The 7 Characteristics of Good Domain Names

By Daniel Scocco

Domain names are the real estate of the Internet. Just as a good location is vital for a bricks and mortar business, a good domain name will be the corner stone of your website’s success. But how to identify them? Below you will find the 7 characteristics of good domain names.

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1. They are short

Good domain names are short. It is not a coincidence that all the three-letter and four-letter .com domains are already gone, and that the five-letter ones are going fast as well.

There is no definite number of characters that you should aim for, just remember that the shorter the better. If you really need some guidance, try to go below 10 characters, and never exceed 20.

As for the number of words, one-word domains are gold, two-word ones are good, three-word domains are average, and above that it is usually a bad idea.

Example: Quotes.com is a superb domain and probably worth millions of dollars. ProQuotes.com is a good two-word domain worth thousands of dollars. ProQuotesNow.com is an average domain and could be used for a website. YourProQuotesNow.com is plain worthless.

2. They are easy to remember

Many Internet users do not use bookmarks. They just memorize the domains of their favorite websites and type them whenever they wan to visit one. Guess what, if your domain is complex and not easy to remember you will lose these visitors along the way.

Example: Brcwr.com is a short domain name, but is not easy to remember at all, so it would be a bad idea to use it for your website (unless the initials represent the name of the website or a memorable message).

3. They are easy to spell

The last thing you want is visitors misspelling your domain and ending up somewhere else.

Avoid unusual foreign words, words that have complex pronunciation, strange combinations of letters and anything else that might cause someone to misspell your address.

Example: CappuccinoBar.com might be problematic for English speaking visitors. Cappuccino is an Italian word, and not everyone is aware where the doubles are placed.

4. They have a .com extension

Organizations might prefer to register a .org domain, and companies targeting very specific geographical regions might want to register a local domain (e.g. .it, .co.uk, .cn and so on). Apart from these cases, however, a .com domain is always the best way to go. This extension is the most popular around the around, and it is already stuck in people’s mind.

Visitors coming to your site via search engines or organic links will pay attention mostly to the name and not to the URL. The next time they want to visit your site it is very likely that they will just type its name followed by a .com. Guess what, if you are not there when they hit enter they will just go somewhere else.

Example: Darren Rowse created his popular blog on Problogger.net. Despite having a strong brand, some visitors were still going to Problogger.com. After a couple of years Darren decided to buy the .com version for $5,000 and redirect it to his site, so that no more visitors would leak.

5. They are descriptive

Many visitors will come to your site through the search engines and via direct links on other websites. That is, they will come if the domain that they will see will be appealing.

Having a descriptive domain name will give visitors an idea of what your site is about even before they enter it. If related keywords are present in the domain it might also help your search engine rankings.

Example: You would be able to guess what TelevisionGuides.com is about even before visiting it right?

Put it in another way. Suppose you are searching for a movie review. You make a quick search in Google. The first result comes from MikesLair.com. The second result comes from MoviesCentral.com. Which one would you rather click?

6. Or brandable

A brandable domain will have a nice pronunciation, an interesting combination of letters or simply an appealing visual effect. Sometimes they will not be descriptive, but they can be equally efficient.

Brandable domains will make your visitors associate the name with your website and its content. (Notice that brandable domains can be descriptive at the same time, but that is not always the case.)

Example: Kotaku.com is one of the most popular gaming blogs on the Internet. The domain is not descriptive at all, but the brand is so strong that gamers immediately recognize it across the web.

7. They don’t contain hyphens or numbers

Domain names containing hyphens and numbers are cheaper for a reason. They suffer the same problem of domains not using a .com extension or with complex spelling.

Consider Tech-World.com. The names that will stick in people’s mind are “tech” and “world.” Many visitors will just forget the hyphen along the way. Eventually they will try to access your site by typing TechWorld.com, in vain.

Numbers, on the other hand, will confuse people with the spelling. Suppose you registered Tech5.com. Visitors might mix it with TechFive.com, if they manage to remember the number in the first place!

Example: Coolest-Gadgets.com is an extremely popular gadget blog, with over 70,000 RSS subscribers. With such a huge readership you get people often typing the domain directly on the address bar. Needless to say that many of them would just forget to add the hyphen. The owner of the site bought CoolestGadgets.com afterwards to fix the problem.

Final remark

Do not get discouraged if your current domain doesn’t have all these characteristics; or if you can’t find one that does. These are just factors that you should consider when evaluating domain names.

There are plenty of examples of popular websites with domain names that lack in one or two points covered on the list. Just make sure that your domain has most of the characteristics and you should be fine.

Update: If you are looking for a domain names ebook, check out “Killer Domains.” It has all the tools and techniques that I use to find great and available domain names.



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126 Responses to “The 7 Characteristics of Good Domain Names”

  • Chilli Flakes

    Thanks for sharing. I think the other point you could have emphasised is that how shared doamisn can be a problem and if possible one should go with own domain name. The blogspot, myspace etc. is goot to start with but you need extra effort to get popular with them. My own experience, I can be wrong though.

  • Sina

    excellent …Coolio

  • Alex Griffin

    Excellent points Daniel. ItÒ€ℒs getting very hard to accomplish all of these without spending a fortune.

  • freelance webdesign

    Thank you. Very good list…

  • John

    I wish I found this post before I bought my previous domains. Good Post.

