So you’ve carved out your own little slice of cyberspace real estate on the web and all you need now is the perfect domain name. Much like opening up a brand new brick-and-mortar business, you must take great care in choosing the verbiage of the sign out front that everyone will see.

The process of choosing the right domain name can sometimes feel overwhelming, it may get frustrating and sometimes you might simply settle on something rather than go for the

Our guide will steer you clear of those pitfalls and help you choose a domain name that you like and represents your website’s purpose. You’ll also find suggestions that help to ensure you’re getting an optimal name if your goals include marketing something on the web.

Let’s get started with one key question you should answer before brainstorming:

“What is my website’s primary purpose?”

Think about this question in depth and take some time to really flesh out your goals for the website.  While our guide will certainly help you through your domain name choosing process, you will ultimately want to include ideas based on your own personal designs for the website’s purpose.

Brainstorming

Every great domain name selection process begins with good old fashioned brainstorming session. This step can actually be a fun, engaging activity and works well as a team building exercise if you can manage to circle the wagons for a couple of hours to discuss domain names.

This part is all about imaginative ideas and critical thinking, so make sure to get those creative juices flowing and create a positive atmosphere. One effective strategy I’ve found for team-oriented brainstorming is to schedule the meeting around a lunch break.

For example, everyone meets up at 11 am and starts brainstorming then break for lunch at noon. Come back at 1 pm and conclude the brainstorming. Bring a notepad because you’ll find that getting out of the office for that break and gathering in a social atmosphere with a tasty meal actually ramps up the brainstorming process. Keep the ideas going throughout lunch and jot the ones down that stick.

One thing to remember before you begin is that Domains are typically very inexpensive. Consider picking several domain names at the end, and registering them all to give you more freedom in the refining process!

Prepare for some diligent note taking and list making. Whether writing on the whiteboard, typing in a spreadsheet or scribbling on some notebook paper you should try to document as much of the output as possible throughout the Brainstorming session.

You should try to focus more on general ideas, keywords and keyword phrases as well as domain names while you’re making the brainstorming lists. By all means if you come up with some “perfect” domain names, get them on paper. Just make sure you’re fleshing out all of the components of your website’s goals in your wording choices.

Basics & Best Practices of Domain Naming

Once you’ve got a good long list of keywords, phrases and domain name ideas worked out, you’ll want to conduct some more research, as we’ll cover in just a moment. But first, let’s go over some conventional standards and best practices for choosing a domain name for optimal results.

  • Do everything you can to get the dot com extension (known as a TLD or Top Level Domain)
  • Avoid any risk of infringement upon any existing trademarks
  • Keep your domain name short, simple and intuitive
  • Ensure your domain name is easy to pronounce and understand
  • Try not to include any non-alphanumeric characters
  • Don’t use profanity (unless that happens to be exactly what you’re going for)
  • Choose linguistic sensibility over keyword inclusion on your domain name

(Example: Picking ‘batsbaseball.com’ because ‘baseballbats.com’ was taken)

  • Don’t get hung up on keyword stuffing – it doesn’t boost rankings as much as it used to
  • Choose a Domain Name that resonates with your target audience
  • Minimize confusion by avoiding homophones (i.e. red/read, here/hear, sun/son)
  • Choose a domain name that’s easy to read, easy to say and easy to share

There are quite a bit of additional tips, tricks and best practices for choosing a domain name, but the above list highlights some of the most important ones.  You can always reach out to professional brand building experts for help if you aren’t sure whether your ideas fit the model of successful domain names.

Research

Once you’ve got a wellspring of ideas from your brainstorming session and you’ve applied some of the basics and best practices for choosing your domain name, it’s time to dive into the data. The Research phase will usually help you focus your ideas into more actionable prospects for your domain name.

Not only will you move away from some of the ideas you came up with, but you’ll find yourself adding some new ones as well. This is the type of ebb and flow you want to see throughout the research process. During this phase, you’ll be on a discovery mission to determine the viability of your ideas thus far. Fire up a few search engine and start plugging in your ideas to get the ball rolling.

If you have any web marketing tools in your arsenal, it’s time to crank those up as well. Otherwise, a few quick web searches can help you locate some pretty solid apps and web-based utilities for your data gathering and analysis.

It’s easy to get lured into countless tangents and deep dives when researching to choose your domain name, so try lay down a particular path for your search and keep to it. If you find yourself straying off to unintended rabbit trails, simply take a short break and revisit your research outline.

We’ve listed a few good ideas to consider for your research outline here:

  • Check out the search engine traffic volumes for your keyword phrases
  • Check out the high ranking competitors in search results for your domain name ideas
  • Read the suggested terms Google gives you when you start typing keyword ideas
  • Look for any existing domains that are closely similar or identical to your ideas
  • Check business name registries for similar names to your domain name

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and there are many more points of focus you may want for your research process when choosing a domain name.

