Choosing a Domain Name


There are some limitations that shape the choice of domain names, and it’s just as well to have them in mind from the start. First is the matter of characters. Domain names are limited to the ASCII letters a through z, which are not case-sensitive, the digits 0 through 9, and the hyphen or dash character. Furthermore, the hyphen is not allowed to either begin or end the name. You may have noticed domain names with underscores. While these are used by Windows systems, they are not allowed and may cause problems with the system.

Second is the matter of length. The parts of the domain name are separated by periods or dots, with the strings of characters between the dots limited to a maximum of 63 characters, and the entire string limited to 255 characters.

A third limitation is that the name you want, need, or is exactly the same as your business name may not be available. The “first come, first serve” nature of domain name registration has left more than one person in a quandary.

Names to Avoid

Years ago, the group Herman’s Hermits sang a song “A Must to Avoid,” and you’ll do better if you skirt the Must-to-Avoid’s in domain names. First, avoid tradenames: they belong to someone or some organization, and they may sue you to get them back. Also, avoid profanity: it’s positively forbidden by some registrars, and potentially offensive to might-have-been customers.

Consider well, too, before you choose a generic name. First, a generic is really advertising for everyone in the same business rather than doing specific work for you. On the other hand, everybody knows and can remember words like SUV and travel, and the penchant some users have of typing their search into the browser address field rather than a search engine could work in your favor—if the domain name is still available. Be aware that many browsers automatically add “www” and “.com” to searches done this way, so if you have a different TLD, this won’t be of much use to you.

Second, it’s not the most memorable use you can make of your domain name. Have you ever seen or heard of the television series Numb3rs? Numbers is a perfectly ordinary word: Numb3rs is a memorable take on it.

What’s Memorable?

Sure, in 255 characters you could say a good deal about your business or website, but who would remember it all and be able to accurately type it in to their browser to find your site? Better, the experts advise, to think of your domain name the way you think of an advertising catch-phrase: short, memorable, catchy. Of course, you’ll remember the name you chose yourself: check your ideas with friends and colleagues to see if they, too, find them memorable.
Short and Sweet

So what are some good ways to shorten what you want to say to make it fit? One approach is to drop unnecessary words and endings. Instead of “A Better Bargain,” try leaving of the article and using “BetterBargain.” Instead of “The Finest Flowers,” try “FinestFlowers.”

It is suggested to make your business name and your domain name match. What if your business name is already an important brand, and it’s a bit long for domain name use? One approach to try is an acronym. You can try it both including the “little words” and excluding them, and see what you think, remembering that if the initial letters form a word or makes a catchy little rhyme, it will be memorable as well as short.

For specific suggestions about choosing your TLD, see “Which Domain Extension?”