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How to choose a website name

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Choosing a domain name is not straight forward and needs to be iven a loyt of thought.
Choosing a domain name is not straight forward and needs to be iven a loyt of thought.

So you want to start your own website or blog? Going back a few years this could be quite a challenge. Nowadays there are so many tools freely available on the internet that most of the technology is taken care of for you. In fact, the biggest problem now is that there are so many choices and options available it can be hard to know which ones to go for. Whichever way you go the first problem will be how to choose a website name.

I’ve yet to come across any source on the website giving any practical advice about how to choose a website name, but this is what I have found out over the years and certainly my own experience in creating agewhatage.com. Agewhatage.com wasn’t the original name. Changing the name was not to complicated, but still a chore that took quite a lot of time. Better to get it right first time!

Every website name is unique to that site. Ours is www.agewhatage.com. We will call this our “domain name”. Our domain name is also a Web Address. That means that you can use it for many other purposes, including your emails.  So we can send and receive emails through our xxx@agewhatage.com accounts.

They all end with a suffix (known as an “extension”) such as .com, .co.uk and so on. If you are targeting a specific country it pays to choose the appropriate extension – for instance .co.uk if you are selling products or services only to UK based customers. Otherwise if you are interested in attracting visitors from other countries, a .com name is probably best, although it may be a little more expensive.

Over 25 new domain names are registered every second, there are over 1.1 billion world-wide, so you may not always be able to use your first choice because someone has already registered it. In fact the odds are that your first choice will already be registered. It has been estimated that a domain name for every combination of two English words has already been registered. So whether you go for a .com or a .co.uk the final choice may be forced on you by what is available.

Let’s say you want to sell motor cars on the internet. The easiest way to find out if a domain name has already been registered is to go to one of the registration sites.  123-reg is one of the most popular. I use it all the time and it is free. Type in your preferred name (e.g. carsforsale) and it will return a complete list of all possible combinations of wwww.carsforsale and over 400 possible extensions. Not surprisingly many extensions have already been registered with this name because a lot of people have tried to sell cars on the internet. You will also find that in the early days of the internet some people registered domain names as an investment and can now be bought for a price. 123 reg also offers premium names which are much more expensive than available names. Of course any URL offered for sale can be bought, but this is not something I would recommend unless you can be totally sure of its history.

Before anything else you need to think about a name to put before the extension. Let’s say I am a plumber in Norwich and my name trading name is John Phillips, and I want to build a site to advertise my services on the internet. My customers already know me by name, so there is no point in even looking for a JohnPhillips domain name. I want to sell my plumbing services to potential customers in Norwich, so how about norwichplumber as a name. Unfortunately, according to 123-reg.com, norwichplumber.co.uk is already registered, but norwich-plumber.uk and .co are both still available. The hyphen might look a bit clumsy but it might possibly improve your google ranking so that’s a definite plus.

The internet is quite a lively place, so how about something that might gel more closely with your target audience? Something down the lines of waterworks or wetworks.  All taken, but wet-works is still available, and with a .co.uk extension. You still need to make one final and very important check.  Google “wet works” and make sure there are no results with embarrassing or untoward results.  Apparently “wet works” is KGB slang for undercover state-sponsored assassination – but that’s unlikely to be of more than passing interest to your customers.

A third option for choosing a domain name is the weird and wonderful, and you might prefer to use a totally made-up name.  There’s nothing new about this.  Long before the internet came into being, companies used product names that had nothing to do with the product itself.  The mars bar was named after the owner of the company that made it, but think about the washing powder Omo.  The name was chosen simply because it could be pronounced easily in any language. Now we have google, yahoo, zoopla, all recognised brands (but now we call them websites). When launched, the name is the label on the product, but once established becomes part of the product itself .

So you now have three options – one very traditional and the other two a bit more imaginative. The choice is yours.

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