The name you pick for your website is a major step in creating your identity on the Internet and how easy it will be for customers to find you.
In this article we’ll discuss guidelines for choosing your name on the Internet, also known as a domain name, and how to register it.
Domain Name – What Is It?
The easiest way to find a website is to type its URL (uniform resource locator) into your browser. Let’s take apart a typical URL:
Hypertext Transfer Protocol. You will also see “https://” which means that there is a secure link with the website.
World Wide Web – which identifies the website as being that part of the Internet that can be accessed with a browser. It also means that it is not part of an organization’s internal intranet.
This is the domain name which identifies the specific website that you want to visit.
This is the TLD or top level domain. Other popular TLDs are .net and .org. There are many other TLDs and some new ones have been introduced recently, such as .biz (business), .info (information service) and .me (individual).
Many people consider the .com TLD to be the most desirable since major corporations adopted it in the early days of the Internet. Therefore, .com conveys the idea that the website represents a solid, reputable organization.
Domain Name – What Makes It Good?
Your perfect domain name will fulfill these criteria:
1. Short – only one or two words
Unfortunately, there are not that many one word domain names still available. You will probably need at least two or three words. Only go for a name with three words if they naturally fit together.
2. Easy to remember and type
You want the visitors to your site to be able to find you again. If they did not bookmark your site, then your best bet is that you have a name they can remember.
3. Reflects the theme of your site
It is best if the domain name at least hints at what your website is about.
Here are some good examples:
- Time management – timemanagementninja.com
- Advice for writers – makealivingwriting.com
- Living on a budget – wisebread.com
4. Generic so that your website can naturally grow
Say you love Chevy cars and want to write about them. So you go buy the domain name chevyreviews.com.
That might be good for several years of blog posts. But after a while you may be struggling to find new things to write about. It won’t be so natural to start writing about Fords and Volkswagens.
But if your domain name was autoreviews.com, then you can easily expand your website or blog to accommodate your changing interests.
5. It will end with .com, .net, or .org
These are the TLDs that are widely recognized and respected by users.
Your Domain Name – Is It Available?
Now that you’ve selected a domain name that meets as many of the preferred criteria as possible, it’s necessary to see if it’s available.
Here is what you will see when you open AjaxWhoIs:
Let’s say you are starting a website devoted to running and racing, so you are thinking about calling it Fast Runners!
To see if www.fastrunners.com is available, type the phrase “fastrunners” into the large input box on AjaxWhoIs. As you type, AjaxWhoIs searches its database of domain names. Note that domain names are not case sensitive, so you may type FastRunners with capitals to make the name easier to read. Here’s the result of the search that I conducted:
We see that FastRunners.com is not available, but FastRunners.net and FastRunners.org are available. If you would be happy with one of those TLDs, then your search is over.
Domain Name Searching – Digging Deeper
Don’t be surprised if your preferred domain name is not available. There are a lot of websites out there already.
What should you do if you have your heart set having your web address end with .com? One possibility is to find out who owns FastRunners.com and see if they are willing to sell that domain name. That could be worthwhile if the price is low enough and you are certain that no other domain name would be suitable for your site.
An alternative is to brainstorm other names and search them using AjaxWhoIs. As you search, be sure to keep a list of names that you tried and the results of your searches. This can save unnecessary duplication.
If you are stuck and frustrated in your domain name search, there is another free tool to try – Name Boy. Here is the home page of their website:
You type your first and second choice words into the boxes. Based on these words, Name Boy will generate a list of domain names and let you know if they are available.
In our example, as the Primary Word I entered “runner” but did not enter a Secondary Word. I also decided that having a hyphen would be acceptable, but I wasn’t interested in a cute rhyming domain name. Then I clicked on the box “go nameboy go!” Name Boy quickly returned two pages of output. Here’s a peak at some of it:
In Name Boy’s results, the green areas with check boxes represent available domain names. In other words, www.hyper-runner.com is available.
You may not like any of these names, but maybe one of them will trigger other ideas that you will want to try.
Testing the Domain Name
Now that you finally have a candidate for your domain name, you should test it.
You don’t want the name of your website to be too similar to another website. That’s why FastRunners.net may not be a good choice. A person trying to find you may automatically type FastRunners.com and end up visiting your competition.
Also, if your name is just a letter different than an established website, they may accuse you of trying to steal their traffic.
Do a little research with common misspellings of the words in your name and see what you find. For example, I once thought of registering the name SharperText.com. However, I discovered that there was a computer company using the domain name SharpText.com. I was concerned that the two names could be confusing to people.
Domain Name Registration
Registering that new domain name is the easy step. There are many companies that are authorized to register domain names. Here are some of the options you have:
- Your webhost probably provides a registration service.
- AjaxWhoIs provides a link to the company Go Daddy which supplies hosting and registration services.
- Name Boy will also register your new domain name.
- An Internet search will show you many other companies interested in helping you register a domain name.
Of course, you will have to pay to register your domain name. The cost will depend upon which registrar you use, the TLD, and how many years the registration will be in effect. The base rate per year is about $10. Check with your webhost to see what sort of discounts they may offer.
One final suggestion, it is worth paying a bit more to make the listing private. This will save you from receiving lots of junk mail and spam.
Domain Name – The Challenge
Finding a great domain name is not always an easy task. Just remember that the effort you put in now to choose a great domain name will pay big dividends in the future. Besides, using the free tools we’ve talked about can almost make it seem like a game.
If you have any questions please ask for help in the comments.