This is the web’s most in-depth guide on how to choose a domain name. It’s also the web’s largest resource for domain name generators (to help you brainstorm ideas).
In this post, you’ll learn how to create a large list of domain name candidates, how to check which ones are available, and how to buy the best domain name for your target audience.
Let’s get started.
Your Domain Name’s One Job
A lot of people think your domain name should be witty. Others think it should be clever or poetic. Or something kooky and cool like… Google, Amazon, or Moz.
Your domain name is a tool. And like every other tool in your toolbox, it has a specific purpose.
If you buy a hammer, its job is to drive nails, and you judge its effectiveness based on its ability to drive a nail.
Your domain name has one job too. When someone visits your website, your domain name must answer the following:
“Is this site for me? Am I in the right place?”
That’s it. That’s its job.
The quicker you can help people figure out whether they’re in the right place, the quicker you will:
- Get more traffic;
- Keep and convert those visitors into subscribers;
- Receive more links and shares from your favorite social media sites;
- Rule the (blogging) world.
So how do you help them answer that fundamental question, “Is this for me?”
In a word, clarity.
Clarity is key. Because everything you need to learn about starting a blog and finding the right domain name is going to circle back to these two key elements:
- Does it answer the fundamental question, “Is this for me?”
- Is it clear?
So what’s the best way to achieve clarity with your domain name?
For starters, you should avoid these five fatal domain name mistakes. (Cue the ominous music.)
The Five (Potentially) Fatal Mistakes When Choosing Your Domain Name
These mistakes are common, and they’ll definitely erode your chances of success. Avoid them at all costs.
Mistake #1: Being Clever
We celebrate cleverness in many walks of life. Cleverness drives innovation. It solves difficult problems.
But when it comes to choosing a domain name, cleverness is really the last thing you want. It’s the enemy of clarity.
It’s not a good idea to come up with a pun or some clever play on words for your domain name.
How do you know if you’re being too clever?
Here’s a simple test:
Go around to people who don’t know you, people who may not know anything about your subject, and tell them the domain name.
Then ask them what it means.
If they have to think about it for more than two seconds, you’re dead.
Because if someone has to think to figure out what your domain name means, most people will say “forget this.” They’ll bounce. On to the next link.
And if they bounce immediately after visiting your site, it’s going to hinder your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts. Google will assume your content isn’t meeting searcher intent, and your posts will rank lower and lower in search results.
Mistake #2: Trying to Brand a New Word
We all would like to birth a brandable domain name, but creating a new word is a big mistake for the vast majority of bloggers. Not everyone, mind you, but most. Branding a new word means building an audience for a domain name you coined out of two different words, which — most likely — only means something to you.
No one knows what the word means when they come to your site. And even if they can figure it out, the extra processing time and thought severely hinders their ability to answer the fundamental question, “Is this for me?”
And how does that impact you again? Tick, tick, tick — and they’re gone.
Not only that, but the potential for misspellings is high when you’re using a brandable name.
For the average blogger, trying to brand a domain name like Google or Yahoo or one of those other big domains with a cool, unique company name is a huge mistake. Why?
Because it typically takes millions of dollars and a top-flight ad agency to pull it off. Or it takes an absolutely astonishing level of influence.
Either way, as a beginning blogger, you’re simply not equipped to succeed at branding a new word.
Mistake #3: Using a Subdomain of a Blogging Platform
This is a common mistake among many new bloggers. They’ll choose a free blogging platform and sport URLs like mydomainname.wordpress.com or mydomainname.blogspot.com.
Once upon a time, it wasn’t a big deal.
It’s a bad idea for a couple reasons:
- You’re setting up your blog on someone else’s turf. If those companies ever change their policies or decide for any reason to take down or freeze your blog (and it has happened), you can’t do a thing about it. You’re screwed.
- It signals you’re an amateur. You instantly lose credibility when you have a domain name like that.
Mistake #4: Using Abbreviations
If I were writing a blog about affiliate marketing, I might use PPC or CTR in the domain name. Those words stand for “pay per click” and “click-through rate” respectively. Now, the people who are really into advertising and web analytics all know what those mean, but guess what? A lot of beginners don’t.
