Domain Name Search: How to Choose and Buy the Best Domain Name
If you’re about to start a domain name search, the journey isn’t as easy as you might think.
Does it have a nice ring to it? Or does it limit the types of products you can sell? Is it brandable or focused on exact match keywords? What does a customer feel when they hear your domain name?
Like I mentioned, choosing a domain name is not as easy as picking and buying a new domain. And with over 1.90 billion websites on the internet, there’s a good chance that your shortlisted domain names are already taken.
Don’t worry, this article will help remind you of the importance of a domain name, give you tips to help you with your domain name search, outline where to find the best domain name generators, teach you how to buy a domain name and explain exactly what a domain name is.
- What is a Domain Name?
- What Is the Difference Between a Domain Name and Web Hosting?
- Why Are Domain Names Important?
- How Much Does a Domain Name Cost:
- How to Choose the Right Domain Extension
- How to Select the Best Domain Registrar
- The 5 Best Domain Name Registrars in 2019
- Want to Learn More?
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name is the address or URL that people type into their browser to get to your website. When they enter your domain name into the address bar of their browser, it sends a request to your host web server which fetches your website and sends it back to their browser. Examples of what is a domain name include Google.com, Facebook.com and Oberlo.com.
What Is the Difference Between a Domain Name and Web Hosting?
A domain name is different to web hosting as the latter is where your website lives. Several companies offer a combination of domain name registration and web hosting to make it easy for people to launch a website. However, there are no strict requirements as you can also buy them separately from different companies.
Why Are Domain Names Important?
A domain name is important because it helps you build a brand that connects with your audience, allows customers to find you online, and gives you credibility. While there are several factors that determine the success of a website, conducting a domain name search offers a range of benefits:
- Makes you accessible: If your business isn’t online, it doesn’t exist. If you own a physical shop in a remote town the average person hasn’t heard of, you won’t be found online. However, if you build a website around your brand, you’re much more likely to be found, especially if you optimize your domain name and website for search
- Adds credibility: While having a domain name isn’t enough, having your own website does make your brand seem more credible. If you own a small business and don’t have a website, some potential customers may not trust you as much as one that does. Customers feel confident in buying from websites because they can easily find online reviews or a portfolio that shows them that you’re the real deal. Owning a website is the first step to gaining credibility in the online world.
- Helps you build a brand: A good domain name gives exposure to your brand, especially if it matches the name of your company. It also makes it easier to generate word of mouth because people will remember your business name and pass it along to others. When you buy a domain name, make sure it’s memorable and positively reflects what your brand represents.
How Much Does a Domain Name Cost:
For the majority of domain names with a .com extension, you should not expect to pay more than $10-20 a year. Newer domain name extensions like .bio, .app, or .digital will end up being expensive because they have fixed wholesale prices negotiated between the ICANN (the regulator for domains) and the registrar. Others like .biz and .net are inexpensive to register because they don’t pack the same type of punch.
It’s worth mentioning that a domain name is not a one-time purchase. You’re also required to be a renewal fee every year, which generally costs a bit more than what you’ll pay to register the domain. This is because the majority of registrars offer discounted pricing to first-time buyers. In addition, you’ll need to pay an additional amount if you include any add-on in your domain name purchase. Popular add-ons include privacy protection, custom email address, and on-demand backups.
How to Choose the Right Domain Extension
With a variety of domain name extensions to choose from, how do you know which one is the best for your business? The simple answer is to use the .com extension if it’s available. I say this because .com is by far the most valuable and used domain extension. According to The GrowthBadger Blog, it’s 33 percent more memorable than websites with other top-level domains.
If you’re unable to secure the .com extension, the next best alternatives are .net or .org. The latter is traditionally used for non-profit companies, so if that isn’t appropriate, you should opt for .net. Alternatively, if you are a smaller company in a certain location, registering a country domain extension like .ca or .uk might be a logical move.
You can also get creative and try some of the newer domain extensions instead of .net or .org. For example, registering the .STORE domain extension would immediately make your ecommerce store stand out from the rest. Whether you have an online store or a brick-and-mortar outlet, newer extensions like these can be a crowd-puller for your business. You can view the list of all available extensions here.
