Now that you’ve picked a blog niche you’re passionate about, you’re ready to choose a domain name and launch your blog!
Choosing a domain name is a big step! Super exciting! You’re getting closer to having that profitable blog you’re proud of! A blog that gives you extra income or full-time income providing the independence and freedom you’ve longed for.
I’ve owned numerous websites and blogs over the last 20+ years and have made my share of mistakes in choosing domain names. I’ll show you pitfalls to avoid and we’ll look at how I chose AHoodLife.com as our domain name.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Picking a domain name can be a fun process!
We’ll cover simple tips and tricks that you can easily follow. Soon you’ll have the best domain name for your blog!
Here’s what we’re covering in this article:
- Domain Name vs. URL
- 29 Tips for Choosing the Best Domain Name
- Why Choosing the Best Domain Name From the Start Is Key
- 5 Critical Domain Name Registration Tips You Don’t Want To Miss
- How Domain Name Registration Works
First, let’s quickly review domain names.
Domain Name vs. URL
Let’s be clear on domain names and URLs/web addresses. These two are often confused.
Domain Name = ahoodlife.com
URL/Web Address = https://ahoodlife.com
If you’re unclear on domain names, our previous article, “What Is a Domain Name? Your Blog Domain Explanation“, gives an in-depth explanation that will clear things up for you.
29 Tips for Choosing the Best Domain Name
Choosing a domain name can be overwhelming without a little guidance. It’s a big decision that will have an effect on your blog for years to come.
We are going to take some of the pressure off your decision-making process by giving you the top domain name tips and tricks.
Follow these 29 tips and you’ll be on your way to choosing the best domain name for your website.
1. Choose .com
Always choose the .com extension whenever possible.
Why choose a domain name with .com? Let’s take a look…
Dot com Is Most Popular TLD
The .com extension is the most popular domain name extension (top-level domain (TLD)). Check out this domain count graph for TLDs from DomainTools.com. Clearly, .com is the most TLD!
If you don’t understand the terms domain name extension, top-level domain (TLD), and second-level domain (SLD), our article on “What Is A Domain Name?…” will get you up to speed. A little knowledge will go a long way to helping you pick the best domain name.
Internet Users Assume .com
Internet users assume .com. If anyone knowing your brand was trying to guess at your domain name, they would try .com first. Also, visitors might absentmindedly type .com instead of another extension like .co or .net or .blog or .wedding or whatever… Where would your visitors be taken if they did? To a competitor? (We’ll discuss buying variations of your domain name to overcome this issue later in the article.)
There’s nothing inherently wrong with other TLDs like .net. But if you pick MyAwesomeBlog.net because MyAwesomeBlog.com is taken. How many people will you lose to your competitor’s blog when they type the wrong domain name extension?
Mobile Devices Promote .com
Mobile devices promote the .com extension by giving keyboards a .com button. They provide this convenient option because the majority of all websites use the .com domain extension.
You can eliminate possible confusion in finding your website by choosing .com as your TLD.
2. Easy to Pronounce, Spell, and Type
Your domain name should be easy to share others. No explanation on how to pronounce, spell, or type your domain should be needed.
Only letters (abc), numbers (123) and hyphens (-) are allowed characters in a domain name and there’s no differentiation between upper and lower case letters.
When spelling the domain name of this site, I sometimes like typing AHoodLife.com. It’s easier to share some domain names this way. There’s no difference between AHoodLife.com or ahoodlife.com when registering your domain name.
3. Choose A Short Domain Name
Choose a short domain name. Long domain names are harder to remember and are at greater risk of misspelling or mistyping.
It’s best to keep your domain name under 15 characters.
Call me lazy, but I dislike typing long domains. Just saying. What about you?
Short Domain Name Benefits in Search Engine Results
Short domain names also have benefits in search engine results pages (SERPs). Your domain name can extend the URL. This can affect your ranking in search engines like Google and make your snippet unattractive and less useful.
You can see our URL in the example below. Imagine if we chose a long domain name instead of AHoodLife.com. A long domain name like WhyDidIPickThisLongUglyDomainName.com would extend the URL to an unreadable length. Google would have to truncate the URL making it less useful in search results and less likely to encourage a click. Long URLs just look spammy.
As a side note, your domain name should be tied to your brand…
When you write a blog post, you’ll have a title tag that shows up in the SERP snippet. Our search engine optimization (SEO) title tag in the example above is “7 Blog Niches That Make Money + Micro-Niche Ideas ~ A Hood Life“.
