You’ve decided to start a blog.
You know what it will be about, you know who your target audience is, and you’ve drafted a list of individual post ideas you can use to keep up a regular posting schedule.
The only thing standing between you and your first published post? You need a domain for that new blog.
Suddenly, your new blog project feels a bit daunting. How do you choose a great name when millions of names are already registered? Should you go with .com, .blog, .cat or one of the hundreds of other top level domain options? How do you protect your privacy when you register your domain? What about SEO?
Don’t get overwhelmed. There’s a lot of great information online about the best way to select a domain name for your blog, and we’ve sifted through it to bring you the highlights. (We also know a thing or two about registering domain names ourselves.) Here are the 11 most important things to consider as you decide on your blog’s domain name.
Your domain = Your brand
What’s your blog’s brand? If it’s a blog for your business, it’s part of your business brand. If it’s a personal blog, it will reflect on you personally, whether you’re seeking jobs, promoting your services to clients, or keeping visitors entertained. Take the time to think about the feelings, values, and uniqueness you want your blog to convey, and use that information to guide your domain name choice.Your domain name = Your brand. Don't forget that! #branding Click To Tweet
Keep it short
Short domain names are easy to remember, type in, and share. Short domain names also display fully on even small screens, an important consideration now that most US digital media consumers browse on smartphones instead of computers.
Pass the “radio test”
If you say your domain name aloud and a listener can type it into their browser, it passes the “radio test.” This is important because, according to both Entrepreneur and Moz, pronounceable domains are easier to remember and more likely to be shared.Does your domain name pass the Radio Test? Say it out loud, and people should be able to type it in. Click To Tweet
.com or bust?
There are so many top level domain options today that making a decision can be intimidating. Here’s a timesaving solution: Go with .com if you can. Even after all these years, .com is still the market leader and .com still appears to have a trust advantage with internet users.
However, there are times when an alternate TLD can enhance your domain branding. Someone who blogs about data security, for example, might choose the .tech TLD, and a blogger who reviews monthly product-box deliveries might be able to work .club into the domain name. You can explore TLD options at HostGator partner Domain.com, which offers more than 300 TLDs, including .design, .wedding, and .recipes.
Keep squatters away
Cybersquatting is a real problem, and while registering a domain using someone else’s trademark is illegal, squatters (and even domain registrants acting in good faith) can create confusion around your domain by registering variants, like the plural version or the same name with another top-level domain. To avoid confusion, you may want to spend a few extra bucks to register domain names very similar to yours and redirect them to your blog. Some real-world examples:
- Stabucks.com redirects to Starbucks.com
- HostGators.com redirects to HostGator.com
- Amazon.sale redirects to the “Today’s Deals” page at Amazon.com
You may not have the budget to register every possible variation of your domain name, but it’s a good idea to pick up the .info, .net, and .biz versions if you can.
Scout social-media availability
Make sure the domain name is available as an account name in the social media channels you’ll use. Otherwise you’re setting up your blog for visitor confusion and possible trademark battles (see below).
Avoid domain name confusion
You’re not likely to copy or reference the domain name of a major existing brand like Amazon or Starbucks, but you might accidentally step on the toes of a smaller blog or brand. Spend some time online looking for businesses and blogs with similar domain names. Adjust yours, if you need to, to avoid confusion and potential lawsuits. As Rand Fishkin says in the Whiteboard Friday video below, “it’s not your judgment. It’s not even your audience’s judgment. It’s what you think a judge in the jurisdiction might have the judgment about.”
Keywords in your domain name? Maybe
It makes sense to use search keywords in your domain name as long as they’re part of your brand and you understand you won’t get an SEO value from them. A decade or so ago, the internet was full of generic-sounding keyword-rich domains like CheapCottonShirts.com or RemoteControlCarBlog.com. At best, search engine honchos say keywords in the domain name don’t enhance SEO enough to make the loss of unique branding worth it these days. At worst, Google may even penalize you for it.
Hyphens in your domain name? No way
Take it from someone with a hyphenated name: Hyphens are a hassle. Worse, research shows that a hyphenated domain name can undermine your blog. Not only are they difficult for users to remember and type in, they can also look spammy to search engines. If you’re considering a domain name that only works if it includes hyphens, head back to the drawing board and come up with hyphen-free alternatives.Avoid hyphens in your domain names - they're tricky for users and look spammy. Click To Tweet
Protect your privacy
When you register your domain, you’ll have the option to buy domain privacy protection, which keeps your billing address and name out of the international WHOIS searchable database of domain registrants. With privacy protection, when someone looks up your domain, they’ll see the corporate address of your privacy protection service, rather than your home or business address.
Remember to renew
Depending on the domain registration service you use and the length of time you pay for, you may need to manually renew your domain registration and privacy protection every year or two. This takes only a couple of minutes, but it’s easy to overlook the renewal-notice email, and if you don’t renew within a certain time, your domain name can go dark or be sold to someone else. HostGator helps bloggers and businesses avoid this problem by auto-renewing your domain registration by default.
Take your time choosing your blog domain and remember that if you want something different later on, you can always choose a new domain and 301 redirect your blog to it. Learn more on the HostGator blog about how your blog can make you money and maybe even change your life.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.