How Do You Pick A Great Domain Name?

Ryan Dube 04-12-2013

Choosing the perfect domain name for your website is like choosing the perfect name for your first child. Sound over-dramatic? Well, considering you could spend longer growing that site than you would spend growing a child, it’s not.


Yes, in the past here at MakeUseOf, we’ve discussed everything to do with building a website, everything from avoiding common SEO mistakes 10 Common SEO Mistakes that can Destroy Your Website [Part I] Read More and launching a site using free website services Top 4 Web Tools to Create Free Websites Instantly Read More , to launching an online store 10 Things You Should Do When Starting An Online Store Setting up a store on the Internet is ridiculously easy. Seriously, if somebody tries to charge you thousands for installing an eCommerce solution, just smack them. The hard part is getting search engines to care... Read More . We’ve also talked about domain names before, including how to use domain name search tools 10 Effective Domain Name Search Tools and Domain Finders Want to find an available domain name for your website? These domain search tools will help you find the right one quickly. Read More that might help, and how to make sure you get a good deal when you’re selling a domain name 7 Tips To Get A Great Deal Selling Your Unused Domain Name Domain names can sell for anything from a few hundred dollars, to tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. There are even sales in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in some unique cases.... Read More .

What gives your domain value starts from the day that you come up with its name. The domain name needs to be created around words that will draw in traffic, clever enough to generate intrigue and interest around the Internet, and creative enough to spark interest when it’s mentioned in conversation off the web.

The following are a few tips you can use to choose a domain name for your website, which will increase its likelihood of success.

A Website By Any Other Name

So you have an awesome website idea. Maybe it’s an online store unlike any other that has come before it. Maybe it’s a blog that offers unique content never seen before. No matter what the purpose of your website is, the name is going to form its identity both on and off the web. This is why it’s so important to get the domain name right. Shakespeare once wrote that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. For sure, your website under any other domain name would still be just as amazing, but would anyone ever notice?

A domain name is like a billboard along the highway that announces in just a simple word or phrase, exactly what it is your site offers. Is that billboard going to be bland or grand? That’s completely up to you.



There are 5 elements of a website domain name that will make or break it. You’ll hear bits and pieces about this throughout the Internet, but you’ll rarely read it all on one place. I plan to lay out those 5 elements here, and then provide you with the tools you’ll need to accomplish each of those things to come up with the best domain for your purpose. Those 5 elements are the following:

  • Traffic: How many people are searching for the target words or phrase?
  • Memorable: How hard is it to remember the domain?
  • Easy: Can your 90 year old grandmother get there?
  • Eye-Catching: When people see your domain name, will it tempt them to click?
  • Relevant: Do the words in  your domain accurately describe the site?

If you take any of these for granted, or don’t give them much thought, it could very well come back to bite you down the road.

Why Keywords and Traffic Matters

Recently, Aaron listed some good resources for doing some effective keyword research 7 Free Tools to Get the Best Keywords for Your Site How do you know which are the best keywords? Use these awesome free keyword tools to find high ranking keywords. Read More . Why is this important? Well, despite a recent backlash by many website owners to give up entirely on SEO keyword research following the last batch of Google algorithm updates in 2012 and 2013, the truth is that keyword research continues to provide website owners with a competitive advantage. I described in my article on how not to become a content mill How to Blog For Search Engines Without Becoming a Content Mill Read More , how Matt Cutts himself mentioned noticing that many more website owners are now failing to even use keywords at all in their website considerations.


The fact remains that if you don’t mention the phrase or topic that people are searching for using the search engine, it’s like putting up a roadside lemonade stand along a deserted road in the middle of the desert.


You could have the best-tasting lemonade in the world, yet your little business will completely fail, because you didn’t do your homework and didn’t place yourself where there are lots of eyes to see your awesome business. Do the keyword research. Identify what words people are using to search for the topics that you’ll be covering with your website. And take those keywords into account when you are coming up with the domain name for your website.

Making Your Domain Memorable and Easy

If you want examples of what it means to have a “memorable” domain, all you have to do is check out Time Magazine’s list of the top 50 websites of 2012. Websites like IFTTT, TuneIn, Devour and Atari Arcade all made the cut. Checking out lists of top websites The 100+ Best Websites on the Internet Here are the best websites on the internet to serve every one of your needs, broken into convenient categories for easy browsing. Read More across the Internet is an excellent way to get ideas for what may work in your particular case and your own genre. One thing you may notice from the Time Magazine list is that most of the domain names are short and sweet, but they’re also catchy and easy to remember. IFTTT seems very strange at first, until you see the huge tagline of “If This Then That”.



For the type of people IFTTT targets — basically programmer/techie types that love to automate the things they do online — this is a perfect tagline that’s difficult to forget. I don’t always remember “IFTTT”, but when I want to remember the domain name, I always remember “IfThisThenThat”, and I can type in “” into my browser without the need to Google it.

A memorable domain name is:

  • Usually fairly short.
  • Made up of simple words or a phrase that people in your genre will remember.
  • Not necessarily an English word. Ebay and Pinterest were hardly known words before becoming popular.

Yes, it’s okay to combine words. Electronic Bay (eBay) and a Pinboard of your Interest (Pinterest) are two great examples.