How Do I Search for a Domain Name? When learning how to find a domain name, there are several things to look into to help you figure out what the best domain name for your brand is. Here are a few tips for finding the perfect domain name:
Research Before Choosing Your Domain Name
- Research Your Niche
While certain domain names may seem good, they may be available for negative reasons. For example, a great domain name may be available because it was penalized by Google with a previous owner. A domain name with a penalization will take a long time to start ranking again.
This can pose problems as you work to build up the brand. If you’ve purchased a domain name, you can use a tool like Is My Website Penalized to determine if Google has penalized your website. A website can be penalized for duplicate content, thin content and various other reasons.
Another reason why certain domain names may be a bad investment is because the niche is too unpopular or there’s a low search volume for the exact match domain you want. While it may seem like a great investment, you may find you exhaust your audience or fail to drive the traffic you hoped you would over the long term.
- Check Domain Availability
You can use websites like WHOIS to determine your domain name availability. Once you type in the domain name you want, you’ll see if it’s owned by anyone. If you do a domain name search for a popular name like mashable.com , it might list the domain name availability, but sometimes the domain that’s available is worth thousands of dollars because it has an owner looking to sell it.
If the domain name availability shows that the domain name is taken, your best bet is to look for an alternative name.. I say this because if the domain you want is taken by a popular website, you might have difficulty ranking. Second, the domain may have a trademark and you could get sued for having a similar name.
You’ll want to look into this before adding filler words to an unavailable domain. Avoid adding words like “shop”, “store” or “the” to your domain name as it can cause a few issues.
- Research First, Buy Second
While you should act fast when buying a domain name you love, avoid making impulse buys for domain names. It’s really easy to buy the first domain name you like only to realize you thought of a better name later. Or that you’re interested in another niche altogether.
As a person who regularly builds up new stores, I have dozens of unused domain names that I don’t have the time to devote to. I’m constantly thinking of niche ideas outside of what I have domains for. So I know first hand how easy it is to get overly excited about a name without doing research and making some careful considerations.
If you found a great domain name, do research immediately. What’s the search volume for those keywords? And for the niche? Is the brand name appropriate? Is it easy to read? Once you’ve done some thorough research to make sure the niche is perfect and the name is exactly what your brand stands for, buy it. If the niche is skyrocketing in popularity, you’ll want to act fast. Just make sure you’ve thought it through before making your purchase.
- Check Trademarks Before Buying
You should also look into trademarks before buying a domain name. I once bought a domain name that I loved, and I was so excited to work on my brand until I talked to one of my friends. ‘I’m surprised that isn’t trademarked,’ he said. I decided to look into it. It was trademarked. Yikes! I spent money on a domain name I couldn’t use.
When working on your domain name search, always look up your domain name and the word trademark to determine if its trademarked. For example, doing a Google search for ‘flirty thirty’ and ‘trademark’ will give you an idea whether flirty thirty is trademarked.
Common expressions and names similar to other brands could be trademarked. If you notice domain name availability that seems too good to be true, it’s possible that it is. Always check for trademarks before you buy a domain name.
- Buy It When You Find It
After you’ve found the perfect domain name and done your due diligence, you need to act fast. If you’re going after a trending product niche, your perfect domain name could be snatched up pretty quickly. Avoid sitting on a domain name too long. If your gut tells you this is the right domain name for your brand, buy it.
The worst feeling in the world is waiting too long to buy a domain name only for it to be bought by someone else within days of you deciding. It’s happened to me. I was once so excited to buy a domain name only to find out it was purchased by someone else the day before. Horrible feeling.
Because finding the perfect name can be challenging, avoid procrastination. When you find a domain name you love, act promptly.
- Pick Something Your Customer Will Like
A domain name should mean something to your audience. For example, Forever 21 is a fashion store for women. The name Forever 21 represents women who are youthful. Twenty one is a fun age for many women and the brand name ties in the emotional connection with that number. Another example is Best Buy. Best Buy tells customers that you can buy the best things here. They sell high-end products like televisions, laptops, and phones, which are all loved products.
