02Oct
By: Nicole Martins Ferreira October 02, 2017

If you’re trying to figure out how to choose a domain name, it isn’t as easy as you might think. Does it have a nice ring to it? Or does it limit the types of products you can sell? Is it brandable or focused on exact match keywords? What does a customer feel when they hear your domain name? Like I mentioned, it’s not as easy as picking and buying a domain name. Don’t worry this article, will help remind you of the importance of a domain name, give you tips to help you with your domain name search, where to find the best domain name generators and teach you how to buy a domain name.

Importance of a Domain Name

domain name search

There are over 330 million domain names worldwide which means picking a name that stands out is harder than ever before. A domain name is important because it helps you build a brand that connects with your audience, allows customers to find you online, and gives you credibility.

  • Makes you accessible: If your business isn’t online, it doesn’t exist. If you own a physical shop in a remote town the average person hasn’t heard of, you won’t be found online. However, if you build a website around your brand, you’re much more likely to be found, especially if you optimize your domain name and website for search.
  • Adds credibility: While having a domain name isn’t enough, having your own website does make your brand seem more credible. If you own a small business and don’t have a website, some potential customers may not trust you as much as one that does. Customers feel confident in buying from websites because they can easily find online reviews or a portfolio that shows them that you’re the real deal. Owning a website is the first step to gaining credibility in the online world. It doesn’t stop there.
  • Helps you build a brand: Think about some of the most iconic brand names like Amazon or McDonalds. When you buy a domain name, it’s not just about getting the right keywords. It’s also about picking a name that stands out, is memorable and positively reflects what your brand represents.

How to Choose a Domain Name: 22 Domain Name Search Tips

When learning how to choose a domain name, there are several things to look into to help you figure out what the best domain name for your brand is. Here are a few tips for your domain name search:

Find the best keywords

domain name search

Some brands choose to add keywords in their domain name to help it rank better in search. You can choose to do an exact match domain name like L’Oreal did with Skincare.com. Or you can create a brand name with a keyword in it like the brand EraseCosmetics.com.

Adding keywords to your domain name allows people to immediately know what you sell on your store. This works best for niche stores. If you choose a domain name with a keyword in it, make sure the keyword is popular. For example, a store name with the keywords ‘cycling shorts’ is restricting. However, having the ‘cycling’ keyword allows you to sell more products within that niche.

However, the downside to having keywords in your domain is that it can restrict what you sell over the long term. For example, if Amazon’s website was called AmazonBooks.com, they’d eventually have to change their domain name as they began to expand their product collections. Having keywords in their domain name would’ve made it more challenging to grow their brand to include other products.


Don’t limit yourself if you plan to expand

domain name search

If you know that your long term goal is to create an everything store like Amazon, Walmart, or Target, focus on choosing brand names rather than exact match keywords. In the beginning, your store might start out with a niche focus. However, as you start to better understand your audience, you might start including other products beyond your original niche.

When you think about your online store, is your goal to sell within this specific niche for years to come or do you plan on selling other products beyond it. Be honest with yourself. Where do you see your brand in a year from now? Five years?

Also, think about some of the biggest brand names in the world. Do they use general names or keyword names. For example, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Google don’t mention keywords in their names and they’re some of the biggest brands in the world. Is your goal to build a brand or create a niche store? If you plan on building a brand, you might want to create a brand name without keywords. If you plan on sticking to a niche, you’ll want to add keywords. There’s no right or wrong decision.

Not having keywords in your domain name can be more challenging for a new store because people won’t know what you sell until they visit your website. It may also be harder to rank in search in the short term. However, as your brand awareness grows, you’ll start ranking for keywords for your niche. But you’ll need to be committed to building your brand awareness.


Make it easy to spell it

If you heard a domain name from a friend or on the radio would you know how to spell it? Some words can sound the same but be spelled differently like ‘read’ and ‘red’ or ‘feat’ and ‘feet’ or ‘pair’ and ‘pear.’ Avoid using homonyms in your domain name as it can lead to incorrect spellings of your domain.

You should also use words that are easy to spell. If it has a silent letter like knapsack, is a hard to spell word like handkerchief, or is spelled differently in different countries like center and centre, it can pose problems if people try to type in the exact domain into the search bar.

Choose words with fewer characters. On average a domain name should be 5-6 characters in length, though the average is typically about 13 characters. By having fewer characters, it’s likely that the word will be easier to spell. Avoid using long or complicated words in your domain name.


Always get the .com domain first

domain name search

Dot com domains are king in the domain world. That’s because they’re the most popular and most indexed type of domain on search. If you’re running an online store, you should be using a .com domain.