    Just want to add something. I don’t think you will get a lot of issues with domains that only contain numbers.

  • matthew davis

    hi i am new to the internet but am thinking of starting a affiliate marketing site, i have the name nowherecheaper.com i know it is a long name but think it has a good ring to it, has anyone any good ideas for this name,i thought of useing it for travel what do you think,

  • Ezra Hilyer

    I have been collecting some domains for a few years, but never really did anything with them. one I bought just because it was was a 3 character domain : 67z.com and another just ’cause it sounded cool: lowusa.com (seems to be suited to a price comparison site)
    but my Blog is: straypoetry.com and that I got because I love the sound of it.
    -ezra hilyer

  • Terry Britton

    Great article! I’m trying to pick a domain name (I’ll use a similar example here rather than the actual domain I’m thinking about since I haven’t registered it yet).

    In my case the best keywords would be alaska travel, but these are very competitive. The second choice is alaska vacations which is not searched as much but also not as competitive. The website will offer the ability to plan alaskan vacations. So the best description and use of keywords would be http://www.alaskavacationplanner.com, but this is an awfully long domain name. Although I think the name would elicit clicks in google results for people who searched for alaska vacation.

    What does everyone think?

  • giftcardblogger

    I had to learn these lessons painfully on a previous project, so when it came time to choose a name for my gift card blog (www.giftcardblogger.com), I took the time to look for a name that reflected many of the characteristics you have outlined. In addition, i don’t have to explain to people what the blog is about because the name says it all.

    Don’t cut corners, take your time to pick the right domain name and it will make your marketing and branding much easier.

  • Third World Engineer

    I just found out that my domain misses all the characteristics of a good domain name. I hope it won’t turn readers off from reading my blog. Cheers to you!

  • Keith

    Indeed, domain names must be short, understandable, brandable, and also typable!! Thanks for sharing. KCJ

  • Daniel

    Pam, the list was not created in order of priority.

    Personally I think that having a .com extension is the first one. Then point 1,2,3 and 7.

    Notice that points 5 and 6 are substitutes. You can have both in a single domain, but having just one should be enough.

    Amazon is brandable, though not descriptive. And it also is in line with all the other 5 points.

  • Pam Hoffman

    Very nicely put.

    I am wondering something though.

    Are these in order of priority of some sort?

    Is it more important to have the first one, first two or maybe the first three if any?

    How many rules can you break and still pick well?

    Heck, I think of amazon.com. Not exactly working for every ‘rule’ are they? They did manage to brand themselves since everyone thinks books when they hear amazon.com

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post,

    Pam Hoffman
    http://seminarlist.blogspot.com

  • Daniel

    @ i’mkidding, don’t want to be rude or anything, but where exactly did you see me claiming that my domain had all the 7 characteristics?

  • i’mkidding

    hey.. wait..
    did i see “short”?

    hahaha… is 13 characters short?? dailyblogtips??

    I’m just kidding Sir..

    peace!!
    πŸ™‚

  • i’mkidding

    a .com extension??

    man..!

    i’ve my .net

    is it too bad??

  • Design And Promote

    I think the main thing as far as the search engines are concerned is to make sure your keywords are in your domain name

  • David Airey

    Excellent write-up, Daniel.

    I thought my domain name was superb, until it was stolen. πŸ™

  • Norman

    I wish I read this article before I selected my domain name. and I think I can make a lot of money by buying and selling domain name. There are all I want to say!!

  • Niyaz PK

    I love my domain name….. πŸ™‚

  • Edie

    Thank you for this useful post!

  • Gerard McGarry

    Good post, especially the rule about hyphens. They do royally suck.

  • Terinea Weblog

    According to fasthosts, 43% of businesses take less than an hour to choose their domain name and 34% think they would do more business with a better domain name.

    Nice post.

    Jamie

  • Mikael

    What a great post. You are so right about everything and I can see now that the domain I have chosen http://www.antphilosophy.com doesn’t folloe all the rules.

    On the other hand I’m getting visitors that are typing in “Ant Philosophy” when searching purely because of the domain name. So thats cool!

  • Peter

    Well I screwed up on the first characteristic. Hopefully, though, I make up for it by fulfilling the second characteristic….

  • John Simpson

    Great write-up. I especially like the graphic you included. Very creative. I have several domains registered and I’ll have to remember this information the next time I go to register a domain.

    Thanks,
    John Simpson

  • KimC

    Call me crazy, but I think the flickr domain is a bad one. They managed to successfully brand it, but I have always had trouble remembering exactly how to misspell the word “flicker.” I never find it on the first try. I think they are wildly successful in spite of a bad domain name, not because of it.

  • NasirJumani

    I have chosen my new domain name two weeks ago which fulfills all the characteristics listed above except the keyword description on them because i want to brand my domain name by choosing a word not in the dictionary :D.

  • Nathaniel

    Let me think… all of my sites follow most of these rules… except for my person site which includes the word “chimeric” which isn’t something used in normal conversation… and thusly is hard to remember. The only other problem that my domain names tend to suffer from is the fact that the names are long.

    Great advice though, I’ll certainly keep this in mind for future domain name purchases.

  • Jeremy Steele

    .com is still a huge must – I still type .com for domains I know are .net or another extension. For example – I still type problogger.com a lot – thank god Darren finally picked up the .com version.

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