Similarly, Addicting Games is a popular website of free online games. Considering how addictive popular games and apps can be, the website name matches the niche. While addiction can have a negative connotation in other niches, it can have a positive one in this niche. Those who are looking for a great game to fill out their spare time will likely enjoy a website like this one. Because addictive games are the best games.
Overall, it is important to understand your target market before you choose your domain name. This involves market research, speaking to your perceived target audience, finding out your direct competitors and where they got their name from. This can help you shape how your audience thinks, and how you can instill trust within them for your brand through identifying a domain name that means something to them.
- Try Your Ideas with Someone
Check your domain name with others as they can provide valuable insight. A domain name may have a different meaning in different languages, so if you are planning to sell in another country’s market, it is important to have a domain name checker on your side that understands the nuances of a new language or culture.
A few years ago I was sitting in a restaurant with my boyfriend telling him about a domain name idea for a website I was creating. And he ended up coming up with a similar but simpler suggestion. While brainstorming your own ideas and using domain name generators can be helpful, sometimes friends and family can come up with great ideas too.
If the person you’re talking with has a background in marketing, search engine optimization or branding, they can be a great resource to talk to for domain name ideas. They’ll likely know what type of domain names will already be taken, making your domain name search easier. And they’ll also be able to provide suggestions that can work well for your brand. It’s always great to get a second opinion on a domain name idea you have.
- Make Your Name Brandable
When conducting your domain name search, you may find brand names are most common among top store owners. Like I mentioned earlier, you can create a brand name that includes a keyword like ‘Beauty Bay’ or ‘Erase Cosmetics.’
Creating your own brand name like Sephora, Google, or Walmart will take a bit more creativity. Doing this will cause you to work harder to educate people on what your brand does. With a unique name, you can assure that you’ll rank at the top of search when people look up your brand.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Domain Name
- Don’t Limit Your Future Plans
If you know that your long term goal is to create an everything store like Amazon, Walmart, or Target, focus on choosing brand names rather than exact match keywords. In the beginning, your store might start out with a niche focus. However, as you start to better understand your audience, you might start including other products beyond your original niche.When you think about your online store, is your goal to sell within this specific niche for years to come or do you plan on selling other products beyond it. Be honest with yourself. Where do you see your brand in a year from now? Five years?
Also, think about some of the biggest brand names in the world. Do they use general names or keyword names? For example, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Google don’t mention keywords in their names and they’re some of the biggest brands in the world. Is your goal to build a brand or create a niche store? If you plan on building a brand, you might want to create a brand name without keywords.
If you plan on sticking to a niche, you’ll want to add a certain keyword. There’s no right or wrong decision. Not having keywords in your domain name can be more challenging for a new store because people won’t know what you sell until they visit your website. It may also be harder to rank in search in the short term. However, as your brand awareness grows, you’ll start ranking for keywords for your niche. But you’ll need to be committed to building your brand awareness.
- Buy a Preowned Unused Domain
Sometimes the domain you want is taken but isn’t being used. While this can be frustrating, you can contact the owner to potentially buy it from them. You can use WHOIS to find the domain name owner’s contact information. Keep in mind that many pay to make their contact information confidential. Others, especially those interested in selling their domain names, will have their contact information visible.
When you buy a domain name directly from the owner, it will typically cost more than buying a domain name from a domain name provider. On average, when I buy domain names from owners, I usually start with an offer of $100 if it doesn’t have extremely high search volume. The owner will either accept the offer or give a counter. If the domain keywords have high search volume, their counter offer may be acceptable.
It can take some experience to know whether or not the domain name is worth the price someone offers. If a domain name’s price is too high, remember that you can reject it or counter back.
- Learn How to Check the History of a Domain Name
Before dropping a few (or a few hundred) bucks on an existing domain name, make sure to check its history. The domain name you’re looking at might be great in terms of backlinks, but it might also have been penalized in the past for using black hat SEO tactics. So, before going ahead and registering a domain name, conduct your due diligence to see if any malicious history is associated with it.
There are several tools out there that will let you check the history of a domain name. I recommend Wayback Machine over others because it lets you see how a website hosted on a particular domain looked like in the past.