If you plan on selling in different markets and offering different products to different countries you can buy the country top level domains such as .co.uk, .ca, .de, and more. For example, while Americans are familiar with Amazon.com, internationally several countries have their own Amazon website with a different selection of products that can be delivered to their country. For example, Amazon.ca sells products that can be delivered throughout Canada. Whereas Amazon.com has some, but not all, products that deliver to Canada but the shipping costs for these products may be higher.  

In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of domain extensions beyond .com, .net, .org and for specific countries. Now, there are domain extensions such as .shop, .online, .club, .site and more. While these extensions can be great for those who can’t find a .com domain they like, the challenge is that they don’t normally rank as well as .com domains. It can also be harder for people to remember the domain extension as most typically check .com first when doing a direct visit.


Pick something that has a nice ring to it

domain name search

A domain name should roll off the tongue easily. If it has a catchy or memorable name, it’ll be easier to stay top of mind for your customers. For example, xtremetiregarage.com has three words which doesn’t flow as well as a one or two word domain. It also spells extreme without the e which makes it difficult for a customer to spell.

Examples of domain names with a nice ring to it are Shopbop.com, Topshop.com and Boohoo.com which all rhyme. Yet, when you search for fashion stores in search these online stores all rank high. Brand names that rhyme are often memorable, easy to say and have a nice ring to it.

While your online store name doesn’t have to rhyme, it should be catchy. Domain names like BeautyBay.com, BeautyPie.com, and BestBuy.com either use alliteration or puns. This also helps give the domain name a nice ring to it.


Aim for two words or less

domain name search

While you probably won’t find an available one word domain, you can definitely create your own one word domain. It’ll take a bit of creativity to create a memorable, easy to spell one word domain but it’s still possible.

You’re more likely to create a two word domain though. Two and three word domains are becoming more common these days. You might have one descriptive word and pair it with your niche word. For example, DiscountDance.com sells discounted dancewear they described their store with the word discount which illustrates that the store sells affordable products. They also use their niche ‘dance’ in the domain which helps them rank high for the keyword ‘dance.’


Research your niche before buying the domain for it

domain name search

While certain domain names may seem good, they may be available for negative reasons. For example, a great domain name may be available because it was penalized by Google with a previous owner. A domain name with a penalization will take a long time to start ranking again. This can pose problems as you work to build up the brand. If you’ve purchased a domain name, you can use a tool like Is My Website Penalized to determine if Google has penalized your website. A website can be penalized for duplicate content, thin content and various other reasons.

Another reason why certain domain names may be a bad investment is because the niche is too unpopular or there’s a low search volume for the exact match domain you want. While it may seem like a great investment, you may find you exhaust your audience or fail to drive the traffic you hoped you would over the long term.


Use a domain name generator

domain name generators

We compiled a list of business name generators that can help you create the perfect domain name. Some of the resources in the article let you know if the .com domain for it is available. Many of the domain name generators allow you to add a keyword of your choice. The keyword you choose will be paired with another word to help you create a memorable brand name.

A domain name search tool can be helpful in coming up with domain name ideas. Often times, when we sit down to come up with our own list of domain names, it can be hard to think of names that aren’t already taken. These domain name search programs help you find outside the box ideas that are available for purchase.


Check the domain name availability

buy a domain name

You can use websites like WHOIS to determine your domain name availability. When you type in the domain name you want, you’ll see if it’s owned by anyone. If you do a traditional search on the average domain name provider website, it might list the domain name availability but sometimes the domain that’s available is worth thousands of dollars rather than the starting price because it has an owner looking to sell it.

If the domain name availability shows that the domain name is taken, your best bet is to look for an alternative name. Avoid adding words like shop, store or the to your domain name as it can cause a few issues. First, if the domain you want is taken by a popular website, you might have difficulty ranking. Second, the domain may have a trademark and you could get sued for having a similar name. You’ll want to look into this first because adding filler words to an unavailable domain.


Avoid impulse buys

While you should act fast when buying a domain name you love, avoid making impulse buys for domain names. It’s really easy to buy the first domain name you like only to realize you thought of a better name later. Or that you’re interested in another niche altogether.

As a person who regularly builds up new stores, I have dozens of unused domain names that I don’t have the time to devote to. I’m constantly thinking of niche ideas outside of what I have domains for. So I know first hand how easy it is to get overly excited about a name without doing the research and doing some careful consideration.

If you found a great domain name, do research immediately. What’s the search volume for those keywords? And for the niche? Is the brand name appropriate? Is it easy to read? Once you’ve done some thorough research to make sure the niche is perfect and the name is exactly what your brand stands for, buy it.

