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How to Choose a Domain Name

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/11/2009

You have a web site, but you need a domain name. What sort of things should you consider when it comes to buying your domain name? Read on to find out more about domain names and choosing the right one for your web site.

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    A domain name is the name you and your target audience use to access your site on the Internet. It is very important because it is what your target audience will come to know you by; and you must consider several factors when choosing your domain name. Before you go rushing off to make your purchase, you should pay attention to and weigh all of these factors. This should make the task of choosing and acquiring your domain name much easier for you because you'll learn how to choose a domain name.

    Availability: You need to make sure the domain you desire is available. Check Domain Tools to see if your name is available, and to find out other information about the domain if it is not. In some cases, you may be able to contact the current owner of the domain to see if he or she is willing to sell it to you. This however, is not recommended, as you would probably end up paying way too much for the domain.

    Similar Domain Names: Once you have determined that your desired domain name is available, you need to consider how closely related to other popular domain names it is. If it is too closely related, you may not get traffic to your web site, because someone could end up at the other web site; or, you may get traffic for the other web site accidentally. This means that the traffic to your web site may not be the desired traffic that you need in order to build a successful web site.

    Memorability: This is one area that you need to follow with KISS: Keep it Simple, Sweetie! If your domain is too long, or too complex, people are less likely to remember it. Any web site needs repeat visitors, as well as first time visitors in order to be successful. Keep your domain name short, and remember that not everyone has perfect spelling abilities. Also, consider that while hyphenated domain names actually help the search engine spiders, they are less likely to be remembered by your target audience, and therefore will create the issue mentioned above with wrong traffic.

    Domain Extension: You have several options here, of course. .com, .net, and .org are the most popular. Definitely get the .com extension before anything else if you intend to conduct business. If you must have a particular domain name, try another extension if the .com is not available, but remember the tip on similar domain names. To increase your chances of being found and making sure you get the traffic you want, you can always purchase the same domain on multiple extensions to have it point to the same web site.Here are some other key things to remember when you are ready to purchase your domain.

    • Do not spend a lot of money. Some companies will charge you fees that are completely unnecessary and avoidable. Your domain can be purchased for as low as $1.99 (with hosting attached), or as high as $20 per year. Shop around!
    • Make sure you are not using a name previously trademarked by someone else.
    • If you are a new start up business, try basing your business name on what domains are available.
    • If you do not want people to have the contact information you use when purchasing the domain, add the extra WHOIS guard. The WHOIS database contains information on all the registered domains and their owners. If I want to find out who owns the domain, I can search there. If you do not get that privacy protection and I search for your domain, I have information for you. Note: There is access to WHOIS database information on the aforementioned Domain Tools web site. For more information, read the article All about Domains.

    Keep all these things in mind when you prepare to make domain name purchases, and you will be well on your way to having your web site live in no time!