There are lots of domain name generators 6 Domain Generators To Find That Killer Domain Name Read More out there, but five great ones that are very good at developing short and memorable domain names from existing words or phrases include Domainr, Bustaname, Impossibility, NameMesh or Dot-o-mator.

An Eye-Catching and Relevant Domain Name

To being short and easy to remember, a great domain name should be something that catches the eye and makes it very difficult for people to resist clicking. For example, is a site about odd and weird news from around the web. The word isn’t English, but it’s obvious what the site is about at a glance. It’s unusual spelling catches the eye. Another example is If you’ve spent much time on Facebook, then you’ve probably spotted some shares from this popular site filled with user-provided photos of pictures that were ruined in one way or another (really funny, by the way).


Examples of memorable domain names include – a domain that at first glance comes across like a four-letter word. Of course, it’s a website filled with really funny news stories. Or what about, one of the most popular online gaming sites on the Internet? All short, unique, snappy domain names that make you feel like clicking and checking them out if you’re at all interested in the type of content that they serve.

As you can see, the words that make up these popular domain names make sense because they are relevant to the topic at hand. is a perfect example. Pinterest is another. Even Fark, a seemingly irrelevant and meaningless word, indirectly applies to crazy and unusual news stories because the word itself is crazy and unusual.

Start Tossing Names Around

Ready to start brainstorming new domain names that may work for your site? If you’ve finished your keyword research, then jump into the domain name generators mentioned above. A few more that might help combine terms together include online domain name generators like Panabee, Domain Puzzler, or NameStation. Generate some ideas with these online tools, pass them around to your friends and family, and see what kind of reaction you get. You may be surprised how people respond to the unique words you come up with using these tools, and those reactions can help you develop a domain name that gets the same reaction from the online community — which can serve as a major catalyst to your long-term success.

Related topics: Web Design, Web Development, Webmaster Tools.

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  1. Debi
    December 9, 2013 at 12:15 am

    I have a domain with a great name but no time to develop it. But I think its a winner because its short, easy to remember, easy to spell and describes the content perfectly. The name is OddCrimes.Com. It's for sale right now.

  2. p saunders
    December 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I can't really agree with domain name selection as that critical. Maybe 15 years ago when the Web was young but users are far more sophisticated now and are capable of using search engines effectively. Website shills used to push the dot com as the only TLD to have if you wanted visibility but that hardly matters now (it hardly mattered then but I guess they had domain names to sell at a premium). As for the sub-domain, if Amazon can get by with a name that has little to do with what they sell, everyone else can.

  3. Joel L
    December 5, 2013 at 2:33 am

    For a long time, I used to approach naming (whether it was domains, blogs, forum usernames, gaming handles, etc.) with the philosophy that names that sound good tend to be more successful. These days, my thinking on it has changed. The power of a name comes from its association with whatever it represents.

    Example, Nike. On its own, it's two meaningless symbols. The word only has power and draw because they've managed to build a brand. Same goes for people names, video game names, social network names, etc.

    But you do make some great points when it comes to SEO visibility. If search engine traffic is the primary goal (as opposed to building a brand), then it'd probably be a good idea to "engineer" the name in the way you described.

  4. Manuth C
    December 5, 2013 at 12:55 am

    Just make sure that it's not something like haha

  5. Kev Q
    December 4, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    I am a domain addict, I don't know why, but I just love buying them. I always think I will do something really cool with them - but I never do.

    I've actually been really good this year, and let a bunch of them go. I still have a lot of them though! I'm constantly trying to get shorter and shorter domains. My latest ones being &

    • Ryan Dube
      December 5, 2013 at 1:57 am

      I was the same way Kev. For a while I was considering building up a kingdom of information pages covering the best domains out there - but never really had the time to make a go of the project. I've let a lot of my domains go as well, but hold on to a few that I still have big dreams for. Maybe some day. :-)

  6. Tom W
    December 4, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    You mentioned showing the domains to people to gauge their reaction, but there's a specific aspect to this that I wanted to draw attention to.
    Show off your domain name to people who have no idea what the website will be about. Have the name all in lowercase, and ask them what they think it says. This way, hopefully you can avoid making the same mistake as the now infamous sites whose names can be read differently than intended; penisland, powergenitalia, and therapistonline to name but a few.

    • Ryan Dube
      December 5, 2013 at 1:56 am

      That's an excellent point Tom. It's funny how you can look at a domain with one pair of eyes and it makes perfect sense, but then you share it with two or three other people and before long you're wondering what on Earth you were thinking... :-)

    • Tom W
      December 5, 2013 at 11:29 am

      It's a simple case of confirmation bias. You know what it is supposed to say, so that's what you see. Other people will split the words differently, possibly based on what words they're most used to reading.

      It's the same with coding really. You can look at a buggy piece of code for hours and not see the problem, then show it to someone else and they spot something minor in a matter of seconds because they have no bias as to what should be there.

  7. Moe
    December 4, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    I've always had great difficulty with getting the "right" domain name and have changed mine a few times. I'm still trying to get it "right" and seem to fall short on this endeavour. Thanks for the article though as it's a reminder to keep on searching, and what to use as parameters.