If the niche is skyrocketing in popularity, you’ll want to act fast. Just make sure you’ve thought it through before making your purchase.


Make your name brandable

domain name search

Keyword domains can work well for search. However, when doing your domain name search you may find brand names are most common among top store owners. Like mentioned earlier, you can create a brand name that includes a keyword like ‘Beauty Bay’ or ‘Erase Cosmetics.’

Creating your own brand name like Sephora, Google, or Walmart will take a bit more creativity. Doing this will cause you to work harder to educate people on what your brand does. However, with a unique name you can assure that you’ll rank at the top of search when people look up your brand.


Make it easy to pronounce

domain name search

If your domain name doesn’t use common words or has a weird spelling it can be difficult to pronounce. Sometimes people don’t realize that there are two distinct words and read them as one. Having a domain name that’s difficult to pronounce can make it challenging for customers and for branding.

Noah Kagan of SumoMe.com recently bought the Sumo.com domain name because he noticed that people had difficulty pronouncing the name. He also bought the $1.5 million dollar domain because four letter domain names often sound more trustworthy and to avoid confusion with copycat brands.


Check trademarks before buying

You need to look into trademarks before buying a domain name. I once bought a domain name that I loved. I was so excited to work on my brand until I talked to one of my friends. ‘I’m surprised that isn’t trademarked,’ they said. I decided to look into it. It was trademarked. I spent money on a domain name I couldn’t use.

When working on your domain name search, always search your domain name and the word trademark to determine if its trademarked. For example, ‘flirty thirty’ and ‘trademark.’ Keep in mind that even if you add the words shop or the if any part of the domain is trademarked you’re going to run into issues and could face legal action.

Common expressions and names similar to other brands could be trademarked. If you notice domain name availability that seems too good to be true, it’s possible that it is. Always check for trademarks before you buy a domain name.


Contact owner of an unused domain you want

 

Sometimes the domain you want is taken but isn’t being used. While this can be frustrating, you can contact the owner to potentially buy it from them. You can use WHOIS to find the domain name owner’s contact information. Keep in mind that many pay to make their contact information confidential. However, others, especially those interested in selling their domain names will have their contact information visible.

When you buy a domain name directly from the owner will typically cost more than buying a domain name from a domain name provider. On average, when I buy domain names from owners, I usually start with an offer of $100 if it doesn’t have extremely high search volume. The owner will either accept the offer or give a counter. If the domain keywords have high search volume, their counter offer may be acceptable. It can take some experience to know whether or not the domain name is worth the price someone offers. If a domain name price is too high, remember that you can reject it or counter back.


Make sure social media handles are available

domain name search

Before buying your domain, you need to check to see if the social media handles are available. In an ideal situation, all your social media handles should be the same as your domain name. However, and more often, each social media platform will have a different handle. Maintaining the same social media url for all platforms will allow customers to easily find your brand on social media and in search.

You can use a tool like Namechk to determine if the handle and domain names are available for the brand name you’d like. The website highlights available domain extensions and social media platforms for those exact keywords. You’ll want to have the .com domain name and main social media platforms available such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, etc.


Don’t add numbers or hyphens

Hyphens and numbers don’t typically rank well. They’re also hard to communicate to a person. For example, if you were creating a radio ad for the website ‘CityBeautiful21.com’ you’d have to say that it’s the number 21 otherwise people will spell it out. If you have a website with hyphens you’ll need to tell people not to forget the hyphen.

Numbers and hyphens can create a bad user experience. Customers looking for your website will be more likely to misspell it. Stick to the basics by only using the letters of the alphabet. You might not end up with your first domain name choice but in the end your domain name search will land you a great name.


Pay to keep your personal information private

domain name search

ICANN allows people to lookup the contact information of domain holders. This may be regarding a copyright lawsuit, domain purchase or business related matters. When you register a domain name, your address and email address will appear. If you don’t own a business office, people will know your personal home address.

Whois has a service called WhoisGuard which offers protection for a small annual fee to hide your address and contact information. This is ideal for those who own home businesses and want to protect their confidentiality or those who simply don’t want to be contacted at all. You can purchase WhoisGuard protection through domain name providers like Namecheap for under $3.


Buy it when you find it

After you’ve found the perfect domain name and done your due diligence, you need to act fast. If you’re going after a trending product niche, your perfect domain name could be snatched up pretty fast. Avoid sitting on a domain name too long. If your gut tells you this is the right domain name for your brand, buy it.

The worst feeling in the world is waiting too long to buy a domain name only for it to be bought by someone else within days of you deciding. It’s happened to me. I was once so excited to buy a domain name only to find out it was purchased by someone else the day before. Horrible feeling.

