WWW FAQs: What domain name should I choose for my site?

2005-07-22: When you set up your web site, you'll need to register a domain name. Registering a domain isn't hard, but choosing one can be. There are several top-level domains to choose from, including .com, .org, .net, and .biz. (There are other top-level domains for specific countries and special types of organizations. If you are in one of these categories you likely already know it. See what are the top-level domains? for more information.) From this point on, I'll assume your website is for business purposes.

A few simple rules make it easier to pick a good domain name for your business. You may not be able to pick a name that fits all of these, because most of the really obvious names have long since been taken. So I've put these in order, with the most important rules first:

  • Register your domain name in the .com domain, even if this makes it difficult to follow the rest of the rules. The .biz domain, unfortunately, has a seedy reputation. It is viewed as a "bargain" version of .com and people generally don't trust it or see it as necessary. .net is for ISPs and web hosts, not for general business purposes. You can register .net names, but they don't sound "right." A similar objection applies to .org which is intended for nonprofit organizations. Your business should have a domain name that feels as "real" as possible.
  • Keep the name reasonably short and easy to type. A 20-character domain name is too long.
  • Spell the domain name correctly. It is much easier for users to remember it correctly if they don't have to remember a "clever" spelling. Since so many good names are taken, this isn't always possible. When you must use an alternate spelling, make sure it sounds "fun" rather than illiterate. Run your choice of name by a few friends. Make sure their reaction is positive.
  • When possible, don't use a hyphen to separate words. Just run them together. This isn't always possible but bear in mind that an existing site with the same name, minus the hyphens, is bound to get a lot of your traffic.
  • Don't make someone else's trademark part or all of your domain name. You could lose your domain entirely in court and be forced to start building your name recognition all over again.

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