Anyone who wants a WordPress website needs to know how to choose the bests domain name for their project. It matters because it helps to identify you, your site’s theme, or your business. This guide starts by looking at the importance of a unique website name.
What’s in a Name?
Words matter and the more relevant your domain name is to your website, the better. The right choice adds credibility to individuals, companies, and brands. Short—or easy-to-remember—names are the best. Make sure the extension (.com, .net, .biz, etc.) is relevant to your theme as well. An appropriate domain also contributes to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Below are good and bad examples of domain names for personal and business use:
And for business websites:
The first URLs not only look neater, but they’re also much easier to read and remember. That means people are more likely to recommend your website to others in passing. Popular .com names are probably gone already, but you have more options now with so many alternatives. Dashes (-) and numbers are acceptable but use them sparingly if you need to be creative.
A company domain name should correspond with its branding, products, or services. Whether you’re a business or an individual, always make sure the extension is relevant.
7 Tips for Choosing the Best Domain Name
Too many people register domains in haste only to regret it later. Think carefully about what your site is now, and what you hope it will become in the future. The domain should always relate to the content on your WordPress blog, website, or online store.
Here are 8 essential tips for choosing the perfect domain:
- Keep it short as possible
- Be creative—with caution
- Choose an easy-to-type name
- Memorable domains matter
- Use keywords if appropriate
- Target your audience or area
- Choose a suitable domain extension (TLD)
- How to find your new domain name
There’s not much to learn, but let’s go over the above points in a little more detail.
#1 Keep it Short as Possible
The best domain name is one that people can recognise just by looking at it. It’s far too long if it’s a sentence, e.g., www.healthandfitnessmatters4you.info/. This example is doubly complex because it replaces the word ‘for’ with the number 4.
Below are 6 complications with lengthy domain names:
- Hard to remember (not catchy)
- Difficult to read
- Easy to mistype or spell incorrectly
- Hard to pronounce
- Not search engine-friendly
- Takes up a lot of space on small printed material like business cards
Domain name rules
Dot COM, UK, ORG, and dot NET domain names must not exceed 64 characters. All other extensions have a 63-character limit. The minimum length for all domains is just 3 characters. Domain names can only include letters, numbers, and hyphens. Hyphens cannot form the first or last character in the name. See more on the functional specifications here.
#2 Be Creative
New users often opt for long names out of frustration. That’s usually because all the shorter ones are gone, and they get fed up searching. You may have had a similar experience trying to set up a free email account with Google or Yahoo. The next section offers a potential workaround.
It’s time to be creative if you can’t find anything you like. One way to do this is to add a dash (hyphen) or number, but use sparingly. Use dots and dashes as a last resort, though.
The examples below give you some ideas on how to be inventive.
- mysite.com (name taken)
- my-site.com (available)
- fourhorshoes.biz (name taken)
- 4horseshoes.biz (available)
Another idea is to use a thesaurus to find recognised synonyms and try those in the name.
Don’t overdo hyphens and numbers
The shorter your domain, and the fewer dashes and numbers it has, the easier it is to remember. That’s a crucial consideration when choosing any new website name. Numbers are more problematic when talking about a website. You need to explain it’s the number—not the word—as you tell someone the web address. You may have heard people do this on TV and radio shows.
#3 Choose an Easy-to-Type Name
How easy is it to type the name you want into a web browser? The use of slang often appeals to new users as a way to secure their short domain name. Some sites use the letter ‘u’ instead of you, or ‘b’ in place of be or bee, as two examples. It might make perfect sense to the webmaster. But it’s not easy to type for someone who’s only heard—not seen—the website name.
Points to note: In cases like these, a site name can be memorable, but only in pronunciation. Also, long names and ones that use, dashes, and numbers can result in lost traffic.
#4 Memorable Domains Work
Some longer domains can be more memorable than shorter ones. The catchy phrase “life begins at fifty” (lifebeginsatfifty.com) is quite long but still easy to remember. A domain like this would work with the number 50 too, as people associate age with numbers. Even better is that 50 would be at the end of the domain and not sandwiched somewhere in the middle:
Again, be creative, and try to strike a balance with domain length and its memorable factor. All good domain registrars have Domain Name Suggestion Tools, so play around with those too.
#5 Use Keywords
Keywords and key phrases are memorable because it’s what people type when they search. They’re also relevant to your WordPress website. Get a keyword or phrase into your domain name if it makes sense to the overall theme of your project, but don't be tempted to stuff keywords in there. Use keywords IF it makes sense, but DO NOT use a complete keyword phrase as your domain name. This type of keyword phrase domain is called an Exact Match Domain (EMD), and Google hates them.