Finding the perfect name can be challenging. Avoid procrastination. When you find a domain name you love, act fast.


Pick a name that represents your audience

domain name search

A domain name should mean something to your audience. For example, Forever 21 is a fashion store for women. The name forever 21 represents women who are youthful. Twenty one is a fun age for many women and the brand name ties in the emotional connection with that number.

Best Buy tells customers that you can buy the best things here. They sell high end products mostly like televisions, laptops, and phones which are all loved products.

Addicting Games is a popular website of free online games. Considering how addictive popular games and apps can be, the website name matches the niche. While addiction can have a negative connotation in other niches, it can have a positive one in this niche. Those who are looking for a great game to fill out their spare time will likely enjoy a website like this one. Because addicting games are the best games.


Snatch up other domains to avoid people copying your brand

I constantly have people asking me to share my store with them, this section is the reason I don’t. A couple of years ago, I spent all my time building out a store. My store was doing great. We had regular sales. Our Instagram following was skyrocketing. Everything was perfect.

Then, one day someone messaged me asking for advice, and I happily shared some of my experiences. They knew what my online store was and decided to copy everything about it down to the brand name. The store created several social media accounts with variances like it. They got fake followers and made their brand new store look more popular than mine. They copied my brand name and simply added an extra keyword. I was so mad at myself for sharing my store and tactics.

However, the brutal honest truth is that even if I didn’t, the copycats would still emerge in time. As you start growing in popularity, others will notice your brand is succeeding and emulate your niche.

And the more honest brutal truth is that even I’ve done it. After my original store failed, I noticed another online store with super high social media engagement and went into the same niche. It ended up becoming my most popular store of all time. However, I chose to create my own brand with my own unique brand name.

So, if you find a great domain name you love, buy all the variants for it. Buy the extensions like .net, the additional keywords like (name)shop.com and (name)store.com. You’ll also want to buy common misspellings of your domain name. Make it impossible for someone to copy your brand name.


Bounce ideas off someone

A few years ago I was sitting in a restaurant with my boyfriend telling him about a domain name idea for a website I was creating. And he ended up coming up with a similar but simpler suggestion. While brainstorming your own ideas and using domain name generators can be helpful, sometimes friends and family can come up with great ideas too.

If the person you’re talking with has a background in marketing, search engine optimization or branding, they can be a great resource to talk to for domain name ideas. They’ll likely know what type of domain names will already be taken making your domain name search easier. And they’ll also be able to provide suggestions that can work really great for your brand. It’s always great to get a second opinion on a domain name idea you have.


Don’t abbreviate words

domain name search

Abbreviated words can be hard to articulate. Some brands choose to abbreviate words because the domain name is too long, they can’t get the exact keywords or they want to capture attention.

For example, M.R.K.T has mrktstore.com. The domain name is hard to read at first glance. The acronym is short for Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger. Having a four word domain is often considered too long. While abbreviating it makes sense in this situation, it does pose issues for customers. The domain name is hard to read and can be difficult to remember since it also includes the word store in it.

UK fashion retailer French Connection became quite popular with its controversial brand name when they first entered the fashion scene. Their logo on their stores was spelled as FCUK which stood for French Connection United Kingdom. However, you can likely guess that it also looks like the F-word. Naturally, when people saw the brand name it captured people’s attention but FCUK received backlash. However, their domain name and brand name are now FrenchConnection.com.


How to Buy a Domain Name

domain name availability

If you’re building an ecommerce store, you can buy a domain name while registering your store on Shopify.

If you don’t know which domain name you’d like you can use free business name generators to help you find and buy a domain name.

You can buy domain names on Shopify by entering the domain name you’d like. You can add the keyword you like into the search box. A list will populate of relevant domain names. However, not all the domain names will have the keyword for your niche but they’ll be relevant to your niche.

For example, if you search for ‘yoga’ you’ll receive suggestions such as ‘BikramRelax.net’, ‘MyBikramYoga.com’ and ‘PowerRelaxOnline.com.’ While yoga isn’t a keyword in all of them, the domains are relevant to the yoga niche.

Once you choose a domain name, you can reserve the domain name on Shopify. You’ll need to enter your email, password and store name. Your store will automatically be created.

The next steps will require you to tell Shopify a little bit about yourself such as if you already have a store and how much you’re already earning. You’ll then need to fill out your details such as address so you can get paid once your store starts making money.

Your store will be created. You can buy a domain name in Shopify after its creation. You’ll need to pay for your domain name to ensure that you get it.

And voila!

You’ve officially purchased your first domain name.

Now, you can immediately start working on your store.


Want to learn more?


How did your domain name search go? Did you buy a domain name you love? Let us know in the comments below.

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