Picking a good domain has a method to it and should not be done in a haphazard and random way. Here are eleven points that you should taken into consideration when you are choosing a personal domain name.
1. Brainstorm 5 Top Keywords
When you start your personal domain name search, it helps to have 5 terms or phrases in mind that best describe the domain you’re seeking as it relates to the kind of website or blog that you intend to have. Once you have this list, you can start to pair them or add prefixes & suffixes to create good domain name ideas. For example, if you will be operating a mortgage industry related website or blog then you may want to begin with words like “mortgage, finance, home equity, interest rate or house payment” then work the words around until you can find a good match.
2. Make the Domain Name Unique
If you have your website name similar to a popular site already owned by someone else it is a recipe for disaster. Thus, you should never choose domain names that are just the plural, hyphenated or misspelled version of an already established domain. I hear kids in their 20′s tell parents in their 40′s and 50′s to see photos on Flickr and always envision that traffic going straight to the wrong domain.
3. Only Choose Dot-Com Available Domains
If you’re not concerned with type-in traffic, branding or name recognition, you don’t need to worry about this one. However, if you’re at all serious about building a successful website over the long-term, you should be worried about all of these elements, and while directing traffic to a .net or .org (as SEOmoz does) is fine, owning and 301′ing the .com is critical. With the exception of the very tech-savvy, most people who use the web still make the automatic assumption that .com is all that’s out there – don’t make the mistake of locking out or losing traffic to these folks.
4. Make it Easy to Type
If a domain name requires detailed attention to type the name in correctly, due to unusual spelling, length or the use of non-memorable words or sounds, you’ve lost a good portion of your branding and marketing value. I’ve even heard usability folks talk about the value of having the characters include easy-to-type letters, which I interpret as avoiding “q,” “z,” “x,” “c,” and “p”.
5. Make it Easy to Remember
Remember that word-of-mouth and search engine dominance marketing (where your domain consistently comes up for industry-related searches) both rely on the ease with which the domain can be called to mind. You don’t want to be the company with the terrific website that no one can ever remember to tell their friends about because they can’t remember the domain name.
6. Keep the Name as Short as Possible
Short names are easy to type and easy to remember (the previous two rules). They also allow for more characters in the URL in the search engines and a better fit on business cards and other offline media.
7. Create and Fulfill Expectations
When someone hears about your domain name for the first time, they should be able to instantly and accurately guess at the type of content that might be found there. That’s why I love domain names like Hotmail.com, CareerBuilder.com, AutoTrader.com and WebMD.com. Domains like Monster.com, Amazon.com and Zillow.com (whom I usually praise) required far more branding because of their un-intuitive names.
8. Avoid Copyright Infringement
This is a mistake that isn’t made too often, but can kill a great domain and a great company when it does. To be sure you’re not infringing on anyone’s copyright with your site’s name, visit Copyright.Gov and make sure you are ok before you buy.
9. Set Yourself Apart with a Brand
Using a unique moniker is a great way to build additional value with your domain name. A “brand” is more than just a combination of words, which is why names like mortgageforyourhome.com or shoesandboots.com aren’t as compelling as branded names like bankrate.com or lendingtree.com. SEOmoz itself is a good example – “SEO” does a good job of explaining the industry we’re in and creating expectations, while “moz” gives a web association, and an association with being free, open, and community-driven.
10. Reject Hyphens and Numbers
Both hyphens and numbers make it hard to give your domain name verbally and falls down on being easy to remember or type. I’d suggest not using spelled-out or roman numerals in domains, as both can be confusing and mistaken for the other.
11. Don’t Follow the Latest Trends
Website names that rely on odd mis-spellings (like many Web 2.0 style sites), multiple hyphens (like the SEO-optimized domains of the early 2000′s), or uninspiring short adjectives (like “top…x,” “best…x,” “hot…x”) aren’t always the best choice. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but in the world of naming conventions in general, if everyone else is doing it, that doesn’t mean it’s a surefire strategy. Just look at all the people who named their businesses “AAA… x” over the last 50 years to be first in the phone book; how many Fortune 2000′s are named “AAA company?”