This is a case where exclusivity can hurt you.
Sure, it can be attractive when you only want a target audience to have access to your offering. But when you’re talking about building an online audience, the last thing you want to do is eliminate a potentially huge pool of prospective readers simply because they don’t understand the term you’re using for your domain name.
Mistake #5: Using Hyphens
Using hyphens in your domain name is a no-no for several reasons. Let’s say, for example, you’ve got a cooking blog called Make My Cake, but makemycake.com is already taken. So you grab make-my-cake.com. Here’s what happens:
- When the person types in “make my cake,” guess what’s going to come up first? Makemycake.com. And you just lost another reader or another sale. Bummer.
- People won’t remember to put in the hyphens when typing your domain name, or they’ll use an underscore by mistake, or they’ll mistype and miss a hyphen. Either way, you lose.
- Worse still? It’s another one of those things that make you look like an amateur. It’s kind of like wearing a purple hat and feathers to a gathering of potential Nobel laureates. Yes, you can always find someone who’s into that look. But my advice? Don’t do it.
So, those are some common mistakes to avoid when picking a domain name for your new website.
Now let’s move on to the things you should do.
The Five Best Types of Domain Names for Bloggers
You might be surprised to know there are really only five major categories of good domain names for bloggers.
Once you understand the logic behind each of these categories and how much easier people can find and Google you if you use one of them, the sooner you’ll be on your way to reaping the benefits from choosing a good domain name.
And the best news? If you follow the formulas outlined here, you’ll almost certainly find a few available domain names your readers will love.
Type #1: Name the Benefit
This type of domain name cuts right to the chase when answering “Is this for me?” because it explains right in the name the benefit you’ll get when you read this site.
Examples of naming the benefit are iwillteachyoutoberich.com, makealivingwriting.com, and teachyourchildtoread.com.
If you see a domain name that explains the benefit of reading the site right in the domain name, you can immediately answer that fundamental question with very little thought.
Let’s see. I’m a freelance writer, and I want to make a living by writing. Am I in the right place? No question.
Name the Benefit Template (to Find Your Own Website Name)
- I Will Teach You to [achieve result or do activity]
- How to [achieve result or do activity]
Type #2: Name the Audience
This type of domain name answers that question by defining the target audience the website is meant to serve.
If you were to visit Problogger as an aspiring blogger, within two seconds of arriving and glancing around, you’re going to say, “Wow, I’d love to be a professional blogger. I need to read this blog.”
So you’ve immediately answered the question, “Is this for me?”
And if you’re a TV junkie looking to connect with your tribe and you land on couchpotato.com, you’ll know right away that you’re in the right place because you can read the latest gossip on TV shows and find deals on things like DVD box sets of popular TV series and so on.
The logo says it all.
Name the Audience Template (to Find Your Own Website Name)
- [Noun] + only
- [Adjective] + [Noun] + only at the end of the phrase
The word “only” creates exclusivity with your audience. It helps to make it feel like a club or private community.
Here’s another template to try:
- [Adjective] + [Audience Name]
Type #3: Name the Topic
This type of domain names your blog topic.
Examples are lifehacks.org, dailywritingtips.com, nerdfitness.com, and artofmanliness.com. Those domains name what the blogs are about.
Check out nerdfitness.com, for example:
Same thing with artofmanliness.com:
When you see that name, you get a sense right away that they’re targeting men who want to learn more about the essence of being a man. The macho stuff. The ways of a gentleman. Just the vintage look and old photos alone convey the story to the target audience.
That’s a very different feel and a different audience than men who might gravitate more to, say, Men’s Health Magazine, which is more focused on men’s fitness and wellbeing — and the cover usually shows a half-naked guy with killer six-pack abs.
Name the Topic Template (to Find Your Own Website Name)
- Daily [Topic] tips
- [Topic] tips
- Daily Blog Tips
- Weekly Photography Tips
Type #4: Name Yourself
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You use your own name as your domain name. Examples would be StevePavlina.com, MarcAndAngel.com, and JohnChow.com.
