How to Choose A Domain Name

Choosing a domain name is one of the most important aspects of starting your blog.

You want to make an impression when people come to your site for the first time, and the domain is the first one you've got. This is why we spend hours researching the domain name for any website we start.

In fact, we've picked up a few good methods through trial and error for finding the perfect domain name. Here is the method we currently use to shorten the amount of time it takes to find a good domain.

What is a 'domain name'?

A domain name is a unique name that identifies an Internet resource (like your blog). These domains have extensions that form top-level-domains (TLDs) that you purchase for years at a time.

Handy tip

An important distinction here: when you buy a domain name, you don't own it. You're merely paying to lease it for a year (or years) at a time.

Here's a list of top-level domains that you can use to pick a domain name:

  • .com
  • .net
  • .org
  • .info

These have recently expanded to an ever-expanding list of gTLDs, like

  • .name
  • .academy
  • .gift

And many others


After the top-level domains there are country-specific domain names, like:

  • .ul
  • .it
  • .pa

There are over a hundred of these country-specific domain names that sometimes (but not always) require you to have your business operating in that country.

This is why it's important to stay on top of your domain registrations. Most registrars have an "auto renew" feature, where they'll keep your credit card on file and withdraw the money to register your domain for another year.

Step 1: Domain search

It's important to note that if you're going to be setting a blog on your domain, you can often get the domain for free for the first year with the purchase of a hosting plan. More info here.

When I start looking for domains, I head over to Lean Domain Search. This nifty tool allows you to search for domain word combos. You give them a word that you'd like to use in the domain, and then they'll give you a list of domains that are available with the world you specified.

Domain search - Lean domain search

Lean Domain Search is another go-to for finding word combinations for nice domains. A great place to start the search.

If we can't find what we find at Lead Domain Search, we then head over to Domainr.

Domain Search - Domainr

Domainr's instant domain search a handy feature, but another nice feature is Domainr takes creative variations of the word you're looking for and tries to incorporate the domain extension into the name.

If you look at the above image, you'll see that when I input "yourblogname", it searched the normal domain extensions like .com, .net and .org. But it also did something great: it tried to use the domain extension as part of the name I was looking for. In the above example, when I typed "yourblogname" it found that was available. Pretty handy.

Tools to speed up the domain search

After a few searches, you'll quickly find that the domains you want are most likely already taken. This is completely normal.

When this happens I usually open the Dictionary app on my computer and switch to Thesaurus mode. This allows me to run down a list potential words that I could use in my domain name.

Domain search - Dictionary searching

The computer's dictionary (specifically the thesaurus) is excellent for finding word combinations for domain names.

Then I can jot down some ideas, head back to Domainr, and start checking for available names.

Methods for Naming

This is a highly-debated topic, but when picking your domain name there are a few methods that people use to make the name memorable.

Obviously if you can find a single word domain name that fits your site to a T, then register it quickly. (Single word domain names aren't easy to come by.)

But if you've got to do some creative digging for the domain, than here are a few methods that people use when picking domain names.

The first method is using a made up word that doesn't necessarily have any meaning. We typically steer clear of this method.

Another method is using creative misspelling of a word, like "". We'd also suggest steering clear of this method, but it's a step above a nonsense word.

Another method is to use two words, like"YouTube". By using two words, you can make one literal and descriptive, the other abstract. Take "", for example. They are a hosting provider for all types of audio. So "sound" is the literal term, and "cloud" is the abstract (but still descriptive) second word.

Here are a couple of things to avoid while choosing your domain:

  • Clever spellings. Goofy spellings make it hard for the end user to remember your domain name.
  • Numbers. Numbers can get confusing quickly. Does the business "One Stop Shop" buy the domain, or I'd recommend both, and redirect the numbered domain to the non-numbered domain.
  • Copyrighted names. You can search to make sure you're not stepping on anyone's toes.
  • Dashes and hyphens. Having someone remember your domain is hard enough.
  • Words with multiple spellings. "Hear" and "here", etc.
  • Long character counts. Shorter is almost always better when picking a domain name. If you can manage to purchase a single word domain (really, really hard to do),
  • Overplayed keywords. You've heard them before. "Cloud", "Chimp", "Smashing", "Crunch" and so forth.

Google has a video on how to pick a domain name for your small business that pretty much reinforces the above concepts.

Really, there's no true wrong way to choose a domain name as long as the domain is memorable.

If people remember you, you've done your job.

About domain name extensions

When we search for domains, we consider the .com version of the domain name the Holy Grail. They're typically more valuable and rarer to find, but we think it's preferable to have the .com version of the domain.

Is it mandatory that you find the .com? Absolutely not. My friend Leo runs one of the most popular websites in the world,

About domain squatters

Unfortunately in the domain name world, there are unsavory types who try to use a few sneaky tactics to take your domain name from you. For example, if you register the .com of your blog's domain, oftentimes domain squatters will swoop in and register the .net, .org and other variations of the domain name.

Or, if the .com wasn't available when you registered your site (like I did with my site), the domain squatter will acquire the .com version and try to sell it to you.

Another well-used tactic is if your domain expires before you can buy an extension, a domain squatter will rush in and take it from underneath you. Make sure you've paid for the extension well before the expiration. (We like to set our domain names on auto-renew with our domain registrar so that this never happens.)

More domain name searching tools and resources

Domain Name Soup - A domain name generator that breaks suggestions down into a bunch of different different categories.

Before naming your startup, read this - A comprehensive guide on what startups should avoid when picking domain names. However, the advice applies to anyone.

Wordoid - A made-up word domain name generator. It's entertaining, anyway.