Selecting Effective Domain Names

Domains are cheap and easily obtained. You don’t want just any domain name however. The trick is to select one that properly represents your brand, helps you compete in search engine results, and is easy for users to type and remember.

Domain Name Selection Tips

  1. Domain names have two audiences: web site visitors and search engines.
    – Use words bunched together for visitors (ex: They are easier to remember and look nice in advertising copy.
    – Use words separated by dashes (-) for search engines (ex: and additional brand capitalization.
  2. Choose domain names based on what customers will search for. (ex: Industry terms, service names, and service names in a location (ex: “lawyers 90210”) are generally stronger domains than company names and your personal name.)  Think about how you normally search.  Unless you know a specific name of a business, you’re likely to type a phrase or a question into a search engine.  Right?
  3. Buy more domain names than you think you need. (Buy the .com, the .net, etc.)  For only a nominal fee, you’ll keep them out of the hands of the competition.
  4. Make sure the domain as easy as possible to remember and type.
  5. Consider buying names with common misspellings.  Double character words (where the letter ending a first word is the same as the letter beginning a second word, like in the case of a company named “Project Trailblazers”) are often mistyped. The smart strategy is to purchase two domains: and
  6. Avoid trademarked names or names similar to existing companies.  Read more about naming a business and trademark searching.
  7. If a specific domain name is already taken, try making a purchase offer. (Also called a “certified offer.”)  This can be done officially using a purchasing or backordering service or can be done unofficially by contacting the domain’s administrative contact.

Domain Standards

  • Domains can contain letters, numbers, and hyphens.
  • Domains cannot begin or end with a hyphen or use spaces or special characters. e.g. ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) ? “ _ < > /
  • Domains can be 2-67 characters in length (not including the ‘www’ or ‘http://’).
  • Domains are not case sensitive. ( is the same as
  • Domains can generally be registered for 1-10 years.

How to do a Domain Search

All domain name registration information is stored in an easily searchable WHOIS (pronounced “who is”) database. There are hundreds of websites that can search the database.  My favorite is:

As an example, search for  The WHOIS results will show you who the domain is registered to, when it was first registered, when the domain expires (must be renewed), and other standard domain name registration information.

If there is no WHOIS record for a particular domain name, it means it is not yet registered and is available for purchase.  Hooray!  Your chosen domain unavailable?  See: Ride the Domain Spinner. (Choosing alternate domain names.)

How to Purchase a Domain

Domain names are purchased from companies called “registrars.”  Other companies can be domain resellers, but you’re likely to get the most competitive price from an accredited registrar.

The best web site hosting company (and also an accredited registrar) on the planet is New Dream Network (dba DreamHost.)   I’ve been with them since 2003, they are hosting this blog, and I’ve setup and managed over 100 domains/web sites with them.  Their domain pricing is competitive and their customer service is fantastic.  Check them out!

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