Using your own name as your domain can still be a good thing. But — and it’s a big BUT — only if your desire is to turn your name into a brand name. So if your desire is to brand yourself like Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, or one of those celebrities, it can be a good idea to go this route.
But you have to understand that while a website branded with your name can be a blessing, it can also be a curse:
- You will likely never be able to sell it. There’s a large industry behind buying websites that already exist and generate income, but if your domain is tied your name, selling it someday won’t be easy.
- You will be tied to it until the day you die or the blog dies.
- No one else will be able to run it. Your audience will be forever bonded to you.
Many bloggers who have successfully branded themselves end up regretting it later. Their blogs feel like a prison cell, with their owners as the sole occupants. The brand is based on their personality and voice, which means it’s a challenge to bring in guest writers and editors.
So let’s break down the pros and cons:
The upside of using your own name is a closer bond with your audience, and you gain more influence as you brand yourself.
The downside is it takes a long time to establish yourself as a recognized authority and build up your personal brand to the level of celebrity status. And while you’re busting your butt trying to brand yourself, your domain name isn’t helping you build your audience any faster because it fails to show any benefit to your readers.
But you want to know the worst thing about using your own name? You can never escape.
Let me repeat that:
You can NEVER escape a blog you have branded with your own name.
It’s not a “real business.” In other words, you could never sell it to anyone. Because if you sold it and you ever left, it’s worth nothing because the entire thing is tied to you. So consider this carefully before you decide to use your own name.
Name Yourself Template (to Find Your Own Website Name)
Okay, you probably don’t need a template for this one, but here you go:
Type #5: Name Your Pursuit
This domain reverses our philosophy because it names what you are doing as a blogger rather than what the reader is doing or seeking.
For example, Social Media Examiner examines social media. Man vs. Debt is about one man’s (the blogger’s) battle against debt. Foundr tells the stories of founders, entrepreneurs, and business owners. Each one names the topic, but they do so from the blogger’s perspective, not the reader’s perspective.
A second way to use a pursuit domain is to name the mission of your blog. For example, for a blog whose mission is to feed all the hungry children on earth, the domain could be FeedTheChildren.org. That clearly defines the pursuit of the blog.
So when you’re looking to use this topic for your domain name, the secret here is to clearly identify your pursuit or mission in a way that matches your reader’s worldview so that THEY can see themselves in YOUR pursuit.
Name Your Pursuit Template (to Find Your Own Website Name)
- [Blogger or audience] vs. [pursuit]
Here’s another template option:
How to Brainstorm Clear, Strong Domain Names
Now that you know all the pitfalls to avoid and the five types of good domain name categories, you need a process you can use to find your own perfect domain name.
What do we mean by “perfect”?
The perfect domain name is one that instantly defines your blog’s mission statement to the exact group of people it was meant to serve.
Here are the steps for finding it:
- Name the Audience. Who are you serving with your blog? Then ask yourself, “What would they call themselves if they succeeded?”
- Name the Result or Benefit. In other words, what will they achieve if they succeed? This is where we transform the mission into a domain name.
- Name the Topic. What is the blog about? You need to be clear and concise here. Think of it as your eight-second elevator pitch because that’s all we’re working with, right?
So, for example, let’s say you wanted to start a blog in the very popular cooking space, and you are a master barbecue chef with a whole slew of techniques, recipes, and secret tips. You want to dominate in a niche that has a large and passionate audience of predominantly male enthusiasts.
In your blog, you want to brand yourself as the “King of Barbecue.” And your mission is to empower every barbecue enthusiast with a backyard and grill with all the tools and tips they need to become the “Barbecue King.”
So, choosing first from our domain name templates, you could combine topic #3 (naming the topic) with topic #1 (naming the benefit), and you would get:
I Will Teach You How to Become the Barbecue King.
Not bad, but let’s keep going.
With this target niche in mind, we’ll use tools discussed in the following sections to pull together a bunch of great domain name choices. And then we need to see what is available from the choices we create.
You want to really take some time in the brainstorming phase because you’re going to need a good-sized list.
Because let’s face it: Your best domain ideas will probably be unavailable. You need lots of prospects here.