Google will display the first 50 to 60 characters of a title tag. If you have a long brand name, you’ll have to make a sacrifice. You’ll have to reduce the title length of your post title. Not desirable for SEO. Or you’ll have to remove your brand from your SEO title tag. Again, not desirable for building your brand.
It’s best to keep your domain name short and your brand name too. Much better all around. It’s even better for social media links and any printed materials you might use.
4. Brandable Domains: Unique Over Generic
I mentioned above that your domain name should be tied to your domain name. In doing so, make the name unique. Generic doesn’t work well for brand names and will be less memorable. Choose a unique brand and domain name that will stand out in your reader’s mind.
Basically, your domain name is your brand. There should be no separating the two. There is no confusion that Amazon.com is Amazon.
Domain Name or Brand Name, What Comes First?
I try to develop my domain name and brand name at the same time. I find that easier. If you pick your brand name first, your corresponding domain name may be unavailable. You can, however, back into your brand name after finding a domain name you like.
5. Make It Predictable
Predictability goes along with your brand. Amazon is Amazon.com, not AnEasyPlaceToBuyStuff.com. Simple, right?
6. Avoid Acronyms
Avoid acronyms when you choose your domain name. An acronym would be an abbreviation derived from the initials forming your brand name pronounced as a word.
Acronyms aren’t predictable domain names and are often hard to remember. The only exception would be a catchy acronym that would also be your brand name.
7. Avoid Homophones
Homophones are words that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings. Avoid homophones!
I once owned an auto parts business named Performance Won. I was constantly having to tell people that it was spelled “won” not “one”.
8. Avoid Numbers
Avoid using numbers in your domain. They can be confusing. Take the following two examples:
Both would require you to explain the spelling if you were verbally sharing the domain with someone else.
9. No hyphens
Hyphens cause confusion. Never use them in your domain name.
- Hyphens don’t look good.
- They’re hard to remember.
- They’re harder to share verbally.
“My domain is steve hyphen hood dot com is confusing.”
Numbers and hyphens are allowed characters in a domain name but should be avoided.
10. Using Letters for Words
Using letters for words like “u” instead of “you” in giftforu.com. Should be avoided. It might be cute but it’s too confusing! Visitors will end up misspelling your domain and end up someplace else on the web.
11. Avoid Strings of Letters
Don’t use word combinations in your domain name that cause a string of the same letters. It leads to misspelling and mistyping. (e.g. FlossString.com)
12. Make Sure It Looks Right
Ok… Sometimes things initially sound right but when words are combined to make your domain they might accidentally spell something funny or just downright wrong. Can you find the problems with the following domain names?
Funny domain name examples:
- speedofart.com – Speed of Art
- kidsexchange.net – Kids Exchange
- childrenswear.co.uk – Children’s Wear
- wintersexpress.com – Winters Express
- therapistinabox.com – Therapist in a Box
- analemma.org – Analemma Society
There is also the occasion where your domain name could say something different in another language.
13. Don’t Use Keywords
I say don’t use keyword combinations as a domain name unless it makes for a great brand name. Using keyword strings once worked well and was recommended. It helped with SEO. Not so much anymore. Creating a brand is far more important.
Domain names that use keywords are called exact match domains (EMDs). This former SEO trick is now frowned upon by Google and could actually get you penalized.
I have a blog, (HowToTreatHeartburn.com) that I started when EMDs were still pushed by SEO experts. The keyword string I chose isn’t easily brandable and isn’t expandable. Poor choice. Please learn from my mistake, brand development is a much better way to go.
It’s hard to impossible to change your domain name later. Choose wisely the first time.
14. Avoid Claims
These days claims are often frowned upon and may seem spammy. This is especially true with health and wellness websites.
My blog, HowToTreatHeartburn.com, has the word “treat” in it. Where once acceptable, the FDA now frowns on claims like “treat” and “cure”.
I’ve found that certain affiliate companies frown on claims. One of the top health and wellness companies rejected my affiliate application because I had the word “treat” in my domain name.
Don’t lose out on potential revenue! Avoid claims in your domain name.
15. Beware of Trends
Choose a domain name that will stand the test of time and avoid anything trendy. Trends fade away and if your domain name is tied to the trend your business will fade away too.
