How to Choose a Domain Name

When deciding what to name your website, don't forget about branding, SEM, and customer interaction.

One of the trickiest parts of launching a new IP is figuring out a domain name.

To find the right fit, you may spend hours typing various keyword combinations into, only to discover that all the ones you like are already taken.

Indeed, “domainers” like Mike Mann (who once registered nearly 15 thousand domains in a day) use software to find and automatically register available sites, and then flip them for a massive profit. The software can also catch expiring domains and register them within a nanosecond after they become available.

These companies do not rely on software alone – they work directly with the registrars to get early access to expiring domains before they hit the marketplace.

With these guys scooping up all the top URLs, it is challenging for regular businesses to find premium, unregistered domain names. You may end up having to spend a pretty penny to get what you want.

Before you invest in something as important as your site’s name, we recommend making the following considerations.

1. Branding

Choosing a domain name is sometimes a balancing act. On the one hand, you want that perfect description of what your company does. At the same time, it needs to be snappy and memorable.

It is hard to know when you are teetering too much in one direction, and some of us sacrifice personality for keyword strength.

For instance, how brandable is Not very. It is long, overly specialized, and a little too salesy to be endearing (not to mention the fact that it is very expensive).

You may find a better domain name (and save money) if you go with something that’s not a prominent keyword phrase. The more abstract you get, the more likely the domain name will be available.

Going back to the pool cover example, dot-com domains for PoolCoverShop, GoPoolCover, and PoolCovered were all available at the time of publishing this article.

If you want something truly unique, try cracking open a Thesaurus. I entered “cover” into, and “overlay” jumped out at me. is available (again, at time of publishing).

With the Thesaurus I also came up with “,” which doesn’t make much sense, but I think the name is catchy enough to be brandable.

Some of the Internet’s most popular sites use a single word that is either made up or doesn’t have anything to do with the company. Think: Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Bing, and Spotify.

That is the magic of branding. If you can find a word or phrase that people like and will contextually associate with your industry without reservations, then that might be all you need.

2. SEM

Whether you are talking about organic traffic or PPC, one of the most important metrics is the click-through rate (CTR). The higher your CTR, the higher Google will place your site, both in ads and in regular listings.

Your domain name has a lot to do with whether a customer clicks on your site from the search engine result page (SERP). That is another reason keyword domain names are so popular (and expensive).

If you are looking for a pool cover, why wouldn’t you go to The domain name adds instant credibility and authority (although, for some reason, the people who own the domain are redirecting it to

Then, there is the fact that Google ranks you higher just for having the keywords in your domain name. (Google says that owning a keyword rich domain will not in and of itself affect your search ranking, but studies show the opposite – although, experts say keyword richness means less than it used to.)

Even when you factor in these benefits, a keyword rich domain may be cost-prohibitive. While writing this article, I checked to see how much GoDaddy wanted for The bidding started at $10 thousand.

A quick search of the “inground pool covers” keyword term showed me that the average cost per click for that term is just over $2. If you bid around that, you could expect around 100 clicks a month (more in the summer, of course).

Based on competition and search volume, if you had the top-ranked SEO site for “inground pool covers,” you could expect around 300 monthly organic clicks originating from users searching for that term. You would be lucky to crack the top five, though, as you would have to compete against big names like eBay and Amazon.

Assuming you were able to get into the top five, you would likely net around 100 clicks a month for the search term “inground pool covers.” That would be worth about $200 a month, so it would take you 50 months to break even on the $10 thousand purchase of the domain name (and that is not to mention how much time and effort it would take to optimize the site for SEO).

In this example (and in most cases), it seems wiser to use PPC marketing to go after that term rather than purchasing the expensive domain name and hoping for SEO traffic.

If you decide to purchase a premium domain, you should have it checked out by a valuation company. They will be able to tell if you are getting swindled.

At the end of the day, choosing a domain name for SEM is very similar to selecting one that is brandable. You need to appeal to the customer.

3. Customer Interaction

You start building a relationship with your customers from the moment they see your domain name on the SERP. You want them to take you seriously, but before that happens, you need them to notice you.

The customer’s relationship with your domain name does not end at first click. It carries on throughout the entire conversion process.

To make sure your domain name compels the user toward conversion, it should follow each of these points:

  • It does not prohibit the customer from associating your company with your niche. (That does not mean the name needs to be directly related to what you offer; it needs to “fit” in terms of how it makes the customer feel.)
  • It galvanizes your credibility. (“CrazySillyFunPoolTops” is sure to stand out, but your average customer might think it is a little too much and not click on it.)
  • The customer will easily remember it. (Your remarketing efforts will be more fruitful if the customer remembers your website’s name. Also, you want them to be able to tell their friends about you.)
  • It is pronounceable and short. (According to Moz, we have a cognitive bias toward words we can pronounce in our minds, meaning we have a positive association with website names we can process fluently.)
  • It uses a dot-com TLD. (Customers still prefer sites with dot-com TLDs over other options; e.g., .net, .org, and .me.)
  • It is not on any blacklists. (Sites like let you check the DNS MX records of any site. If the site you are interested it has been blacklisted, it can lead to trouble down the road, like with email marketing.)
  • It is not unintentionally offensive. (Remember the old “Make 7 Up Yours” slogan?)
  • It does not use hyphens. (Potential repeat customers might forget there was a hyphen in your site and go somewhere else on accident.)
  • It does not infringe on a trademark. (Brand confusion hurts your brand – but it is doubly bad if a judge thinks a customer could reasonably confuse your domain name with one that is trademarked by somebody else.)
  • It is not being used in other places already. (The domain may be available, but check and make sure the name is not taken on social media sites, YouTube, and anywhere else you will advertise.)

If you are launching a website for a local business, you might consider including your city in the domain name. This should make it easier to find one that is available, and it is a great way to show your customers that what you offer is close to them.

Nothing puts the breaks on designing a new IP like trying to come up with the domain name. That is okay. It is worth it to take a little time to choose the right name. As you run through your top picks, we hope our tips help you find a good fit for your business.