Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tips for finding an available domain name

I can remember how easy it used to be to find a domain name for a web site, but as time has gone on the popular extensions like .com have filled up considerably.

I operated a domain registration service for many years and helped lots of people find suitabled domain names so here is my guide to finding a suitable one:

  • Decide whether you want something easy to remember like plumber.com or whether you would be just as happy with joebloggstheplumber.com.
  • If you do want a one word or memorable domain you are either going to have to buy it from its current owner or register it in one of the newer, less populated extensions like .me or .im. This can present credibility problems as people tend to trust .com or country specific domains like .co.uk or .ie more if its a commercial site they are visiting. Using a tld from a country other than the one you are physically located in can cause problems with Google not returning you in searches made by users in your own country. This problem has lessened because Google allow you to set the country in their Webmaster Tools (if you have not used Google webmaster tools go there now, its a must have tool and its free).
  • Do you need a descriptive domain name at all? Not all memorable domain names bear any relation to the services associated with them. Think Amazon.com or Ebay.co.uk. Neither of these domain names mentions auctions or books. Wih this in mind you could make up an entirely fictitious word that sounds good, or you could do what I did when I inverted the word "someplace" to make ecalpemos.org. Another idea I have used is to add numbers to the end of words. I currently own musician2.com and musician2.co.uk which I am planning to develop into a site for musicians. Its easy to remember and was easy to register at the time so try adding a number onto the end of your chosen word. How about plumber1.co.uk?
  • You might also want to consider a domain name which incorporates a search term into it like hire-car-in-edinburgh.co.uk. This might help with search engine placement, but it might not be so good for the overall promotion of your business. Google and other search engines reward content quality, relevance and updating frequency so you can do as well in the long run with a domain name that is not laden with keywords.
The next stage is to search for available domains based on your ideas. This can be surprisingly tricky because a lot of domain registration sites have very slow or cumbersome search systems.

Here are some more intelligent search sites that I have used recently:

http://www.dropped.ie (returns .ie and .com suggestions)
http://instantdomainsearch.com/ (searches for availability as you type)
http://www.bustaname.com/ (allows you to put in multiple words and select suffixes to add)

There are a surprising number of good domains out there which have either never been registered or have expired at some point so spend some time analyzing your needs and you should be able to find something that works for you.