An effective domain name requires more than just a cool-sounding moniker. Domains can be difficult to change once they’re in place, so it’s important to consider every aspect of a possible name choice before you make your final decision.
Fortunately, there are a few easy steps you can take to determine whether the domain name you’re considering is a smart bet. This process can also help winnow down your list of possible names, making the final decision that much easier. Taking the time to go through a checklist now can help you avoid a costly name change later.
This article will provide a brief overview on what to consider before you pick out your domain name. Let’s get to work!
Why You Should Take Your Time Choosing a Domain Name
Your domain name is one of the first things people will see when they visit your site, so it’s important to get it right. When you register a domain, you are making a non-refundable commitment to that particular name, usually for at least a year.
Once you register a domain name, you’ll have to purchase an additional one if you ever want to change it. Aside from the extra cost involved, this can be a time-consuming process. You will need to set up a domain redirect to divert the flow of traffic from your old URL to the new one. Changing names can also have a negative impact on your search engine rankings when done improperly.
Therefore, you don’t just want to go for the first available name – make sure that it’s the right name. For example, if a domain seems perfect, but key social media handles with the same name are already taken, you may have trouble establishing your brand. On the plus side, mistakes like that are relatively easy to avoid.
What to Do Before Finalizing Your Domain Name Choice (4 Key Tips)
In the past, we’ve talked about the process of choosing the right domain name, and looked at how to pick a standout option. Now, however, we want to introduce at a few more considerations you’ll want to make before actually purchasing your domain.
1. Check Available Social Media Handles
Social media marketing is critical when it comes to establishing an online presence and building an audience. Whether you’re running a blog, business site, e-commerce store, or something else entirely, chances are you’ll want to create a few associated social media accounts.
Therefore, you’ll need to do some research before committing to a domain name. What you want to find out is whether the name is already taken on key social media sites (whichever ones you’d like to target). You don’t need to secure an exact match necessarily, but you’ll want to be able to register something very close to your website’s name.
After all, using social media usernames that are consistent is critical for building a reputation and brand. If your Twitter account is @A2HostingUSA but your Facebook page is @WebhostingA2, audience members or customers will have a harder time connecting the dots.
Fortunately, it’s simple to perform this check on most social media sites. In fact, you’ll probably want to go ahead and set up an account on any platforms you deem vital. Then, you’ll be in a strong position when you register your domain name.
2. See If the Name Is Trademarked
Trademarks are words or phrases that are reserved for certain businesses, and cannot be used by other entities. Before you register a domain, you’ll want to check and see if it’s trademarked, or otherwise already in use.
The law is less clear when it comes to names that are already in use but not trademarked, but it’s still best to avoid these if possible. At best, having a domain too similar to one of your competitors is confusing to your audience. At worst, you could be opening yourself up to potential lawsuits.
Therefore, make sure to search for very similar names as well as exact matches. Just as one example, teenager Mike Rowe found out the hard way that his website, MikeRoweSoft.com, was just a little too close to Microsoft.com.
If you run an American business, there’s an online database where you can quickly search for trademarks:
If your business is located elsewhere, odds are there’s a similar resource you can use. You can also try simply googling the domain name, to see if anyone is using it. If not, that’s a point in your potential domain’s favor.
3. Get a Second Opinion (And a Third)
Before settling on a domain, it’s smart to find out what other people think about it. This seems pretty simple, but it’s an easy step to overlook.
If you’ve been looking at a specific domain name for a while, it can be hard to imagine how a visitor who’s never heard of your site would view it. You don’t need to call in the professionals here – friends and family (and even strangers) can help you spot anything that might be confusing, like unclear spellings or meanings.
For example, before popular social media site Reddit launched, its founder Alexis Ohanian asked strangers on the street how they would spell Reddit.com to see if they got it ‘right’ (or rather, wrong in the right way). After a three people in a row answered “R-E-D-D-I-T,” Ohanian registered the domain – and the rest is history.
4. Make Sure You Can Secure Key Top-Level Domains (TLDs)
A domain name’s Top-Level Domain (TLD) is the part that comes after the period, such as .com or .org. Before you register a domain, you’ll want to find out if all the TLDs you might want to purchase are available.
Most importantly, you’ll want to secure the .com TLD, even if you’re not intending to use it as part of your primary domain. Since .com is the most well-known option, people are likely to type it in when trying to access your site directly. By setting up a simple redirect, you can make sure they end up in the right place.
You may want to nab a few other popular TLDs as well – for example, .net and .org – to avoid potential confusion later. Since domains with different TLDs can use the same name, there’s nothing stopping your competitors from picking up yourcooldomainname.org and redirecting it to their own site.
To find out which TLDs are available for the domain you’re looking at, you can simply use a domain checker tool:
By searching for the domain, you’ll be able to see what’s been taken and what’s up for purchase. Plus, you can buy all the domains you want from the same page. If the name you like has passed all the previous sections with flying colors, then you’re probably ready to settle down with it at this point anyway.
For the most part, choosing the right domain name is a creative process. However, it’s also important to do one last check on practical matters before you finalize your choice. It would be unfortunate to purchase a domain only to find out later that the corresponding Facebook page was taken, or that the name already belonged to another company.
By following our simple checklist, you can avoid these pitfalls. Before you finalize your domain name choice, make sure that you:
- Check available social media handles.
- See if the name is trademarked.
- Get a second opinion.
- Make sure you can secure key TLDs.
Do you have any questions about what to do before registering your domain name? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image credit: Nick Youngson.