16. Choose a Domain Name That’s Expandable
The niche you start with today may not be where you want to be tomorrow. Popular topics change and so do our interests as bloggers.
My blog, HowToTreatHeartburn.com, has me locked into heartburn and acid reflux. There’s no good way to expand. When I picked that domain name, I had no interest in expanding outside that topic. Had I picked a brandable name, I could expand the blog into other areas with ease.
17. Creative and Memorable
Try to make your domain name creative and memorable.
Our domain name has two meanings. It’s a play on “A Good Life” and our last name “Hood”. It also refers to my wife, Ashley. It’s her first initial and last name “A Hood Life”.
18. Pick a Domain Name You Can Transfer
I was thinking ahead when I chose AHoodLife.com. My wife, Ashley, was my main consideration when I started this site. Should something happen to me, I want her to be able to take over and expand the site into whatever she desires.
Let’s face it. We won’t always be here. I suggest you pick a name that will transfer well to someone else. You might even have the goal of building up the site and selling it. If so, pick a domain name that someone else would want to take over.
19. Consider Using Your Name
Though not as easily transferable as mentioned previously. Your name could be a great choice. This is especially true for coaches, speaker, authors, etc. It all depends on your business model.
I always recommend registering a domain name with your first and last name. Just hold on to it if you don’t want to use it for your current project. You never know how your business might develop. Having a domain with your name could put you at an advantage in the future.
I scooped up SteveHood.com when it became available. I don’t currently use the domain but I have plans for it in the future.
20. Target Your Area By Including Geographic Terms or TDL
I generally shy from this idea but using geographic terms or domain extension that geographically target your market can be helpful in limited circumstances. Be doubly sure of your decision when choosing this option.
If you choose this route, understand that other extensions will be less desirable than a .com and you may be limiting the possibility of expanding the subject of your blog and its future target area.
21. Use a Thesaurus for Domain Name Ideas
I quite often use a thesaurus to get other ideas on the same theme when my original idea is taken.
22. Avoid Combining Random Keywords Words
If you’re not narrowing your niche, you might be tempted to include multiple keywords in your domain. Don’t combine random keywords! It’s confusing, too long, and the keywords probably won’t help with ranking in Google Search. (e.g. RachelsFashionTravelCookingBlog.com)
23. Avoid Obscure Terms
Obscure niche-specific terms will drastically reduce your audience. Avoid them using them.
24. Avoid Looking Like Spam
Never create a domain name with hyphens. Hyphenated domain names are often used by spam websites.
It is also common for spam websites to use TLDs other than .com like .biz, .info, .work, .loan and others. If you stick to a .com, you’ll avoid spammy looking domain extensions.
25. Use a Domain Name Generator
If you’re struggling, there are domain name generators like Nameboy that may help.
Don’t purchase your domain name through Nameboy though! You want to register your domain name with the company that hosts your blog. It will make life easier to have everything in one place.
I recommend Bluehost. Your domain name will be FREE through them for the 1st year.
26. Research Your Domain Name
Before registering a domain name, you need to research the name for legal conflicts, blacklist check, and Google penalties.
Avoid Trademark Issues
Blacklists and Google Penalties
Many domains were once owned yet abandoned. Some of these domains have been mismanaged. Others have no issue or have built-in Domain Authority that can help you rank in Google faster. More about Domain Authority in a bit.
What is a blacklisted domain?
Blacklisted domains are domains that were used to send spam email. You can check your potential domain against the database at MX Toolbox for free.
What is a Google penalty?
A Google penalty is the negative effect of a manual review or search algorithm change on a website’s rank in Google Search.
Google penalties commonly occur from:
- Keyword stuffing. This is the tactic of placing too many keywords in a post in hopes of ranking higher for that keyword in Google Search.
- Low-quality website content.
- Duplicate content. Google frowns on duplicate content whether it be the same content on multiple pages of your website or if it’s duplicated from another website.
- Black hat link-building. This is an underhanded way of building backlinks by exploiting loopholes to gain higher page rank in Google Search.
- Use of private blog networks (PBNs). PBNs are websites networks that allow you to pay for high-quality backlinks. Google will penalize you if they catch you paying for backlinks.
Many domains have received Google penalties. It’s best to avoid domains that have inherited a Google penalty. It’s extra work and waste of time to get these domains out of the dog house.