Using our process above, here’s how we’ll go about finding our killer barbecue domain name:
- Who’s our audience? Passionate barbecue enthusiasts (male).
- What would they call themselves if they succeeded? The Barbecue King? King of the Grill? Something along those lines.
- Name the result or benefit. What would they achieve if they succeeded? They would become the master of the grill.
- Name the topic. Great tips and recipes for grilling food to perfection on the barbecue.
Now you need to come up with a bunch of descriptive words you can combine to satisfy the steps we just outlined. You’ll already have a pretty good idea about who you’re serving and what you’re serving them. But sometimes when you’re brainstorming ideas, you hit the wall trying to find synonyms for those words, and you need some fresh inspiration. That’s where a thesaurus comes in handy.
I used a thesaurus to find synonyms for both “barbecue” and “king.” You do this by typing your word into the thesaurus search window.
In the examples below, you can see how the thesaurus will return all kinds of synonyms for your keyword from every usage of the word.
You can get some great ideas using a thesaurus.
When I typed in “king,” some interesting synonyms popped up, such as “emperor,” “czar,” and “kaiser.” I hadn’t considered those titles before. They got me thinking, but I still preferred “king” as the ultimate pursuit of our target barbecue enthusiast.
But then I came across the word “maharajah,” and this got me thinking about barbecue as a more transcendental experience. The barbecue king as spiritual master of the grill or “The Guru of Barbecue” has a nice ring to it, no?
You can use the thesaurus effectively by inputting some of those new synonyms back into the search window. This will yield a whole new crop of words.
Using a thesaurus can help you unearth ideas you never thought of, which can lead to some great domain name combinations.
But what do you do if a thesaurus doesn’t produce any winners (or if you think a thesaurus is too “old school” for you)?
30 Domain Name Generators to Spur Domain Name Ideas
Thinking of good domain names can be tricky sometimes. Thankfully, there are numerous domain name generator tools that can help you brainstorm ideas.
We’ve compiled the web’s largest list of domain name generators (sorted alphabetically) so you could have a go-to resource.
And, yes, some of these generators have designs that would’ve seemed dated in 1999. But don’t judge a book by its cover.
2. Codename Generator
3. Cool Name Ideas
4. Dictionary Domains
5. Domain Maker (BustAName)
9. Domain Search (BustAName)
14. Free Domain Generator
16. Instant Domain Search
19. Lean Domain Search
27. Shopify’s Business Name Generator
29. Spinxo’s WordPress Name Generator
Domain Name Inspiration by Niche
Hopefully, by this point, you’ve got loads of ideas.
But just in case you’re still feeling a little stuck or unsure, here’s how each of the four approaches we’ve discussed work in real life in the Top 11 blogging niches.
Niche #1: Business & Entrepreneurship
- Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Frugal Entrepreneur, Women Entrepreneurs, Young Entrepreneur Council, Like a Boss Girls, The Mogul Mom
- Lead Change Group, Grow Your Small Business, Productivityist
- Small Business Trends, Teaching Startup, Good Ideas for Starting A Business
- Location Rebel, Entrepreneurial Ambitions, Forever Jobless, Addicted 2 Success, Smart Hustle
Niche #2: Career
- The Chief Happiness Officer Blog, CEO Blog, Classy Career Girl, Work in Entertainment, Work At Home Mums, The Savvy Intern
- Everyday Bright, Career Intelligence Blog, Career Igniter, Careertopia, Idealist Careers, Careerbright, Career Sherpa
- Talent Culture, On the Job, HR Daily Advisor, Campus to Career, Cube Rules, The Interview Guys, Ask the Headhunter, Resume Writing Services
- Work Awesome, Work Happy Now, Great Leadership, Careerealism, Movin On Up, I Lost My Job, The Burnout Specialist, Work Coach Café, Careers in Government, Career Pivot
Niche #3: Creative Endeavors
- Artists Inspire Artists, Web Designer Wall, Creative Nerds, Webdesigner Depot, Writers In The Storm, The Passionate Photographer, Design Mom, Grammar Girl, Wordgrrls, House of Hipsters, The Online Photographer
- Apartment Therapy, Pinch of Yum, Simple Scrapper, Productive Writers, We Believe in Beauty
