If you decide to build a new website, and you want it to be successful, you will need a good domain name. The domain you choose, however, may not be very appropriate, or it may be quite hard for people to remember. You may find this out only after the site has already been launched and it may be too late – you will have to rebrand the site, while any ads or print materials you may have already paid for will probably go to waste.
Below, you will find the ten common mistakes people make that you should avoid when you choose a new domain name.
1. Do not use numbers
Using “2” instead of “to” or “4” instead of “for” or “four” is something you should avoid. While you may find it witty to use numbers, many people will most likely find it difficult to guess what you had in mind when you registered the domain. It will be frustrating if they want to visit your website and cannot figure out what the right domain for it should be.
The above is valid for using numbers in general, not only when you replace a preposition – should visitors spell the word or type the number? They will either go to another site that uses a similar domain, or will see an error in their browser if they don’t guess the right spelling, or vice versa.
You should use numbers only when they are a part of a brand/event name, like str8.com or worldcup2020.com, for example, or if the name is clear enough for visitors to know what exactly to type in their browser.An interesting fact is that almost 9 million domains consist of just numbers. This type of domains is extremely popular in China and most of the domains are registered there. The reason is that numbers are the only allowed characters in the DNS system that everybody in China understands.
2. Do not use hyphens
Thisdomainname.com, this-domainname.com or this-domain-name.com? If somebody hears your domain and it consists of two or more words, they will most likely type the whole name together without hyphens. Using hyphens is similar to using numbers in the previous example – you will leave it to your visitors to guess if or where they should add a hyphen. If they don’t guess the right domain the first time, they may not try to open your site a second time. In the general case, people do not add any hyphens in the domains they type.
Hyphens should be used only if they are a part of a brand name and if it is clear that the domain should have a hyphen. If you have the budget, you can register both domains – with and without a hyphen, in case that they are available. You can redirect the hyphenated one to the non-hyphenated one. It is worth mentioning that you should not register a name with a hyphen that is identical to a name without a hyphen that you do not own.
3. Do not use trademarks (on purpose or by accident)
This is something quite important that you should never forget when you search for a new domain name. Even if you believe the domain you want includes only common words, any of them can be a trademark in your field of business and the company that holds the trademark can sue you and take the domain. All ICANN-accredited registrar companies follow ICANN’s Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) and when you register a new domain, you accept this policy as a part of the registrar agreement. While registering a domain with a trademark may be an honest mistake, many people register such domains in bad faith. Regardless of the reason, the trademark holder can file a complaint with an arbitration center or a court in accordance with the UDRP.
Although country-code TLDs are not governed by ICANN, many local registries have adopted similar policies to avoid registrations in bad faith. You will have grounds to dispute such a legal claim only if your domain was registered before the trademark.
If you want to avoid such legal issues, you should do some research and make sure that any words you want to use in your domain name are not registered trademarks. Even if you pay a trademark attorney to do the research for you, you will spend much less time and money than if you have to be engaged in legal battles.
You can check for registered trademarks in the following databases:
An interesting fact
4. Do not use hard to spell words
If your domain is hard to spell, most likely very few people will take their chance and try to type it. You can see why otorhinolaryngologist.com is not registered, but many domains that include “ENT” (Ears, nose, throat) exist. This is not necessarily related to the length of the domain – syzygy.com is an example of a short, but hard to spell domain.
You can easily check if the domain you want to register will be easy to use. Tell the name you have chosen to a few friends, either face to face or on the phone, and ask them to spell it back or send it to you via text/IM/email. If they give you the right domain, then anybody should be able to spell it correctly. If not, you should consider changing the name to something easier. After all, a domain should not only represent your brand, but should also be easy enough for your customers to remember it and to enter it in their web browser.
5. Do not use homophones
Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation as other words, but have different meaning and spelling. A couple of examples are right/write and break/brake. Unless it is very clear what your domain name should be, such words are likely to confuse your site visitors. You should avoid them if possible, or you should register two domain names, one with each word, and then redirect one to the other. This way, you will be sure that no matter which word people type, they will end up on your website.
This is probably the best place to remind you to always double-check how your domain looks and sounds. If you use capital letters for some words, you may miss something inappropriate that will not go well with your business. A few popular examples of inappropriate domains are Speedofart.com (Speed of Art), Itscrap.com (IT Scrap), and Penisland.com (Pen Island), but you will find quite a lot of such domains if you do a quick lookup online.