Two places to check for penalties would be Cute SEO Tools and FE International. Cute SEO Tools will tell you whether the domain has been penalized and FE International will provide a website penalty indicator graph showing organic traffic over time. You want to look for dramatic drops in traffic. These are indicators of a Google penalty.
In the website penalty indicator graph below from FE International, you can see a dramatic drop in this website’s traffic after Google’s algorithm update in August 2018. You’ll want to look for any similar drops in traffic when you search for your desired domain name.
The Wayback Machine
The Wayback Machine is a really cool website that shows cashed versions of a website. With Wayback Machine, you can enter your domain and take a look at past content on the website. If you see questionable content or content you’d rather not be associated with, you’ll probably want to avoid that domain.
Domain Authority (DA) is a ranking score that Moz developed for predicting a domain’s rank in search engine result pages (SERPs). If your potential domain name has been used and abandoned, it’s a good idea to check it’s Domain Authority with Moz… (Moz has a free trial.)
You might find that the domain you want has built-in authority before making your first post. How cool would that be?! It usually takes 6 months to a year for a new domain name to start building authority with Google, so buying a used domain with built-in authority isn’t a bad way to go.
27. Check Social Media Sites
When choosing your domain name/brand, make sure it’s available on social media platforms as well. Using the same name as your blog on all social media will improve brand recognition.
28. Claim Your Name in All Reasonable Ways
Domain squatters or otherwise underhanded people can create confusion around your brand by registering variations of your domain name. It’s a wise practice to register variations of your domain name. For example:
Stabucks.com redirects to Starbucks.com, but Starbuks.com was not registered by Starbucks and forwards to a questionable website.
Domain name variations to consider purchasing:
- Main TLDs like the .net, .org, .info, or .co extensions.
- Possible misspellings of your domain.
- The plural version of your domain.
- Your domain in a different language if relevant.
29. Act Quickly
When you find a domain name that might work, don’t wait to grab it up! They go quickly. You don’t want to risk someone else getting it.
I started my first website in 1995. Not long after, a company offered $3000 for my domain. They had told a client that the domain name was available but I got it first.
Choosing the Best Domain Name From the Start Is Key
Choosing the right domain name from the start is highly important. Why? You’re sorta married to it. It’s tied to your blog for its lifetime.
Changing your domain name will affect the trust you’ve built.
Your brand is tied to your domain name and your ranking metrics are too.
We’re talking about Domain Authority and search engine optimization (SEO).
Losing Domain Authority by switching domains means that your Google ranking, Pinterest ranking, and ranking with all other services will drop. Most likely to nothing. It takes time to rebuild domain authority.
There’s no guarantee that your website would ever recover from a domain change.
The loss of traffic and income can be devastating.
Changing your domain name after you’ve established your blog will cause you a ton of headaches and concerns that will make you wish you’d chosen the best domain name from the start. So, make a well thought out choice by following the 29 domain name tips and tricks above.
5 Critical Domain Name Registration Tips You Don’t Want To Miss
1. Get a Free Domain Name
Services like Bluehost will give you a free domain for the first year when joining their service. Bluehost is the top-recommended web host by WordPress. They’re #1 in our book!
2. Register Your Domain Name in Your Name
Some blogging services will register domain names in your behalf but in their name. If you switch from their service, you might have difficulty getting your domain name from them. Registering a domain name in your own name through Bluehost will prevent this problem.
3. Enable Private Domain Registration
Please, please, please enable private domain registration! It keeps others from being able to see your personal information. Instead, if someone looks up the ownership of your domain, they’ll see the corporate information of your host or privacy protection service.
I skipped enabling private domain registration once. Huge mistake! You’ll get a ton of spam email and phone calls if you don’t!
4. Set Your Domain to Auto-Renew
I highly recommend that you set your domain name to automatically renew. You don’t want to overlook the renewal of your domain and lose it to someone else.
5. Lock Your Domain
Locking your domain with your hosting provider prevents others from transferring your domain without your permission.
How Domain Name Registration Works
When you register your domain name, you aren’t buying it so much as renting it. For whatever time period you choose, you’ll have an exclusive renewable right to your domain name. I typically renew mine 1 or 2 years at a time but you can choose longer terms.
Want to check on domain name availability? Look it up with this handy domain name search.
Choose your domain name carefully! It’s strongly tied to your brand and often the first impression you give others.
Follow the tips I’ve given you and you’ll pick the best domain for your blog.
Don’t procrastinate! Get started on your blogging adventure today!