How to Choose a Domain Name for Your Website
“What's in a name,” mused Shakespeare's Juliet. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Indeed, a flower’s delicate scent cannot be traced down to its name. And in roses and websites alike, a name - or a domain name, in this case - can never fully transform the actual content. But domain names do, however, play a crucial role in your site’s brandability and credibility, and can even affect its ranking on search results.
Choosing a domain name is an important part of your online presence for three reasons:
1. Add an air of professionalism: Acting as your business’s address online, a sharp and customized domain will contribute to your site’s professionalism and authoritativeness, making your company appear more polished.
2. Make your website easy to find: By picking a good domain name for your website, you can make it more memorable and help potential visitors find it with greater ease. A domain that suits your business and is easy to remember means more eyes on your webpage.
3. Give your SEO a boost: Lastly, your domain name can play a role from an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) perspective. While there are many factors that go into your website’s SEO, your domain name could be another little element to take into consideration.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is your unique address around the web, made up of your website’s name and suffix (or extension). For example, Wix’s domain is wix.com, with “.com” being the suffix. This is not to be confused with a URL. A URL is a more specific web address, directing to a single page within a website. This particular blog post’s URL, for example, is https://www.wix.com/blog/2019/08/how-to-choose-domain-name/ (as you can see for yourself at the top of your browser).
Now that you're clear on what a domain name is, here's how to choose the perfect one for your website:
Make it easy to type and pronounce
Stick to alphabetical letters only
Keep your domain name on brand
Include keywords when appropriate
Flaunt your local roots
Avoid legal trouble
Choose the right domain extension
Check for availability on social media
Plan ahead from the get-go
01. Be concise
Technically speaking, domain names can stretch over an astounding 63 characters. Yet a domain this long would be ill-advised, making for a tedious name that’s hard to type and remember. Instead, be sure to keep your domain short.
A domain name should ideally be anywhere between 3 to 12 characters long. If the name you had in mind happens to be longer than that, consider cutting it down or changing it altogether.
02. Make it easy to type and pronounce
You don’t want potential visitors lingering over details such as spelling before hitting your page. For that reason, look for a domain name that will easily roll off the tongue - and fingers. It’s best to avoid words that are frequently misspelled, or anything that requires a double take before pronouncing.
Run your chosen domain name by a few friends and see if they can get it right on their first attempt. If they struggle a little, go for a different name.
In case you’re planning on using your personal name as the domain, but your last name isn’t intuitive in its spelling, use a combination of your first and middle names instead. Alternatively, combine your first name with your specialty (such as “bakingwithmatt”).
Another good practice is to refrain from shorthand and spell out your words. For example, go for “you” instead of “u” and be wary of words that can be spelled numerous ways (is it “ok” or “okay?”).
03. Stick to alphabetical letters only
Unlike creating a password for your email account, your domain name shouldn’t be a string of characters that makes sense solely to you. Therefore, refrain from using special characters such as hyphens and numbers. So “gr8cakes-4all,” for example, would be an especially bad domain name.
Numbers and hyphens are too often confusing and are harder to remember and type. Numbers leave people wondering whether to go for the numeral digit or to spell them out (is it a 10 or a ten?).
Hyphens, on the other hand, are easy to overlook or misplace when typing in the web address, and are not immediately within reach on most mobile keyboards. Thus, it’s best to leave them out of your domain altogether.
04. Keep your domain name on brand
A great brand identity is made up of many different elements that come together in telling one cohesive story. Align your domain name with the rest of your marketing efforts, such as your logo and general tone and voice, so that it speaks the same language and gives off the right message.
Your domain name can be either the same as your business name, a variation of it, or your business name with an added keyword (as described below). If you’ve yet to name your business, spend some time thinking of a name that’s catchy and encapsulates the spirit of your brand. You can invent new words that have a nice ring to them (such as Wix and Google), look up meaningful terms in the dictionary or thesaurus, or elicit the help of the Wix Business Name Generator to get your ideas flowing.
05. Include keywords when appropriate
Through the practice of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you can improve your chances of showing up on Google when people search for businesses such as yours. One great SEO tip would be to include a relevant keyword in your domain name. This can help both site visitors and search engine bots associate your website with your main field of expertise, hence helping it rank better for that topic.
