A Super-Fast Guide to Domain Names

In this section, we’ll briefly cover what a domain name is, what to think about when choosing a domain name and how to buy and set up your domain names.

Strap yourself in, we’re going to move quickly!

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is simply the web address your website will live on. For example, my domain name is hostingrookie.com.

How Can I Choose the Best Domain Name?

Choosing the right domain name is really important; you want something that’s easy to spell, looks trustworthy and is not difficult to remember. You might want a domain name that’s SEO-friendly, but you also need something that reflects you, your business or your brand.

Here are some simple rules I follow when choosing new domain names:

  • Whenever possible use a .COM instead of another top-level domain like .NET or .INFO.
    People still associate a quality domain name with a .COM and are distrusting of other top-level domains.
  • Say your potential domain name out loud to yourself, and have a few friends say it as well. Sometimes a domain name might sound good in your head, but that doesn’t mean it sounds good when spoken aloud. Make sure your domain name is easy to read and pronounce.
  • The shorter the domain name the better. A sharp and short name makes it memorable and easier for people to just type it in their browsers.
  • Try to choose a domain name that reflects what your site is about. It’s not a hard and fast rule – we see popular domain names like Amazon, Google and eBay. Still, domain names like AutoTrader.com are more descriptive and new visitors know exactly what they’re getting.
  • NEVER use hyphens. While some may disagree with me here, I feel strongly that the use of hyphens is a bad idea. It dilutes your branding, is much harder to remember and looks much less trustworthy to potential visitors.
  • Avoid using trademarked and copyrighted names in a domain at all costs. You might be breaking the Terms and Conditions of the owners of that trademark. The last thing you want is to get a cease and desist letter from the company.

SEO-Friendly Domains: A Quick Note

In my early days of internet marketing, I tried so hard to get exact match or partial match domains with the keyword inside because I thought this was what Google wanted to see.


Ooops… that’s pretty tacky.

Not only was this a bad idea from a branding perspective, but now Google doesn’t put as much weight on EMDs for rankings as it did in the past, so those long-winded, keyword rich domains are all but worthless.

If you’re building anything legitimate, I would completely disregard putting keywords in the domain unless it makes sense for your brand.

Some Helpful Domain Name Tools

These tools can help you brainstorm and find awesome domain names for your website.

LeanDomainSearch– This site finds you millions of cool names that you wouldn’t have thought of.

Namestation– I’ve tried this before when I was trying to get a name for new online auction site. You can set up a contest on the site, and real people will submit domain names for you. It’s a brilliant tool, but they only have a small number of users right now.

Wordoid– Another tool that will create made up words and will even check the availability of the domain names for you.

Impossibility– This domain name generator uses a list of nouns and verbs to add to your keyword and searches for available .com domains.

Panabee– This handy tool helps you brainstorm names for your domains or apps, along with checking them against those in iTunes.

Where Should I Buy a Domain Name?

Once you have a domain name in mind and you know that it’s available, it’s time to purchase your domain. It’s going to cost you $10 – $12 to get a domain with almost any registrar.

For domain name registration, I’ve always recommended Namecheap or GoDaddy. Now GoDaddy is loaded with annoying upsells during the checkout process and Namecheap’s new interface is very clunky. But I have no problem if that’s where you decide to go because they’ll both get the job done. Sometimes you can score a domain from GoDaddy for $1 for the first year, so don’t turn that down.

Google Domains is the way to go now and there are four reasons for this:

  • You probably already have a regular Google account, so there’s no need to create a new account.
  • The interface is much cleaner than the two registrars mentioned above.
  • For $12, you get your domain and a private registration. Private registration is the ability to protect and hide the personal information required when registering a domain name, you’ll also get a lot less spam emails.
  • If you’re using Google Webmaster Tools you don’t have to confirm ownership of your domain because Google already sees that you own it.

The domain name purchasing process is incredibly easy – just register an account, login, choose your domain name and pay the piper.

How Long Should You Buy Your Domain Name For?

Buying a domain name is not like buying a new couch – it’s not yours to keep forever. You’ll need to renew your registration to hang on to the domain name you’ve chosen.

Registrars will give you the option to auto-renew your domain names every year, and most also offer to let you secure your domain name for a longer time period upfront in exchange for a bit of a yearly discount.

These options are entirely up to you – but keep in mind that if you forget to re-register your domain name, you could lose it!

Don’t Buy Your Domain Name From Your Host!

While most hosting companies are willing to give you a free domain name with the purchase of their hosting, I prefer to keep my hosting and domain names with separate providers. Doing this will make it much easier to change hosting providers in the future, and it could also help you avoid massive fees.

Once you’ve registered your domain, it’s time to connect it to your hosting provider. To do that, you’ll need to point your nameservers the right direction.

If you have no idea what that means, don’t worry – I’m about to clear everything up in the next section.