A few years ago, webmasters found out that by using a domain name that was the keyword phrase they wanted to rank for, the site would get a massive ranking boost in Google. Way back in September 2012, Google released the “EMD Update” which removed that unfair ranking advantage. Hundreds of thousands of EMD sites dropped out of the Google top 10 overnight, which saw an end to a large industry that had profited in buying and selling EMDs.
Today, EMD sites are rarely seen in Google.
#6 Target Your Audience and or Area
It’s better to have a few targeted visitors to your site than 10,000 virtual tire kickers. Yes, the latter looks better in your visitor stats. But they’re no use if they don’t hang around for more than 5 seconds. A hundred targeted visitors who stay on your site and interact are far more valuable. Thus, all webmasters should know who they’re targeting.
Demographics matter. Think about who your audience is as you explore domain names. Also, if your blog, site, or store is local, get the town, city, or region into the name. An example might be www.bristolboatrepairs.uk/. It’s more targeted than just boatrepairs.uk/. This is a classic case where a longer domain triumphs over a shorter one. It’s also keyword-rich.
#7 Choose a Suitable Domain Extension
A domain extension or suffix is the last part of a web address. It could be .COM, .NET, .ORG, and so on. The technical guys call this the Top-level Domain or TLD for short. As of June 2020, there are 1584 TLDs available. That’s according to Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). There’s a much better chance of getting your preferred domain name now with so many extensions.
Choose a niche TLD with caution
Let’s say you’ve found your perfect domain name but with an unfamiliar extension. The advice here is to choose with caution. Why? Because the TLD needs to make sense. You can choose from classic, niche-orientated, or country-specific. It’s the niche TLDs you need to be mindful of.
We’ll use a health and fitness website as an example. It would look quite odd if its domain read: www.healthybody.estate/. You have the right name but the wrong extension. A .fitness/ TLD would make much more sense in this case. The .COM extension remains the most popular choice today. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find available, short, memorable names using dot com.
Avoid these niche TLDs
The growing choice of TLDs is welcome news, but always make sure it’s relevant to your site. Also, spammers are attracted to certain niche extensions, so avoid those at all costs. They include .DATE, .FIT, .GA, .GQ, .MEN, .ML., .TK, .WANG, and .WORK. It’s wise to check the updated list of TLDs on the badness index before you buy any niche extension.
Some new TLDs are self-explanatory, like .PHOTOGRAPHY, .FITNESS, and .GURU, etc. Others are less obvious. There are too many to cover in this guide. Below are some of the popular classic TLD choices. Search for these to begin with if they’re appropriate for your website.
Still the perfect domain extension for anything and everything
Non-profit charitable and other non-profit organisations, and free public information sites
Any type of website that offers useful information to visitors
Use country-specific TLDs if it’s important to your WordPress website
An excellent choice for commerce, company, and community-related sites
Best for internet service providers (ISPs), network services, and online tech companies, etc.
Personal blogs, resumes, and private portfolios, etc.
Many webmasters opt for .info, .net. and .org if .com is taken. The golden rule is to stick with the generic top-level domains (gTLDs) when possible. Only explore the niche options if not.
#8 How to Find Your New Domain Name
An online business that sells domain names is a registrar. It could be a dedicated service or a hosting company. There are hundreds of these, but the best advice is to go with a reputable name (see below for examples). Those new to WordPress often prefer to buy a domain from the same company that hosts their new website.
Read: Domain Name vs Web Hosting for more on buying domains and hosting together.
Below is the simple 5-step procedure for choosing a new domain:
- Go to the website of a reliable domain registrar
- Check for domain name availability using the search tool
- Accept your domain if it’s available, or choose the next best option
- Add to cart and proceed to check out using your preferred payment method
- Follow the welcome email verification instructions sent by the registrar
Registrars always give alternatives for you to consider if your preferred domain is unavailable. Let’s use domesticcats.com as a working example:
In this case, domesticcats.com is unavailable. The registrar has given some alternatives with different TLDs. There are usually many more options offered than those on the image. However, always make sure the TLD (extension) is relevant before you snap up the SLD (site name).
Point to note: It’s possible to make an offer to the domain holder who owns your first choice. This process is typically carried out on your behalf by a domain agent. There are no guarantees you’ll get it, or the price asked may be too high. Still, it’s worth a go if you’re set on the name.
Further reading: What Is a Domain Name & How Much Does One Cost?