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Names That Click: How to Choose the Right Domain Name 

By Thom Harrison - December 18, 2023

Choosing the right domain name is one of the fundamentals for online success. It’s the first thing many people see about your brand — and may even help to define it. The right choice is bound to make a big impact. But while buying a domain name can be surprisingly cheap and easy, it’s a challenge to up sticks and move home later on. That’s why it’s so important to get it right from the start. In this guide, we’ll go through some practical tips on how to pick a domain name that’s smart, affordable, and sure to make a lasting impression.  

What is a domain name?

To start with the basics, a domain name is a specific address that you enter into a web browser to visit a website. Every website has its own special domain name — much like any house in the street has its own postcode. 

Each domain consists of three main parts: the subdomain, the second-level domain, and the top-level domain (TLD) or domain extension. Looking at www.123-Reg.co.uk, for example, that’s the “www” prefix, the unique name in the middle, and the “.co.uk” suffix at the end. 

So, what’s a URL? Well, web addresses and URLs are basically the same but, strictly speaking, the URL includes a protocol (like “HTTPS”) at the beginning. Forward slashes are then used to create more subdirectories or paths. But that’s more than enough detail, for now.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what a URL — that is to say, a full web address — is made up of:  

You’ll have noticed that a lot of websites have “www” at the start. This is the most common subdomain out there. The same age as Taylor Swift and at least equally as famous, we think you know what it stands for. You may be surprised to learn, though, that it’s used by only around 50% of websites online today.  

For the most part, subdomains are there to help us make sense of navigation. They are used to set up specific sections within websites. For example, an online store can use a subdomain like “shop.something.com”, while a blog could be set up on “blog.something.com”. Similarly, a mobile-friendly version of website might exist on “m.something.com”.  

The heart of a domain name is the second-level domain. This is the juicy core of the web address, acting as a unique identifier for the site. It’s what most people will remember and associate with a web address. More often than not, the second-level domain reflects the brand name itself. For example, the “123-Reg” part of www.123-Reg.co.uk.  

Last but not least, the top-level domain (TLD) or domain extension, such as “.com”, sits at the end of the address. The extension is really important because it gives users an idea about the type of website they’re visiting. Along with the second-level domain, the TLD is the main thing you’ll need to think about when choosing a domain name. 

The most recognised “generic” extensions (gTLDs) include “.com”, “.org”, and “.net”. There’s also the major country code extensions, such as “.fr” or “.jp”. In recent years, there’s been an explosion of new, weird, and wonderful choices, such as “.fun”, “.club”, “.london” or “.fit”. It can be a good strategy to choose a clever matching combination.

There are more than 350 million registered domain names out there today, according to the 2023 Domain Name Industry Brief Report. With new domain names registered at a rate of around 1 million each month, that total is expected to rise to over 550 million by 2026. As we’ll explore, the right choice of website address can have a huge impact.

How to choose a domain name

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Right?  

Well, Shakespeare wasn’t aiming to establish a successful online presence in 2024. One leaf to take out of the Bard’s book, however, is to have an awareness of how words and letters can affect an audience. Your domain is your online signature. And with that, here are our top tips for choosing the right one.

Be short and sweet

You want a domain name that’s easy to remember, say, and type. It should be straightforward and give potential visitors an idea of what your website is about. A domain that people can easily shout out will help with word-of-mouth recommendations and make it more likely for visitors to return to your site. 15 characters should be about the upper limit in most cases. But less is more.

Avoid words that are prone to being misspelled, as well as hyphens or awkward sets of numbers. Special characters aren’t an option when choosing domain names (and that’s a good thing).

Be on brand

Try to find a brandable domain name. For many start-ups and small business owners just getting the ball rolling, it can be a smart strategy to come up with your brand name and domain name at the same time — they are likely to become, in effect, one and the same.

Take the impact of domains like ‘JustEat.co.uk’ or ‘AutoTrader.co.uk’, for example. These are simple and direct, but also immediately inform visitors about the nature of the business. They create a loud and clear first impression. 

Be original

Your domain name needs to be memorable and unique. Aim for a name that stands out. Certain words or structures in a domain name can trigger specific emotions or responses. A quirky and creative name can spark curiosity, for instance, while a prim and proper name can work to build a sense of trust and reliability. Choose an original turn of phrase that says something about your services or products.    

Check the competition

Look at your competitors’ domain names. What patterns do you notice? Are there certain keywords they frequently use? Understanding the common trends in your industry can provide insights into what works (and what doesn’t). Tools like Namecheckr and Namechk are able to tell you not only if a domain name is taken, but whether or not the current status of username is available on social media.