For instance, you can view what Twitter looked like in 2010. Likewise, you can check the website for any domain name in existence to ensure the previous owner wasn’t using it for illegal activities.
- Ensure Equivalent Social Media Handles Are Free
Before buying your domain, you need to check to see if the social media handles are available. In an ideal situation, all your social media handles should be the same as your domain name. However, and more often, each social media platform will have a different handle. Maintaining the same social media url for all platforms will allow customers to easily find your brand on social media and in search.
You can use a tool like Namechk to determine if the handle and domain names are available for the brand name you’d like. The website highlights available domain extensions and social media platforms for those exact keywords. You’ll want to have the .com domain name and main social media platforms available, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube.
- Keep Your Personal Information Safe
ICANN allows people to lookup the contact information of domain holders. This may be regarding a copyright lawsuit, domain purchase or business related matters. When you register a domain name, your address and email address will appear. If you don’t own a business office, people will know your personal home address.
Whois has a service called WhoisGuard that offers protection for a small annual fee to hide your address and contact information. This is ideal for those who own home businesses and want to protect their confidentiality or those who simply don’t want to be contacted at all. You can purchase WhoisGuard protection through domain name providers like Namecheap for under $3.
- Buy Similar Domain Names
I constantly have people asking me to share my store with them. This section explains the reason I don’t. A couple of years ago, I spent all my time building out a store. My store was doing great. We had regular sales. Our Instagram following was skyrocketing. Everything was perfect.Then, one day someone messaged me asking for advice, and I happily shared some of my experiences. They knew what my online store was and decided to copy everything about it down to the brand name.
The store created several social media accounts with variances like it. They got fake followers and made their brand new store look more popular than mine. They copied my brand name and simply added an extra keyword. I was so mad at myself for sharing my store and tactics. However, the brutal honest truth is that even if I didn’t, the copycats would still emerge in time.
As you start growing in popularity, others will notice your brand is succeeding and emulate your niche. Even I’ve done it. After my original store failed, I noticed another online store with super high social media engagement and went into the same niche. It ended up becoming my most popular store of all time. However, I chose to create my own brand with my own unique brand name. So, if you find a great domain name you love, buy all the variants for it. Buy the extensions like .net, the additional keywords like (name)shop.com and (name)store.com. You’ll also want to buy common misspellings of your domain name. Make it impossible for someone to copy your brand name.
- Be Smart When Choosing a Domain Name for SEO
For SEO purposes, it might be tempting to choose a domain name that closely matches your business or product offering. However, tactics like these have been attempted and no longer work. Google’s Exact Match Domain algorithm filters or penalizes webmasters who create low-quality content websites with exact match domains.
So, rather than going with domain name suggestions like bestcarfilters.com or getbroadwayticketsnow.com, choose a name that is relatable to your brand (you’ll thank me later). While exact match domains might give you a temporary boost in search engine result pages, a well-thought-out brand name will help you stand the test of time.
Best Practices for Buying a Good Domain Name
- Find the Best Keywords
Some brands choose to add keywords in their domain name to help it rank better in search. You can create a brand name with a keyword in it like the brand EraseCosmetics.com. Adding keywords to your domain name allows people to immediately know what you sell on your store. This works best for niche stores. If you choose a domain name with a keyword in it, make sure the keyword is popular.
For example, a store name with the keywords ‘cycling shorts’ is restricting. However, having the ‘cycling’ keyword allows you to sell more products within that niche. However, the downside to having keywords in your domain is that it can restrict what you sell over the long term.
For example, if Amazon’s website was called AmazonBooks.com, they’d eventually have to change their domain name as they began to expand their product collections. Having keywords in their domain name would’ve made it more challenging to grow their brand to include other products.
- Make It Easy to Spell
If you heard a domain name from a friend or on the radio, would you know how to spell it? Some words can sound the same but are spelled differently like ‘read’ and ‘red’ or ‘feat’ and ‘feet’ or ‘pair’ and ‘pear.’ Avoid using homonyms in your domain name as it can lead to incorrect spellings of your domain.
You should also use words that are easy to spell. If it has a silent letter like knapsack, or if it’s hard to spell like handkerchief, or is spelled differently in different countries like center and centre, it can pose problems if people try to type in the exact domain into the search bar. Make sure to select words that are simple to type so people can find your website with ease.
