I’ve picked several domain names myself and seen lots of other choices as well over many years. Over that time I’ve learned a few things to do (and NOT to do) from this process. It can be tricky to find a domain name that checks every box, especially as more and more names are taken. I do recommend putting lots of thought into this and really thinking twice before picking a name that counts as one of these mistakes.
These tips should be considered before picking a name for a new business or organization too. If you’re starting a business, you should make sure the domain name you want to go with it is available before going any further. Otherwise, you need a new business name.
A name that can be misread
Some word combinations that are easy to read with spaces become ambiguous when you are forced to take out the spaces for a URL. You really don’t want people misreading your domain name. It might be obvious to you how it should be read because you came up with it, but make sure that there aren’t other ways that it could be read.
Some people will add in hyphens to get around the above problem, but my general advice is to try to avoid them. They are really hard for people to remember and just don’t look clean.
A bad top level domain
The top level domain is the .com, .org, .co or other extension at the end of the url. Different extensions are becoming more and more common as good domain names are becoming harder to find. While some companies come up with crafty URLs with some of the alternative to .com, I’m personally a major .com fan.
I recommend against two letter top level domains. You can read more about this in my post what you don’t know about two letter top level domains and why NOT to use them.
If you’re going to use a two letter top level domain anyway, I specifically recommend against .co. It’s just too close to .com and always looks like sort of a typo. However, I do sometimes recommend getting the .co domain that matches your .com domain.
A name that is too long
Domain names that are too long are just a pain to type and say. This problem only gets worse when turned into emails. Something like firstname.lastname@example.org starts to become a huge pain in the rear when telling people to email you.
A name that is a weird abbreviation
On the flip side of the ‘too long’ problem is the ‘too short’ problem. Too long isn’t good, but I also recommend avoiding weird abbreviations that will be hard for people to remember or understand.
A name that is hard to spell
Names should be easy to say and spell. This is important for being able to tell somebody what your site is and know that they will get there. Spelling a site out letter by letter, especially over the phone or on a podcast, is a major hassle. I once considered naming a blog Traveling Hoppy until I realized that ‘traveling’ can also be spelled ‘travelling’ in some parts of the world. Instead I named it Live Hoppy.
A few years later realized that some people would read Live in the way that sounds like “I’m happily alive” not like “I live a happy life.” This was not what I intended at all and it never occurred to me anybody would do that. I guess you can’t win them all, despite your best intentions, but you can try.
Pro tip: ask some trusted friends
Before purchasing a domain name (or after purchase but before making your website or committing to the brand if you’re the paranoid type), send the name to several trusted friends and ask them for feedback. It’s best to send just the name via text or email and let them give responses – don’t tell them how it’s supposed to be read. That way you can see if there is any way that they misread it before knowing what it should be.
Pick something and move on
Lastly, at some point, you have to just pick something and move on to the next step. Picking a name can be a hold-up for the process, so don’t let the perfectionist in you let the idea of perfect keep you from making any progress. Done is better than perfect.
Do you need help picking a good domain name? Contact me and I can help you review any choices you’re considering before you buy one to make sure that you’re not overlooking anything.