On a final note, if you have any e-commerce or retail oriented intentions for your website, you’ll want to conclude with some consumer-focused marketing research. You will likely want to infuse your findings in your choice of domain name as it pertains to online stores and vendor profiles. For example, could you use your chosen domain name as an eBay store name as well?

E-commerce focused domain names should additionally conduct thorough research about similarly named online store names, trademarks and existing retail websites. You’ll also want to make sure you’re avoiding any domain name ideas that may put your site in less than reputable realms or represent negative trends on the web or within your industry.

Once you’ve piled up a comfortable stack of documentation and you’re confident in the visibility you’ve gained from the research phase, it’s time to make your domain name list!

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Making Your List

I’ve always found this step to be the best part of Choosing a Domain Name. Something about it has a sense of anticipation and excitement as you close in on your hopeful targets. As you embark on this journey, you may start to find yourself enjoying this pleasantry as you watch for that “Available” message to pop up as you search your desired domains.

Firstly, remember this is a much upgraded version of your brainstorm list. This list should only include domain names you want to use for your website. You should rank your list in order from most desirable at the top, all the way down to the bottom, where the last few would be amicable, but not your best choice. Don’t worry if you end up with only a few second-string choices at the bottom, you can always brainstorm for new ideas!

By the end of this step, you should have a relatively long list of at least 20-30 domain name ideas, or more. You’ll want a nice linear list prioritized from top to bottom. Take some time to look over it a few times. Say the domain names out loud to see how it sounds. Type them into documents and browsers to see how it looks. Write it on paper, or even on napkins – you’d be surprised at how often you’ll be writing your website address by hand.

Once you’re comfortable with your domain name list, it’s time to put it through its paces.

Honing Down and Ruling Out

Before you start checking the availability of all the domains on your list, you’ll want to start by ruling some of them out. Start by searching google for each domain name as a set of keywords. For example, if your domain name is “eatingpizzaunderwater.com”, search for ‘eating pizza underwater’. Through this process, you are double-checking whether a similar or competing business exists that may not even have a website. If you find anything to close to any of your domain name ideas, rule that name out.

You may find other things as you’re searching the web during the ruling out process that make you think twice about going forward with some of your ideas. Notate those as you wish, or put them toward the bottom of the list. Follow your gut instincts if you aren’t certain. Remember, we want to choose a domain name that resonates superbly with your vision while adhering to best practices.

Once you’ve gone through your domain name list and ruled out any domain names that couldn’t make the cut, it’s time to hop online for the final search. With list in hand, head over to a domain registrar or domain name search tool on the web (Domain.com is one popular example). Then simply type in each domain name one by one to see if they’re available.

Don’t sweat it if you start off with a handful of domains that are already taken – that just means you’ve got some great ideas on the list! This is where that exciting anticipation comes in. As you go down your list, you’ll find that the “Available” message popping up is quite rewarding.

When you find domain names that are available, congratulations! Put a big, celebratory check mark next to each one that’s available. These are your finalists, your choosing domain name champions! If you only found one or two domains available to register and you are ready to pull the trigger, by all means grab them while you can!

However, you may find that several of your ideas are available. If that’s the case, you have a few options, three of which could all prove equally prudent:

  • Option 1: Hold off on registering any of them and hone down further to pick a true winner.
  • Option 2: Register the one you want most right now, and wait on the rest to do more research
  • Option 3: Register all of the domains that you found available to lock them down in reservation

If you concluded the process here and you’re happy with your chosen domain name, then you’re all set! But if you ended up undecided with a few finalists, there’s one more step you can take towards choosing a domain name that stands apart even from your other favorite choices.

Testing Top Contenders

If you’ve found yourself with a small handful of domain names, all of which are available, but you still only want to pick one, don’t fret. This is, as they say, ‘a good problem to have’. At this point you have a couple of options. Firstly, you could simply pick one at random or put it up to a vote amongst your crew. This method is actually not as uncommon as you’d think.

But if you’d prefer a more data driven approach, you can test your top contenders with a battery of web search tests, social engagement analysis and some reviews perusal.

Search for your domain in Google Trends, check to see how your keywords are used in tag clouds, on social media such as twitter. Send your ideas through social media to friends and co-workers and get fresh insights. Check online reviews and consumer reporting sites to see how similar domains and businesses fare in the fiery fields consumer feedback.

This final testing process should move quite swiftly and you’ll have a clear winner in no time. All you’ve got left to do is grab your domain at your desired registrar and you’re done! We wouldn’t say choosing a domain name would be easy, but we try to keep it as quick, fun and frustration-free as possible.