How to Choose a Domain Name

If your company has been around for a while, you may already own a domain name to use for your online presence. If you're just starting out, though, it can be difficult to make a decision that will have such a lasting impact on your brand.

Why Your Domain Name Matters

There's a reason domain names are commonly referred to as "web addresses". Much like a mailing address, your domain name represents a specific location on the internet where customers can always find you. Even if you change web hosts or rebrand your site with a new logo and colors, your domain name stays the same. Since you'll (hopefully) be using your domain name for a long time, it's important to choose one that's easy to type and easy to integrate with your overall branding strategy.

For more of the nitty-gritty technical details on DNS, see All About Domain Names.

Naming Strategies

When in doubt, it's a good idea to choose a domain that includes your company name. If you haven't chosen a company name yet, sites like Brand Bucket, Product Hunt, and Name Mesh offer helpful tools to point you in the right direction. With that being said, it's more important to choose a company name that's memorable and relevant to your business, rather than one that sounds trendy and quirky.

Keep It Short

In general, your domain name should be as short as possible without sacrificing meaning. Remember that a large percentage of online shoppers are now accessing the web via mobile devices, so it's best to avoid long domain names with redundant terms (such as "shop", "online", and "store") -- unless those words are already part of your branding.

Leverage Key Words

Certain terms should be incorporated into your domain name when possible, such as key words that someone would use to find the services or products you provide. For example, if you run an auto parts warehouse, it's a good idea to incorporate either "auto" or "parts" into your domain name. If your target market is primarily local, consider including the name of your city as part of your domain name.

Avoid Elements That Can Be Typed Different Ways

Using hyphens as part of a domain name is generally considered to be bad practice. Think of it this way: if you're promoting your website by radio or by word of mouth, it's awkward to specify where a visitor needs to enter hyphens in the URL bar.

Similarly, avoid using numerals or numerical words (2, two, 30, thirty) unless absolutely necessary. Most customers won't remember when to type the full word in place of a numeral, and they'll find it annoying to switch between numbers and letters on a mobile device keyboard. As voice-to-text functionality becomes more widespread, many users will be verbalizing your domain name and letting their phones interpret the text.

Be Original

Before you decide to use a specific domain name for your store, make sure there aren't similar domain names already in use. The last thing you want is for someone to mistype or misremember your domain name and accidentally stumble across a competitor's website, instead. By choosing a unique company name and domain name, you'll also be protecting yourself against potential trademark or copyright disputes in the future.

Be Flexible

Not every domain name you want to register will be available. Keep in mind that many similar business names exist throughout the worldwide web. Be ready to either rethink your strategy or get creative with how you format your domain name.

Research Your Registrar

There are thousands of ICANN-accredited registrars on the web, but not all are created equal. Be sure to research a registrar's policies before you make a final decision. In particular, keep an eye out for hidden fees related to transferring out, domain locking, and private registration.

The vast majority of domain registrars are ethical and straightforward. Some of our favorites are Hover, Domain.com, and Namecheap.