogy, but it’s too much of a stretch for my brain to make it an instant association from “employer review website” to “glass door.” Until I had used those sites multiple times and gotten used to their branding, I could only get to them by googling “website demographics” or “employer reviews.” Quantcast and GlassDoor were able to get #1 on Google for those keywords, so I can find them anyway, but unless your site has that kind of SEO clout it’s better to stick with something distinct and memorable.
Here are some examples of domain names that you only need to hear once:
facebook.com - It sounds like what it is, a book of faces. “Face” also happens to be a concrete, visual word, making it easier to remember.
netflix.com - Movies on the internet, perfectly descriptive, but still unique. The name worked well as a subscription rent-by-mail movie service, and works even better as it’s turned into primarily a streaming and content service.
linkedin.com - I think this is a brilliant domain. “Link” is a type of connection. You don’t refer to your close friends as connections, but you do refer to current and potential business partners as connections. A perfect name for a social network of business connections.
- paypal.com - Like Netflix, both descriptive and unique. You pay your pal, or it’s your pal for payments. Either way, you won’t forget it, and it does exactly what you expect.
With these domain names, you only have to hear them once and you will immediately be able to recall what the website is about. If you can get a domain on this level, your marketing will be a lot easier.
Is it easy to share?
If you can say your domain name to someone, and they can immediately type it into their browser, you have a winner in this category. Can you name any websites that have a hyphen or numeral in the domain? Among the top ~100 websites on the internet, there are only 2: merriam-webster.com and 247sports.com. The reason these are so rare is that they require explanation, like “Merriam Webster dot com, with a hyphen between Merriam and Webster” or “Two four seven sports dot com, the numbers are numerals”. Again, not an absolute deal-breaker, but an uphill battle.
Alternate spellings were once a popular way to get short, descriptive domains, but as soon as you change how a word is spelled it requires explanation. If you type “tumbler” into Google, tumblr.com will be the first result. But until tumblr became popular, it was “tumbler dot com, except with no e. T U M B L R dot com.” Sites can eventually get around ambiguity by becoming incredibly popular, but there’s no reason to start at a disadvantage.
Is that it?
Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of just following these two rules for the perfect domain. At the time of writing, over 326 million domain names are registered, meaning that the obvious domain names for your business are almost certainly taken. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost! There is still a perfect domain name out there available for your website or business; you just need to find it. I recommend trying to come up with at least 20 or 30 options before making a final decision, because the more you think, the more your creativity will be stretched. As you review your list of potential domain names, consider the above questions: “Does this domian name representative my website” and “Is this domain name easy to share?”
If you’re in the process of choosing a domain name for yourself or your business now, I’m offering an absolutely free domain name consultation for a limited time. Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll ask you a few questions about your situation, and give you back a list of good available domain names and my personal recommendation for the best one.