You have just decided to create a new business, or maybe you just had an idea for a new website. Either way, you do what everyone does in the 21st century: you go to register a domain. Unless you came up with an incredibly unique domain idea, you will likely discover that someone – possibly a domain squatter – has already registered the .com version of your domain. Don’t despair just yet! You have plenty of options available to still have a great domain name!
Before thinking about backup options for registering your domain name, it’s important to take a step back and think about your plan on bringing traffic into your website.
If your website will primarily be utilized with word of mouth channels like TV commercials, billboards, or business cards, it is critical that your domain be easy to spell and, of course, remember.
Inventing a new word might seem like a fantastic idea and an easy way to get your perfect domain, but keep it short. Social news site, Digg.com, live workout app, Gixo.com, and domain reseller, Sedo.com all were able to maximize their short made-up word domains because they were unique enough to not be confused with other words and almost impossible to misspell.
Iterate on Your Domain Name Idea
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Here are a few ideas to help you get started when that name you wanted is unavailable:
- You can consider a less common top level domain if most of your traffic will come from sources other than direct type-in traffic. Search engine users and people discovering your website on social media are agnostic to what your domain is and will likely not even notice if it’s a .net, .org, .us or even a .info.
- Look for synonyms. Use an online thesaurus, like thesarus.com or even just Google to come up with similar words to your original idea.
- Consider using one of the newer top-level domainslike .agency, .jobs, .online, or similar. While there seems to be downsides for people that are unaware that these even exist, it still won’t matter if your traffic is primarily from search and referral sources.
- Try using domain name tools like Namemesh.com or BustAname.com. The ideas from these tools may seem off-the-wall, but they will hopefully spur some different creative ideas.
- If there are several words in your domain name, try rearranging their order if you can. Sometimes one specific order may not be available as a domain name, but another may be. SFDesignAgency.com may not be available, but DesignAgencySF.com could be. If you don’t have several words in your domain name, you may want to consider adding one, which brings us to the next suggestion…
- Add another word to your domain name. TopStylist.com not available? How about trying AmericasTopStylist.com? Sometimes just adding some fun descriptive words will not only make your domain and business name more unique and available but also take your business name’s marketing from “OK” to “WOW!” You can also just add words like “online” or “best” if you are short on other concepts.
7 Domain Best Practices
No matter what domain name you ultimately land on, you may want to stick to the following 7 best practices:
- Your domain name should be as short as possible.Shorter domains are easier for direct-type ins, don’t overflow on business cards, can be fully visible in search engines, and are social media friendly
- Don’t even think of settling for the .co TLD of your brand just because it might be available.Although, there are many popular products and companies like calendar.co, angel.co and pocket.co they still likely lose large amounts of traffic to the .com versions of their domain which are completely unrelated to their business.
- Don’t rely on hyphens in your domain.They are easy to forget and confuse with the version of the domain names that don’t use hyphens.
- Don’t use domains that are at all related to someone else’s trademark. This practice is illegal and can land you in legal hot water quick if someone finds out and decides to sue you. Even worse, any brand equity that you build into the domain will be lost as soon as you get that cease and desist notice.
- Use keywords, if at all possible.Even if there is little SEO value to a keyword-rich domain, it will still build better keyword to domain associations with your customers. For example, if you sell cupcakes having the word cupcake in your domain will make it pretty obvious what you do.
- But don’t stuff keywords!It will look terrible to users and not help with search engines. CupcakeMuffinsCakeCookies.com doesn’t get you very far with anyone.
- Buy similar domain names.Purchase easy misspells and other popular TLDs if they are available to keep anyone from squatting on your business name. This could be costly later once you have built up a brand and the domain squatters know that you don’t really have any negotiating leverage once you decide to buy them.
Whatever domain name you choose, it doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. You’re better off starting your web presence with the best solution you can find rather than spending weeks trying to find the perfect domain name. With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can find a domain that works for you.