- Digital Photography School, Web Design Ledger, Daily Art Fix, Scrapbooking News, Conversations With Writers, Indie Author News, Art Biz Blog, All Things Vocal Blog, Photography Talk, Indie Music News, Fiction Notes, Lightroom Killer Tips, Directors Notes, Filmmaking Stuff, Daily Writing Tips, Advice To Writers, About Freelance Writing
- Light Stalking, We Make Money Not Art, Better Living Through Design, Presentation Zen, Design Applause, Making The Movie, Young House Love, The Tao Of Photography, Will Write For Food, Write For Kids, Now Novel
Niche #4: Freelancing
- The 6-Figure Freelancer, Freelancers Union, The Worried Writer
- The Write Life, The Write Practice, Freelance Switch, Animation Tips & Tricks
- Escape from Corporate America, Make a Living Writing, Leaving Work Behind, Get Paid to Write Online
Niche #5: Gadgets & Technology
- Geek.com, Calling All Geeks, Macworld, MacRumors
- Cool Tools, Coolest Gadgets, Geeky Gadgets, U Break I Fix, Home Theater Blog, Find Smartphones
- Laptop Hub, Digital Trends, Tech Ranker, Specs Price Buy, Gadgety news, What Rocks and What Sucks
- Lifehacker, TechCrunch, Ubergizmo, Dude I Want That, The Gifts for Men, Wicked Gadgetry
Niche #6: Marketing
- Famous Bloggers, Itty Biz, Chief Marketing Technologist, Marketing Insider Group
- Unbounce, Influential Marketing, Content Marketing Up, Grow Map, Enchanting Marketing
- Duct Tape Marketing, Neuromarketing, Search Engine Journal, Drew’s Marketing Minute, The Future Buzz, Local Marketing Ideas, Millennial Marketing, Great B2B Marketing
- The Hidden Persuader, Big Brand System, Marketing Artfully
Niche #7: News, Culture, & Entertainment
- Global Grasshoppers, Stylecaster, Young Naturists America, Afrocosmopolitan
- Inspiring Travelers, Comfortable Shoes for Women, Cheap is the New Classy
- Thought Catalog, College Fashion, Essential Home And Garden, What 2 Wear Where, New Now Next, Pop Matters
- Get in the Hot Spot, World Home, Budget Fashionista, You Look Fab, Steal The Style, Take Lessons, Get Busy Living, How To Survive Life in the Suburbs, Quit Your Job and Live On a Boat, Be Healthy Now
Niche #8: Parenting
- Blonde Moms, The Good Men Project, Daddy Types, Diary Of An Angry Father, Imperfect Parent, The Shopping Mama, Not Your Average Mom, Dad Tired
- A Fine Parent, Raise Smart Kids, News Moms Need, Uplifting Families
- Parenting Advice And Tips, Mommy A to Z, Message with a Bottle, Radical Parenting
- I Can Teach My Child, Raising a Healthy Family, Rage Against The Minivan, Our Empty Nest, Life with 4 Boys, Nine to Three Thirty, Whinge Whinge Wine, Mommy’s New Groove, Embrace the Chaos, Fit to be Pregnant, Giving Birth with Confidence
Niche #9: Personal Finance
- The Penny Hoarder, Money Saving Mom, Financial Women, Mighty Bargain Hunter, Get Out Of Debt Guy, Yes I Am Cheap, One Frugal Girl
- Bigger Pockets, The Simple Dollar, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, No Credit Needed, Early Retirement Extreme
- Frugal Rules, Budgets Are Sexy, Personal Finance Advice, Side Hustle HQ
- Get Rich Slowly, Live Well Spending Less, Don’t Mess with Taxes, How I Save Money, Planting Dollars, Beating Broke, Help Me to Save, I Need Money
Niche #10: Self-Improvement
- Dumb Little Man, Uncommon Chick, Introvert, Nerd Fitness, Wellness Mama
- Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life, Aha Now!, Purpose Fairy, Four Hour Work Week, Keep Inspiring Me
- Time Management Ninja, The Change Blog, The Positivity Blog, Becoming Minimalist, Science of People, The Happiness Project
- A Daring Adventure, Cranky Fitness, Finer Minds, Goodlife Zen, Lifehacker, Positively Positive, The Mind Unleashed, Create Yourself Today, Zen Habits, Bold & Determined, Run to the Finish
Niche #11: Social Media & Blogging
- Smart Blogger, ProBlogger, Branding Strategy Insider, B2B Bloggers, The Conversion Scientist, The Content Strategist
- Successful Blogging, Convince and Convert
- Basic Blog Tips, Daily Blog Tips, Social Media Examiner
- Be a Better Blogger, Blogging Wizard, Standout Blogger, Idea Launch
So, got a good list of ideas? Excellent…
Use a Domain Registrar Like Namecheap to See What Domains Are Available
Once you’ve gathered your list of candidates, you’re ready to head on over to a domain name registrar to see if any of them are available.