Additionally, try choosing words that have fewer characters. On average, a domain name should be 5-6 characters in length, though the average is typically about 13 characters. By having fewer characters, it’s likely that the word will be easier to spell. Avoid using long or complicated words in your domain name.
- Pick Something That Sounds Nice
A name should roll off the tongue easily. If it is catchy or memorable, it’ll be easier to stay top of mind for your customers. A bad domain name example is xtremetiregarage.com, which has three words that do not flow as well as a one or two word domain. It also spells extreme without the e which makes it difficult for a customer to spell.
Examples of domain names with a nice ring to them are Shopbop.com, Topshop.com and Boohoo.com, which all rhyme. Yet, when you search for fashion stores in search, these online stores all rank high. Brand names that rhyme are often memorable, easy to say and have a nice ring to them.
While your online store name doesn’t have to rhyme, it should be catchy. Domain names like BeautyBay.com, BeautyPie.com, and BestBuy.com either use alliteration or puns. This also makes it easy for people to remember the domain name.
- Don’t Make It Too Long
While you probably won’t find an available one word domain, you can definitely create your own. It’ll take a bit of creativity to create a memorable, easy to spell one word domain but it’s still possible.
You’re more likely to create a two word domain though. Two and three word domains are becoming more and more common these days. You might have one descriptive word and pair it with your niche word.
A great two word domain name example is DiscountDance.com, a site that sells discounted dancewear. They described their store with the word discount which helps illustrates that the store sells affordable products. They also use their niche ‘dance’ in the domain which helps people find them using the keyword ‘dance.’
- Use a Domain Name Generator
We compiled a list of business name generators, including the Oberlo Business name generator, that can help you create the perfect domain name. Some of the resources in the article let you know if the .com domain for your brand is available or taken.
Many of the domain name generators also allow you to add a keyword of your choice. The keyword you choose will be paired with another word to help you create a memorable brand name. A domain name search tool can be helpful in coming up with domain name ideas.
Often times, when we sit down to come up with our own list of domain names, it can be hard to think of names that aren’t already taken. These domain name search programs help you find outside the box ideas that are available for purchase.
- Make It Easy to Say
If your domain name doesn’t use common words or has a weird spelling, it can be difficult to pronounce. Sometimes people don’t realize that there are two distinct words and read them as one. Having a domain name that’s difficult to pronounce can make it challenging for customers and for branding.
Noah Kagan of SumoMe.com recently bought the Sumo.com domain name because he noticed that people had difficulty pronouncing the name. He also bought the $1.5 million dollar domain because four letter domain names often sound more trustworthy and to avoid confusion with copycat brands.
- Don’t Use Numbers or Hyphens
Hyphens and numbers don’t typically rank well. They’re also hard to communicate to a person. For example, if you were creating a radio ad for the website ‘CityBeautiful21.com’ you’d have to say that it’s the number 21, otherwise people will spell it out.
If you have a website with hyphens, you’ll need to tell people not to forget the hyphen. Numbers and hyphens can create a bad user experience. Customers looking for your website will be more likely to misspell it. Stick to the basics by only using the letters of the alphabet. You might not end up with your first domain name choice but in the end your domain name search will land you a great name.
- Don’t Abbreviate Words
Abbreviated words can be hard to articulate. Some brands choose to abbreviate words because the domain name is too long, they can’t get the appropriate keywords or they want to capture attention.
One domain name example is M.R.K.T, a business that has mrktstore.com as the domain name. The name is hard to read at first glance. The acronym is short for Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger. Having a four word domain is often considered too long. While abbreviating it makes sense in this situation, it does pose issues for customers. The domain name is hard to read and can be difficult to remember since it also includes the word store in it.
UK fashion retailer French Connection became quite popular with its controversial brand name when it first entered the fashion scene. The logo on their stores was spelled as FCUK which stood for French Connection United Kingdom. However, you can likely guess that it also looks like the F-word. Naturally, when people saw the brand name, it captured people’s attention, but FCUK received backlash. However, their domain name and brand name are now FrenchConnection.com.
