When evaluating the quality of a domain name, it’s important to note that there are no hard and fast rules here. Certain audiences may be more receptive to certain types of domains than others.
For example, we’ll discuss the “radio test” below. The “radio test” ensures your domain name can be easily communicated by voice (i.e. “own your platform dot com”).
However, if you’re primarily advertising your domain through written mediums (business cards, online banner ads, billboards, etc.) this may not be something to highly prioritize.
With that said, there are a few tried-and-true qualities of good domain names that you should be aware of.
Pass the “radio test”
Say the domain out loud to yourself. Then, say it out loud to your friends, family, and random people. Then, have them write it down.
Did they spell your domain right? If not, it probably has one or more of the following characteristics:
- Numbers: is it “3” or “three”?
- Hyphens: is it “hyphen” or a literal hyphen?
- Homonyms: is it “too” or “two” or “to”? “Colonel” or “kernel”?
- Words prone to misspelling: “bizarre” has one z, double r, not a double z and one r.
- Domain hacks: “dee ee el dot eye cee eye oh dot us” or “delicious with dots between the el and eye, then the see and eye” …both nightmarish ways to pronounce del.icio.us
And don’t think the “radio test” won’t matter if you’re not planning on literal radio advertising. A radio-test-friendly domain also comes in handy during podcast appearances, elevator pitches, and when your loyal fans spread the word about your website over the phone and in-person.
Avoid trademark infringement
Near the beginning of my entrepreneurship journey, over a decade ago, I had this bright idea to start an online store that sold exclusively Apple products.
I found the domain AppleSell.com to use for this purpose. Since I had no money in the bank to actually fund the cost of goods sold, I was just going to set up an Amazon affiliate store and call it a day.
Here’s the problem: I had no permission from Apple to use their trademark in such a way, and I’d have a tough time arguing fair use. With no money in the bank, I had very little chance of warding off any legal action from one of the richest corporations in the world.
Luckily, I shelved the idea before registering the domain.
However, had I registered AppleSell.com to sell fruit, I wouldn’t have had an issue. It’s not just the word mark, but also the trade in which it is used in. Hence, trademark.
Avoid time/geographic limitations
Let’s say you’re organizing an event called WordCamp. The first one will take place in Washington, DC, in the year 2017.
There might be WordCamps in subsequent years and other cities in the future, but getting this first event in the books is your only focus right now.
WordCampDC2017.com sounds like the perfect choice, right?
Instead, try getting a domain like WordCamp.org. Use subdomains to denote cities (like dc.wordcamp.org) and another level of subdomain to denote year (like 2017.dc.wordcamp.org).
That way, you’re not stuck managing an ever-growing amount of domains every year, and you won’t have to worry about domain-squatting losers registering combinations you haven’t conceived yet.
Try to get a .com, even if you’re not going to use it as your primary domain.
In the WordCamp example above, I would make sure to get WordCamp.com in addition to WordCamp.org, just so I could redirect the former to the latter.
Here’s why: .com has been hard-wired into the mind’s of internet users for the past 30+ years. If you hear the name of a business, you’d probably assume their website can be found online at [business name].com.
Even if in practice, you would Google first to confirm, this association is incredibly powerful.
Be conscious of length
A domain name can be a maximum of 63 characters. Try to keep your domain as far away from that limit as possible.
Consider that people may be typing our your domain on a mobile keyboard. Consider that your domain name may be used as part of a 140-character-max tweet.
Don’t start cutting vowels out of your domain, and other things that would hurt memorability, just for the sake off brevity.
Just be conscious of length, and try to stay under 15 characters (that doesn’t include the https:// www. or .com) as a general rule.