6. Do not register a very long domain
Long domain names can be clever as you can use a whole phrase or even a sentence. One such example is momthisishowtwitterworks.com. In the general case, however, long domains are difficult to remember. If a visitor clicks a link and ends up on your site, they will see the whole domain in lower-case letters and with no spaces, as this is how all web browsers display domain names in their address bar. With no distinction between the words, long domains are hard to read, so it is likely that visitors will simply not bother to read and to remember them.
Using a long domain is not a good marketing practice either. Digital signatures and business cards usually have limited space for a website URL, so a long one will look too stretched or will be wrapped on two lines, which won’t look very professional.
Curious about Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch? Visit the website to find out how to pronounce the name of this Welsh village.
7. Check if a .com/.net equivalent exists
If you want to launch a niche website and one of the new generic TLDs is the most suitable for it, it is likely that you will go for it. JohnDoe.lawyer, for example, is easy to remember and tells your customers that you offer legal services. The same is valid if you want to launch a local website – it is only natural that you will register a name with the local country-code extension.
In either case, you should not forget to double-check if the same name is not already registered with the .com or .net TLD. This is important as many people tend to add one of these two extensions if they are not sure about the exact domain name they should type. This way, they may go to JohnDoe.com instead of JohnDoe.lawyer or JohnDoe.ca and you will lose precious organic traffic and potential customers. There is also a chance that you may have legal issues if you want to use the same name, but with a different extension.
If you want to register a .com or a .net domain, you should still check if the other one exists. If this is the case, people trying to reach your website may end up on the competitor’s site by mistake.
8. Check the domain registration history
Domain names are registered for a specific period of time (at least one year) and if they are not renewed, they expire and get deleted by the respective registry organization i.e. they are released to the public pool and anybody can register them as new. If you register such a domain, you will probably inherit whatever history it had before it was deleted. In the ideal case, it might have been a popular domain with decent amount of traffic, links from respectable websites, etc. In fact, such links and popularity may be the reason a particular domain name is quite expensive on the secondary market.
Sometimes, however, you will come across a name that may have been used for something illegal – scam/phishing pages, illegal trade, spreading malware, etc. It may have been the subject of a trademark dispute or a lawsuit and it may have been left to expire on purpose. In such case, your site may appear as blacklisted by certain browsers or services, visitors may get warnings, and search engines may not list the domain or may rank it poorly. This is why it is very important to check if the domain you want to register has had any history. If you decide not to do that, it may have negative consequences for your website.
9. Check any old content the domain might have displayed
If the domain you want to buy has been registered in the past and has been deleted at some point, or if you want to buy an existing name, you can use web.archive.org to see what content that domain has shown through the years (if any). This is a very useful tool that generates snapshots of millions of websites every time it detects a major change. Depending on the site, the available snapshots can be a few per day or one per year, and they can give you a good idea what the website was about in the past.
This check is not related to the history of the domain, but to the content it used to open. The perfect domain for your site may have opened legal content, and may have a clean record since its registration date. However, this content may have been completely different from the one you want to add to your website, or it may have been somehow inappropriate. As a result, using the seemingly good domain can backfire. The domain may still be mentioned here and there, or there may be links to it from inappropriate sites. As a result, the reputation of your site may be hurt as you may start getting traffic from unwanted websites, or you may start receiving queries from people who are looking for the old content, wasting your time and filling up your mailbox or live chat queue. A quick historical check of the content can save you the headache.
10. Check if similar domains exist
A lot of good domains have already been registered, so you may have to be more creative to find an appealing domain for your site. Registering a domain that will be similar to an existing domain, especially a competitor's one, will only confuse your visitors. Adding "the”, “a”, a hyphen or any other minor change will not make much of a difference and anybody who wants to go to your site is likely to end up on the competitor's one. If the other website is much older than yours, it is also likely that you will get a lot of negative comments as people will think you are trying to steal some of the traffic the other site generates by using an almost identical domain. They will not care if you registered a similar domain by chance, and not intentionally.
Your domain name can be as important as your website content. It will be one of the first things people will see and one of the things they will associate your site and your business with. If the domain name you choose is very long, hard to spell, or has had bad history, it is very likely to affect your website negatively.
This is why you should spend some time doing research and you should put some thought into choosing the best possible domain for your website. One that will be unique and appealing to visitors and will distinguish your site from your competitors’ sites.
Choosing a good domain is the first step towards success and we hope that our article will help you make the right choice. As always, choosing a popular TLD may be your best choice, as these TLDs are popular for a reason. Learn which TLDs are the most popular and which you should avoid at:
If you have already made your mind and are ready to register your domain name, you should check our domain registration price list. ICDSoft employs a Fair Pricing Policy for domain name registrations, and we offer domains without making profit.