How to Select the Best Domain Registrar
Domain name registrars are companies that manage the purchase and sales of generic top level and country level domain extensions. Hundreds of companies have been authorized by the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to act as domain name registrars. However, no two registrars are alike with some offering benefits and services that others don’t. So, how can you identify the best domain registrar for your business?
With a domain name search, you’ll discover that there are a few key areas in which leading registrars tend to shine:
- Pricing: The best domain name registrar is the one that offers excellent deals on registrations and renewals. Sometimes you can find deals for as low as $5 per year.
- Control panel: Ideally, you want to opt for a registrar who offers a simple user panel to help you control your domains. Maybe you want to transfer your domain name to someone. Perhaps you want to modify the domain name’s CNAME records. An intuitive control panel can simply such tasks.
- Privacy protection: At the very least, the domain name registrar should give you the option to conceal your personal information from those who would to peak at your website records.
- Payment methods: Popular registrars allow you to pay for domain name registration online by bank transfer, PayPal, or credit card, and that is what you should do. While some give the option to send checks via mail, that could be risky in the fast-moving world of the internet.
The 5 Best Domain Name Registrars in 2019
There are so many domain registration websites out there today where you can purchase a wealth of domain names at the click of a button. Below are only a handful of the top domain name registrars who will register your domain name for a registration fee.
NameCheap provides domain registration, hosting, management and more services for over five million domain names worldwide. This easy on the eye website offers a great UX experience, meaning you can purchase domain names and other services from them effortlessly for as little as $ 0.88.
When you find that a domain name you like has been taken, you can offer to buy the domain from the owner through NameCheap’s services. Check out their website for more information about their offerings and if they are the best domain registration service for you.
With over 18 million people relying on GoDaddy to maintain their website, the registrar’s services range from registration and hosting to security and online marketing. With this multitude of services to choose from, it can be hard to just purchase domain registration and hosting.
You can buy domains for as low as $ 0.99 for the first year. Do keep an eye on the overall cost as prices can increase significantly for other years. Check out their new extras and what they can do for you today.
Well known as the best hosting company to get started online, Bluehost registers domain names, provides hosting, and delivers support 365 days a year. Purchasing a hosting package can mean a free domain name so be sure to check the offers on their website.
As the power behind 2 million websites worldwide, Bluehost’s services are top notch and reliable, Part of what makes them one of the best domain name registrars is providing easy installation within WordPress, so if your website is built on this CMS, they could be the best domain registration and hosting service for you.
HostGator offers low-priced domain registration and hosting for as little as $4.99 a month, and boasts a 99.9% uptime. They currently host over 9 million websites on their platform. As a user-friendly and well documented DNS, you can add, transfer and remove domains easy within your account.
You also get around the clock support using phone, chat and ticketing so all queries are assisted. This could be the best domain registration option for you if you are looking for a quick and cheap package to get your ecommerce website off the ground.
If you’re building an ecommerce store, then you can buy a domain name while registering your store on Shopify. If you don’t know which domain name you’d like, you can use free business name generators to help you find and buy a domain name.
You can buy domain names on Shopify by entering the domain name you’d like. You can also add the keyword you like into the search box. A list will populate of relevant domain names. However, not all the domain names will have the keyword for your niche, but they’ll be relevant to your niche.
For example, if you search for yoga, you’ll receive suggestions such as ‘BikramRelax.net’, ‘MyBikramYoga.com’ and ‘PowerRelaxOnline.com.’ While yoga isn’t a keyword in all of them, the domains are relevant to the yoga niche. Once you choose a domain name, you can reserve the domain name on Shopify. You’ll need to enter your email, password and store name. Your store will automatically be created.
The next steps will require you to tell Shopify a little bit about yourself such as if you already have a store and how much you’re already earning. You’ll then need to fill out your details such as address so you can get paid once your store starts making money.
Your store will be created. You can buy a domain name in Shopify after its creation. Obviously, you’ll need to pay for your domain name to ensure that you get it.
You’ve officially purchased your first domain name.
Now, you can immediately start working on your store.
How did your domain name search go? Did you buy a domain name you love? Let us know in the comments below.