December 31, 2009

Growth and Productivity, Scaling Your Business 3 min read

How To Choose A Great Domain Name

A domain name is a human-understandable address that will lead you to a website. It's an easy-to-remember name, but behind the scenes, computers will translate the human-understandable address into a computer-understandable one.

What's an example of a domain name? Why, a great example would be "" of course ;)

Domain names are really simple concepts - however, the crux of the issue is to find a domain name that is easy to spell, easy to remember, and relevant to what you want to convey. The problem is, most good-sounding domain names have already been taken up, and domain names are limited in quantity.

Considering that there are thousands of people out there registering domain names, with some of them doing so professionally, you are facing some stiff competition. Almost all domains that consist of a single dictionary word have been registered, and all 3-letter domain names have been taken up as well. If you consider that the only punctuation character allowed in domain names is the hyphen, then the number of available permutations get even lesser.

So choosing a good domain name isn't the easiest thing in the world to do. Here's a step-by-step guide that can help you along this process:

1. Brainstorm For Keywords

Flip some magazines or trade journals, look through your competitors' websites, and start brainstorming for a list of root keywords that you can work with. This will form the base of your domain name search. E.g. if your keywords are "plumbing", and "plumbers", then you can start searching if domain names such as "" and "" exist.

2. Decide On Your TLD

TLDs (top-level domains) are domain names that end with .com, .net and .org. Decide which is most appropriate for you. Most of the time, .com domain names are the best. If you run a charity or an organisation, then .org may be better. Alternatively, if you're focusing on a specific country, then a country-code TLD such as ".sg" may be better for you as well. Do consider the possibilities of you expanding internationally though - and if that's highly possible, then you might even want to buy all permutations, and then redirecting all your visitors to one domain name. That'll stop people from typing in the wrong domain name and going somewhere else.

3. Avoid Copyright Infringement

If you have a business name that may potentially infringe copyrights, then check with the copyright owner and get their reply in black and white before proceeding. One example is doing an eBay business, and having a domain name with eBay in it. According to eBay's legal team, that's a strict no-no and if you register and use that domain name, would probably mean legal action against you. So do your due diligence and have these checked out - you don't want to create a successful business only to have the original copyright owner start taking legal action against you after a few months.

4. Don't Use Hyphens and Numbers

If you have a brilliant idea and it's a domain name with a hyphen or a number in it, you probably should re-think your idea. If your original idea is already taken up and you're thinking of settling on the hyphenated version, or adding a numeral behind the domain name, you also probably shouldn't. Hyphens and numbers make your domain name hard to spell, or tell someone over the phone, or make it really easy to mistype. You don't want to give your traffic to the guy who owns the un-hyphenated version of your domain name!

5. The Shorter, The Better

If you're planning to use your domain name on business cards, flyers, shirts, etc, then a shorter domain name is better as they fit better, and look more professional. In addition, they're easier to remember as well. Don't make this rule a hard and fast rule though, because you should have a name that makes sense, and if it means having a slightly longer domain name, then so be it.

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