We like to use Namecheap (affiliate link).
Once you go to Namecheap, here’s what you’ll find:
You can search for domains one at a time, but most people don’t realize you can also search for a bunch of domains in one fell swoop. Namecheap calls it “Beast Mode.”
You can access it by clicking the “Use Beast Mode…” link at the top of the page, or can use keywords and click “Beast Mode” next to the search button:
Choosing a bulk option like Namecheap’s Beast Mode is a huge time-saver. You’re able to select what TLDs (top-level domains) you desire (Examples: a .com domain name extension, a .net domain extension, a .co.uk extension, etc.), whether you’d like to see “premium” domain names in the search results, how much you’re willing to pay, and more.
Here’s what it looks like:
Upload (or enter manually) your list of candidates, click the “Generate” button, and Namecheap will show you which ones are available.
Once you have this list, you need to choose the best one. And the way you do this is by identifying the characteristics of a great domain name. Here’s a checklist:
- Clarity. As we discussed earlier, this is the key element that will get your readers hooked within those eight seconds.
- Message to Market Match. This is a marketing term that means whatever you’re preaching is what they’re buying. You want to give your audience what they want. The more you can do that, the more your message is aligned with the market.
- Memorable Sound. You want your domain name to have a memorable sound people will remember the minute they hear it. Two tools to help you achieve that goal would be the use of alliteration and rhyming. The more that name rolls off your readers’ tongues, the more memorable it is. Using power words or sensory words can potentially help too.
- On Topic. You want your name to be on topic. Some of the synonyms you generate from your thesaurus will end up with names that are ultimately off topic, and you don’t want to use those.
Did one domain name jump out?
Buy that bad boy before someone else snags it!
Ready to Find the Perfect Domain Name?
If you’ve read this entire post, you’ve probably realized it’s a lot of work to come up with a good domain name.
Yup, it is. I wish I could just hand you an “Advance to Go and Collect $200” card for your quick pass to blogging success. But the truth is, there’s no silver bullet here.
So you might be wondering, “Is it really worth all the extra effort to find a great domain name?” Good question.
Truthfully? It depends.
A great domain name alone won’t make you a successful blogger. A lot of other elements have to come together first.
And the kicker?
It’s not even going to be a deal-breaker if you have a bad domain name right now. In fact, if I had to put a number on just what percentage your domain name actually influences the success or failure of your blog, I would say it’s something like 10%.
But here’s the thing…
That 10% could be the difference between blogging success and blogging obscurity. Or, to put it another way:
Can you really afford NOT to take every possible advantage available to you?
A horse race is sometimes decided by a nose. A close election can be decided by only a few votes. The difference between victory and defeat can come down to that little extra something one of them has that the other one doesn’t.
For you, that difference may come down to your domain name.
So the next time you find yourself asking, “What’s in a name?”…
Perhaps it’s everything your customer is looking for right now.
If you take the time and put in the extra effort, you will ultimately find the perfect domain name. One that shines so bright it will become a beacon in the night that calls to your ideal readers.
Choose wisely, and we’ll be pointing to your blog as an example of doing it right.