Be aware that there’s more to setting up an online business than simply owning a domain. Be sure to check for trademarks to ensure you’re not infringing on anyone else’s brand. That way, you should be able to avoid any legal issues or confusion. 

Make it future proof

Changing your domain name later on can be a bit tricky. Or rather, it’s easy to buy a new domain name, but it’s awkward to switch around when it comes to branding and marketing. You’re bound to lose search engine ranking in this way. So, it’s best to start with a name that can grow with your business and won’t need changing. 

Think ahead and choose a domain that fits your long-term plans. Aim for a name that’s broad enough to cover any growth or changes in your business. You might start out with a blog, for example, but in the future you might want to monetise it and start selling products. It can be better to choose a general name that works better than a very specific one. Your domain name should resonate with your brand core, while being adaptable enough to accommodate new products and services. Fashions come and go, so try to pick a name that’ll stay relevant over time. 

Use smart keywords

The most straightforward thing might be to use your own business name as the second-level domain. However, it may be wiser in some cases to incorporate targeted keywords — or combine your brand name with a keyword or two. This can help with search engine ranking and make your products and services clear.  

You may be able to use your own intuition to brainstorm relevant keywords, but it’s also a good idea to use keyword tools, like Google Keyword Planner (which is free). Paid and freemium tools include Ahrefs, Semrush, and Moz.

Make it local – or don’t! 

If your business is focused on the local market, consider using a country code top-level domain. ccTLD’s tend to carry more domestic appeal, boosting local rank in search engines. As of 2023, the world’s 10 most popular country extensions are: (1) .cn, (2) .de (3) .uk, (4) .nl, (5) .ru, (6) .br, (7) .au, (8) .fr, (9) .eu, and (10) .it.

Certain country code extensions have specific residency requirements. For instance, the “.ca” domain for Canada requires registrants to prove they have a presence in Canada. That’s not the case for a “.co.uk” or “.uk” — you can register this domain even if you’re not based here. 

While a local extension is a good idea when targeting a specific country, these domains might not be the best choice when it comes to global reach. If your goal is to appeal to an international audience, a generic “.com” or “.net” domain may serve you better. These domains are universally recognised and can build a brand identity to resonate with a global audience. 

Act fast

Before you get your heart set on a name, check if it’s still free. Someone else might have already registered it, especially if it’s a really good one.  

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is a nonprofit that controls how, when, and which new extensions are released. They work with registrars to make these new options available to everyone. New TLDs are rarely released, but when they are, they tend to come out in batches, and it’s a bit of a feeding frenzy when this happens — with the popular options snapped up fast.

Choose the right TLD

Choose a domain extension that works for your business. The right one can bring a sense of trust and credibility. “co.uk” domains are great for British ventures, but various TLDs from “.abc” to “.xyz” can be eye-catching and budget-friendly options. The choice of TLD is so important, in fact, that we’ll dedicate the entire an entire section to it, in a moment! 

Get a great deal

Getting a good deal on a domain name can (of course) help save money — especially helpful for a new business on a tight budget. That means more leftover for all the other important things. While the price of domains varies widely, it’s actually pretty easy to find amazing deals. With over 400 affordable domain extensions and 1.7 million .UK domains registered, 123 Reg is a great place to start your online journey, with “.com” domains from as little as £0.01 for the first year. You might even want to buy more than one.

Secure it

Once you’ve got it, secure it. Keep your domain on the lockdown with Domain Privacy and Ownership Protection. This works to safeguard your domain from hackers, spammers, and other potential online threats — ensuring that your details are private, and that nobody else can gain access what’s yours. 

How to choose a domain extension (or “TLD”)

.CO.UK and .UK

For UK businesses, choosing a “.co.uk” and “.uk” is a good strategy to balance local appeal with global recognition. The “.co.uk” domain is well-established and a great choice for those looking to connect with a domestic audience, appealing to customers who prefer local enterprises for familiarity and trustworthiness.  

The “.uk” extension is a new, punchier alternative. Introduced just a few years back, this domain retains the association in a more contemporary format, making it a popular choice for start-ups and tech businesses. The global recognition of these extensions can open doors for UK businesses in the international market, suggesting reliability and quality often associated with British products and services. For example, ‘bbc.co.uk’ carries with it a sense of authority and trustworthiness — national, but at the same time globally recognised.  

123 Reg offers thousands of .co.uk and .uk domain names to give your UK business the best start. There are some other great alternatives to consider, including .org.uk, .me.uk, or .uk.net. If you already have a website established, you can transfer your domain for free.   

.COM

A “.com” domain is like grabbing a prime piece of online real estate. It’s the go-to choice for many businesses, because “.com” addresses are so prominent worldwide. There’s arguably nothing better than a good “.com” to show you mean business. This extension has stood the test of time, and having one can give your business an instant credibility boost — especially if you’re looking to attract a global audience. 

