You may have noticed that we invest in high-quality domain names and offer them for sale here on WiderWebs.com/domains. We buy lots of domains yet are selective about names—it doesn’t make sense to buy domains that won’t grow in value. Over the years we’ve developed a process to help us systematically find and buy the best domains. Read the steps below and follow them carefully to successfully get the right domain or even to name your company or blog.
Step 1 — Recognize and commit to the fact that you need to spend a good amount of time brainstorming for name ideas, evaluating them critically and thoroughly, and rejecting most of your ideas. This is probably the most important step of the process. You need to understand that coming up with a great domain name, or a name for your business, will require iterations; it will require coming up with a large list of names and then narrowing that list down. Do not go with the first decent name idea you think of. And don’t stop after your list has reached 10 ideas. Keep pushing yourself day after day to come up with other original names. You need to get yourself to believe that the name choosing won’t be finished within a couple hours to fully benefit from the steps that follow.
After admitting that you’ll need to commit a lot of time and think of with a ton of names, force yourself to actually do this. Invent all sorts of names, at least five to ten per day. Do it. When you think of a domain name, write a down and move on to thinking of another name. Write down every idea, and don’t cross anything out.
The next steps will be about narrowing down your list of name ideas by critically evaluating and rejecting all or most of the names you came up. After you evaluated each of the names in your list, you may find that you don’t like any of the remaining ideas; in such a case, go back to the beginning of this step and repeat.
Step 2 — The first part of the name evaluation stage is to check for what we call an exclusivity buffer. In short, the name and its close variants (by spelling and pronunciation) must not be taken by somebody else. There are at least four places to check that the name is original:
- Obviously, the domain name itself must not be the taken—but don’t just check the “.com” variant of the domain. If the domain is for your business, you must be able to secure the .com as well as the .net and the .org variants; these apex domain extensions are called top-level domains, or TLDs. You don’t want to be running your business on the .com domain and allow some other organization to use another TLD extension for their things because you can be sure that some people will mistype your address and end up on the wrong website. If you’re buying a domain from a reseller, first check other registrars for the availability of these other variants of the domain you want; if they’re all taken, find out if the owner of one of the variants also owns the others and get them all. Own the space, with a comfortable buffer around your unique name.
- Make sure you’ll be able to create a YouTube channel with your desired name. Even if right now you need to post videos on YouTube, you want to ensure that, if you do end up needing a channel, you’ll be able to get one with the same name you use on your website. Similarly, make sure you can get a Facebook page and a Twitter handle with the name (and maybe even a GitHub user name). Try to find a name that will be available on all these platforms in the exact same form, since this will help people easily recognize you across all the platforms.
- On all the biggest search engines, search for the name with “double quotes” around it. Make sure it’s not being used for something really weird which may embarrass you in case someone confuses another thing with your brand. Aim for that exclusivity, and be the only one in the name’s linguistic neighborhood.
- Check that you’ll be able to get an email account with the name with all of the major email service providers (Gmail, Outlook, etc.). For example, if the domain name you want is superfoodnut.com then you should be able to create at least these email accounts: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and so on. This is important so that you’ll be able to use any of these email accounts conveniently and so that other people don’t maliciously email other people and pretend they’re sending from you.
Step 3 — Consider how the name sounds. Say it out loud and listen to yourself. Is it easy to pronounce when you’re speaking quickly? Does it sound like some other word? Is it easy for you just because you’re a native English speaker, or is it just as easy to pronounce to all the people who might someday use it in conversation.
For example, many people who grow up speaking a language other than English often have difficulties articulating the L and R sounds when they both appear in the same word. Even native English speakers sometimes sloppily pronounce railroad as lailroad or rairload. It’s easy to mispronounce such words. This fact has been studied extensively by linguists, and there are many such phoneme combinations that are difficult to master for a lot of people.
If you’ll want the name of your company or product spoken about by all sorts of people, then study the sounds of your domain name candidates. Try to find a name that’s easy and pleasurable to articulate.
Step 4 — Consider how easy it is to spell the name. Just like with pronouncing a name, depending on your target audience, you may need to be totally confident that people for whom English is difficult will have no problem spelling the name each time they need to type or write it.
One helpful strategy I use at this stage is to find people whose English isn’t perfect, state the name to them once, and ask them to guess how it’s spelled. They might first say, “Wait, say it again for me.” But don’t do it. People should identify the word after hearing you say it the first time, and if multiple people don’t get it right away, then it’s likely that other people will misspell the name. Reject such difficult names.
If you’re not convinced that easy spelling is important, then think of it this way: you’re going to be competing with possibly thousands or millions of other websites and companies for precious attention. How much are you willing to lose because your website’s address is sometimes misspelled? If you’re planning to build a successful website, then you can’t afford to lose site visitors because some people happen to struggle with spelling out your web address.
I probably don’t need to add that short names are better for easy spelling than long names. One thing you may have not thought of is that it’s not just about the number of letters. Count the syllables. A name with three syllables and ten letters (which some people say is a lot of letters) may be better than any other four-syllable name. The biggest globally-recognized brands tend to have either two or three syllables.
Oh and don’t even think about having digits or hyphens in the domain name—don’t go there, trust me.
Step 5 — By the time you reach Step 5 with a particular name, you’ll have spent several days thinking hard about various names and rejecting them for failing at one of the steps described above. At this point, though, you’re ready to start getting some final validation from other people. You shouldn’t just now be starting to ask for people’s opinions about your name ideas—you should get people’s input early on. It’s true that you probably know best what name will be good for your website, but simple surveys with your friends or business associates will likely uncover great insights for you. Your goal probably is, after all, to come up with a name that other people will like.
You may be wondering why there isn’t a step for coming up with the right domain names in the first place. The answer is that the first step, if you take it seriously, will force you to come up with all sorts of great names. Keep your options open from the start—don’t think the name will have to be of a certain kind (for example, that it has to be a made-up word, or on the other hand that it better be very descriptive). Allow yourself freedom to be creative. Let all your wild ideas come, and write them all down as you go.
The point of this approach is that you just need to build a large list of potential name candidates, larger than you ever thought possible for you, and you’ll thereby put yourself in a solid position to find a brilliant and catchy domain name. Follow this process and you might just surprise yourself with your amazing domain name when it comes to you.
If you’re looking for the ideal domain name for your project, check out our finely curated collection of domains! And send us a message to buy any of those domains.