How to choose a domain name

My bet is that once you figured out that you wanted to start a blog and you knew what you want to blog about the first thing that happened was that domain names started running through your head.

And what you choose for your custom domain name can be different if you’re starting a personal blog, vs a niche site blog, or some other kind of blog.

So let’s solidify those ideas with the best practices on how to choose a custom domain name for your new blog.

STEP 2: Choose a domain name for your new blog

  1. Find something unique and catchy
  2. Make your domain name memorable
  3. Make your domain name brandable
  4. Make sure it’s easy to communicate verbally
  5. Choose a domain name that’s easy to spell
  6. Keep your domain name short as possible
  7. Make sure it describes your blog
  8. Consider the social handles

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These are the do’s and don’ts of choosing the perfect domain name for your new blog.

If you’re working on building your expertise in a particular area then you need to think about creating your domain based on what that brand is that you’re developing.

When it comes to choosing a domain name, think about the market where you’re trying to build your brand. There is a lot of great opportunity to find some great domain combinations using terms from your area of expertise.

Here are a couple great examples of personal brands:


There is another aspect of branding though. Not every brand needs to be built on a subject matter-based name. A lot of personal brands are built on one’s own name.


This is a good idea if your content is going to cover your topic in a broader sense than just your personal area of expertise.

It’s an option that can give you a little more wiggle room when it comes to the content you produce.

Think through what kind of content you’re planning on building and make the choice that fits best for you.

Not every blog is a personal brand blog though.

There are good arguments for either approach and you can’t really go wrong with either one. It’s just a matter of what your personal preferences are.

So what do you do when you’re building a niche or topic-based blog?

There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when you’re looking at domain name ideas.

You are going to be living with this choice for a while when you do it right, so make sure you think through each factor carefully and make a good decision based on what your long term goals are.

Do find something unique and catchy

Think outside the box when you choose your domain name. Find something witty, funny or catchy.

Find some relevant words or phrases that fit your project. Brainstorm all kinds of ideas to see what you can come up with.

One of the most important factors is you want to have a memorable domain, so approaching it from a unique perspective can give you some additional ideas to choose from.

Combine words together to try to find something awesome!

Do make your domain name memorable

You want your domain to be memorable. You want it to stand out. When you tell someone about your website you want it to stick with them, so make sure your domain name is memorable.

Do make your domain name brandable

It follows very naturally that if your domain is memorable that you will also want it to be brandable. When someone hears your domain you want it to instantly call to mind who you are and what you stand for.

Think about some of the big domains you know and what comes to mind when you think of them:

  • – everything you need from A to Z
  • – the world’s biggest and best search engine
  • – search and news site
  • – the greatest of the social media giants
  • – social news, discussions, and community

Whatever you choose, think of this domain as the place where you’re going to build your brand.

Do make sure it’s easy to communicate verbally

One of our principles here is to be creative, but be careful about getting carried away. One of the things you want to think about when it comes to your new domain is that you want it to be pronounceable. Think about using easy-to-use words in your name so that it rolls off your tongue and people know what you’re talking about.

If they can’t pronounce it, it’s not really as memorable as it could be, is it? They may just remember that it was that crazy domain name they couldn’t pronounce and will have a hard time getting it into their web browser.

Do choose a domain name that’s easy to spell

Keeping things simple here is the rule. Your domain name needs to be memorable, and creative, but it also needs to be easy to spell.

I changed the entire branding of my web design and development business because I thought a witty spelling would be a great place to build a brand.

Instead, I found myself constantly explaining the spelling and that got really old.

Do keep your domain name short as possible

Short domains aren’t always easy to come by these days, but the shorter they are the easier they’ll be to remember, and being easy to remember is one of our keys. Try to keep it as short as you can.

Do make sure it describes your blog

When you’re building a brand, you want everything you can get to add value to that brand. It’s not always easy to nail all the criteria laid out here, but it’s well worth the time and effort and research to get one that fits well.

You will know that you’ve found the right domain name when it fits like a glove and is descriptive. Think about it in terms of the benefit you are offering to your visitors.

We’ve already talked about short, easy to spell, pronounceable, etc. Once you’ve nailed those, put it through the filter of how well it describes your site.

Do spend some cash in your domain. It’s worth it.

Don’t be afraid of spending a little money on your domain. A lot of times when someone sees a domain has been registered they head back to the registrar to see if something else is available without ever thinking that they could possibly get their first choice at a reasonable price.

If the domain name you want is already registered by someone else, don’t be discouraged. If the person who registered the domain isn’t using it, consider making an offer. Build a budget for it into your plans.

Don’t let a couple hundred bucks stand between you and the perfect domain.

You may be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes owners will accept reasonable offers because they may just be ready to move on from that domain name.