Because “.com” domains are so popular and long-established, the market is saturated, and snagging a good one can be tough. A lot of the best names are already taken, and if you’ve got your heart set on a specific one, you might have to pay a premium.

But don’t lose hope just yet – there are still plenty of “.com” gems out there waiting to be discovered. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of tweaking your desired name a bit or thinking outside the box to find that really good, affordable and available “.com” to fit the brand. Going for a .com might mean a bit more effort and possibly a higher cost, but it’s often worth it. Plus, people find them easy to remember, which is always good for business.

.ORG

Traditionally, the “.org” extension is associated with non-profits, charities, and educational platforms. It conveys a sense of trustworthiness and altruism. When a website uses a .org extension, it often implies that it’s run by an organisation with a mission beyond profit-making. However, it’s important to note that “.org” is an open domain, which means it can be registered by anyone, not just non-profits. Therefore, while it carries a connotation of credibility and community focus, it’s not exclusively used by charitable entities. 

.BIZ

The “.biz” domain is explicitly intended for business use and signals a clear commercial intent. This can be beneficial for companies looking to immediately identify themselves as a business entity. However, since “.biz” is less well-known than .com or .org, it might not carry the same level of immediate recognition and trust. Some users may view “.biz” domains as less established or less credible compared to the more familiar .com. 

.INFO

The “.info” domain is typically used for informational sites. It’s a go-to choice for providing knowledge, research, resources, and guides. This TLD can lend an educational or resourceful air to a website, which can be particularly effective for content-driven sites.

New and novel gTLDs  

From “.abc” to “.xyz”, alternatives to the norm bring something a little different to the table when it comes to branding and identity. Niche-specific domain names can provide a direct link to a specific industry or interest area, making them ideal for businesses that want to show more about what they’re about in a smart way. The right one can add a creative and memorable twist.

Newer extensions are particularly appealing to businesses and projects that aim to project a modern, innovative image. Added to the mix, some country code TLDs have gained use as domain hacks: the “.me” extension for Montenegro would be one example, while the code for Anguilla, “.ai”, is popular in the tech industry.

The relative newness of these domains means there’s a greater chance of finding your preferred name available when compared to saturated traditional domains. Novel gTLDs also tend to be more cost-effective. 

This novelty and specificity can make a brand’s online presence more distinctive and memorable — even more so when pairing the main word and extension in a clever way. For example:  

.tech for an innovative startup 

.fashion for a fashion boutique 

.travel for a travel or tour agency 

.cafe for a trendy coffee shop 

.guru for consultants and yoga instructor alike 

.fitness for a personal trainer  

.design for a interior designers or graphic designers 

.studio for artists or instructors

.ninja for a karate school 

.estate for those selling properties  

.dog for a vets or pro dog walkers 

.beer for a delightful craft brewery 

➤ or .blog for… your blog! 

There can be some drawbacks for a British business using a gTLDs over a “.co.uk” or “.com”. Since they’re newer and less familiar to the average internet user, they might not carry the same immediate trust or recognition as their counterparts. This lack of familiarity could pose a hurdle — especially for audiences that are less tech-savvy or more accustomed to traditional domain extensions.

If you do opt for a less-familiar domain, customers will certainly feel more protected if your website carries its own SSL Certificate. A fundamental security feature, these digital credentials work to confirm a website owners identity, while also hiding sensitive data. This reassures customers that their information is safe, building confidence and encouraging secure online shopping. With 123 Reg, your own SSL Certificate comes as standard.  

See also: 7 Reasons Why SSL Certificates are Essential for Websites

123 Reg offers hundreds domain extensions to suit any purpose, from the traditional “.com’s” to more inventive and original gTLD’s. With over 400 domain extensions to choose from, it’s easy to find a memorable name with a suffix that fits your business. You’ll find thousands of the UK’s cheapest domains — and you might just be surprised to see how affordable a great domain name can be.

Wrapping up

Finding the right domain name is key for online success. But in a crowded sea of over 350 million registered names, you’ll need to think your decision over carefully. Choose a domain that reflects your business’s essence or location to stand out. Short and straightforward names stick in people’s minds. If you spot a great domain, snap it up fast to avoid losing out. Buying multiple domains is one way to secure your brand and set you up for future expansion.

While many popular choices with a “.com” and “.co.uk” may already be taken, there’s rich pickings out there if you are willing to explore different domain endings. These alternatives open up new possibilities — letting customers know what your online business is all about. Be sure to look out for deals on discounted domains for budget-friendly options. 123 Reg even offers a variety of domains free for the first year.

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