While beneficial, it’s also important to use keywords in moderation and only when they fit naturally into your domain name. If not, don’t force it, as an overly optimized domain name can come across as spammy. In other words, this strategy for SEO in domain names is valuable but not a must.
When including a keyword does work out in an elegant and memorable way, make sure to go for it. If you own a poke place called Aloha, for example, the domain for your restaurant website could be aloahpokeshop.com. In case you’re creating your personal photography website, adding the word “photography” to your name can be a plus, such as jimsmithphotography.com.
06. Flaunt your local roots
If your business operates only in a particular country, highlighting your location in the domain might help you acquire more traffic through local SEO. Your location can be incorporated into the domain name as its extension, in place of the more common “.com.” For example, a British skating store’s website might be called skateshop.co.uk.
07. Avoid legal trouble
Prior to purchasing your domain name, ensure that you’re not infringing on the competition. Research trademark and copyright databases, as well as competitor brands. Going with a domain name that has been adopted by other brands even indirectly (meaning in uses other than a domain name), could result in customer confusion and possibly also legal issues. It’s therefore worth spending time to make an informed and well-researched decision.
08. Choose the right domain extension
Your domain extension is the suffix at the end of your domain name, also known as the TLD (Top Level Domain). While “.com” is certainly the most common extension out there, there are many other options that can serve different needs for different websites.
Such extensions serve the purpose of better explaining what the website is about. For example, “.org” might mean that your website is for a non-profit organization. However, extensions can also be a great alternative in case your idea for a domain name is already taken in its “.com” version.
There are many available domain extensions, ranging from the quirky (like “.guru”) to the explanatory (such as “.tv”). Here are just a few of the major domain extensions explained:
.com: Short for “commercial,” this widespread domain extension is almost synonymous with the web. It is the most trusted and well-known extension, and when in doubt, it’s usually the best option. The “.com” extension is associated with for-profit businesses. For example: wix.com.
.org: Short for “organization,” this domain extension is most often used for non-profit and charitable organizations. For example: wikipedia.org.
.net: Literally referring to the Internet itself, this extension is commonly used by online businesses, startups and other high-tech applications and services. For example: behance.net.
.info: This extension is an abbreviation for “information” and is generally used for informative or educational sites.
Local extensions: As previously mentioned, this type of extension shows off your physical whereabouts and might give your local SEO a boost. A few examples include “.de” for Germany, “.fr” for France, “.co.uk” for the United Kingdom, and more.
09. Check for availability on social media
Your domain name should remain consistent across all of your different branding assets. That includes your social media branding as well as anywhere else that your brand shows up online. Maintaining the same name across different channels makes for a smoother customer experience, and for a stronger online presence that feels familiar and reliable.
For this reason, make sure that your domain name is also available as different social media handles (or usernames) before purchasing it.
10. Plan ahead from the get-go
This step is not mandatory, but if you envision growth in your brand’s future, you might want to plan accordingly starting from early on. Purchase a few variants of your domain name to protect them from competitors, ensuring they remain in your hands. This might mean different domain extensions (both the “.com” and the “.co,” for example), or similar options of the same name (such as with or without “the” at the beginning). This is especially useful as it’s possible to connect multiple domains to the same website.
Additionally, make sure that the domain name you choose won’t limit your business from expanding further down the line. For example, if your beauty parlor currently provides nail services, but you dream of one day branching out into hairdressing and spa treatments - make sure that your domain name is broad enough to encompass your future endeavors as well.
How to register a domain name
By now you probably know what domain name you’d like to use for your website. Be sure to register your domain from a licensed registrar, such as Wix.com. An accredited registrar will deal with the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) on your behalf, in order to protect your domain name and ensure that it remains yours and only yours for the entire duration of your purchase.
If you’re curious as to how much a domain name costs, note that prices vary based on different factors like the domain extension and the terms you select (such as securing a domain for a longer period of time). However, most of Wix’s Premium Plans include the first year of domain registration for free.
By combining both a website host and a domain registration, plans such as these allow for an all-in-one business solution, where you can seamlessly build your website, register and connect your domain, and enjoy many other professional online tools, all under one roof.
By Eden Spivak
Design Expert & Writer