You can help them clear inventory, and you get the domain you’re looking for – it can be a win/win so don’t be discouraged if it’s registered when you’re doing your search.

Consider the social handles

You will want to check to see if the social handles are available for your domain name. This will go a long way to help make sure you’re presenting a consistent brand on all platforms.

Before you click that “buy now” link, take some time to consider where you plan to build your following on social media and see if that username is available.

It may be a challenge to find something that’s cohesive across all channels, but it’s worth thinking through so you can create a consistent brand for your project.

A great tool to help you find out what’s available quickly is a site called That site will let you search tons of social media platforms to find out what user names are available.

Don’t pick a domain that you have to explain

It gets tiresome and just really isn’t a good brand if you have to do a bunch of explaining every time you talk to someone about your new blog.

You don’t want to have to be explaining how to spell it, why you spelled it the way you did, what that combination of characters you chose is supposed to mean over and over again. Pick something you don’t have to explain all the time.

Stay away from unclear meanings

A couple years ago it seems there was a mad rush to grab domains that and try to build them into brands. While the letters were pronounceable, they made no sense and were related to no word in the English language, or most others either.

Another pitfall you want to avoid is unfortunate word combinations. Here are a couple examples of unfortunate combinations to illustrate the point. Yes – these were real – or still are – real sites.

  • Pen Island
  • Speed Of Art
  • Experts Exchange
  • Therapist Finder
  • Teachers Talking

All you have to do is combine those words together, put a .com at the end, and see how they look in your browser to see what the problem is. So, make sure you write it out and see what it looks like.

Sometimes when you combine words you can end up with some rather unfortunate and offensive results.

Hyphens and numerals in your domain name are a bad idea

Numbers and hyphens are a bad idea when it comes to domains. They’re hard to communicate and violate the criteria discussed above. In addition, they really don’t look good on a business card and they carry with them the stigma of not being very well thought out.

Think about how your potential visitor would view such a domain. It’s got hyphens, and it’s long. Does that present the professional image you want your new site to demonstrate? Probably not.

Numbers are an even bigger problem. Do you spell them out, or just use numerals? Do you have to explain them when you’re trying to communicate them verbally? It’s better to stay away if you can avoid them.

The only exception I can think of is if the numerals are part of your brand like 48 Days, Blink 182, or 37 Signals. If your business is branded like this, then numerals make perfect sense, and it would be intuitive for users to find your domain that way.

Stay away from trademarked names

It should go without saying that registering a domain that uses someone else’s intellectual property is off limits. However, it happens. And often. If the phrase you want to register is trademarked, copyrighted, or has any other kind of legal protection on their name it’s best to save yourself the trouble and stay away.

If you’re not sure, take the time to do your homework.

I have a client who registered a domain for a phrase that you might think would have been fine to use for his project, only to find out that was not the case.

He received a cease and desist order via mail that required him to surrender the domain to the trademark holder. Luckily, that was all.

Exact match domain names are not always good

This one is a bit tricky. Exact match domains are those domain names where you have a word-for-word exact match for a keyword target.

At one time, this was a huge win.

If you had an exact match domain name for your primary keyword on your site the search engines saw you in an extremely favorable light and it was easy to rank.

However, that’s no longer the case, and in some instances, an exact match domain may not be helpful, but could actually be hurtful to your site.

The main point here is that you’d rather have a domain that matches up with the best practices mentioned above, and that isn’t necessarily going to lend itself to an exact match domain name.

However, the tricky part comes when an exact match domain is your legitimate business name. If you have high-quality content on your site and your brand is an exact match, then it may be ok, but I think that picking a domain that is brandable, memorable, and easy to communicate would be a better option.

Stay away from long domain names

I’ve seen long domain names that basically spell out a sentence or a phrase. There may be a time or place for these like if you’re running a promotion and the phrase is a perfect fit and it’s easier to communicate than saying something like “find more info at”

But otherwise, long domains can be a serious pain. They aren’t easy or clear to communicate and it’s easy to forget a simple preposition in the phrase which could send your potential visitor somewhere else entirely.

They’re also a problem in instances where you have character limitations, like social media.

Avoid long domains in favor of something that’s short.

Set up an email address with your domain name

One of the great benefits of having your own domain name is that you can create an email address that uses your domain. This will help your brand immensely because perceptions are everything.

What email address looks more professional?


If I see someone using an email address from one of the multitude of free email services, I’m a little concerned about their level of professionalism.

After all, if they don’t care enough about their brand, company, or business to creat a custom email address, are they going to pay attention to the fine details if I hire them or buy something?

Maybe, maybe not.

But it doesn’t come across as professional, so make sure you create an custom email address for your new custom domain name.

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