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 blog 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.
How to Choose a Domain Name (+ 30 Blog Name Generators!)
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.)
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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.
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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.
001 make a living writing
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, dailyblogtips.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:
005 art of manliness
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
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 never be able to sell the website.
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:
[Action] the [object]