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Domain names are the brand of a website – they tell visitors what the website is likely to be about and they give insight into the character of your new home on the web. Whether your new website is serious or playful, meant to be accessed by millions or just a select few, the domain name can make your website a roaring success. Here’s how to choose the right one for you.

Decide whether you need a .com, or is another TLD better suited

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A Top Level Domain (TLD) is the part of the web address that comes immediately after the final dot. You’re reading this article on thecrow.uk, so the TLD is .uk.

Back in the early days of the internet, there were limited TLDs to choose from, in addition to .com, webmasters could select from .org, info, and whatever to TLD for their country happened to be (subject to certain restrictions). This included .fr for France, .es for Spain, .us, for the United States, and .uk for the United Kingdom.

These are the biggest and best known domains, and typically businesses will want to have a .com TLD or their local country or area TLD. These seem more serious and businesses which use these are more likely to be taken seriously. A country specific TLD will rank highly in searches from within that country.

There are now hundreds of TLDs which can be more specifically marketed for your niche.

If you’re starting up an online shop, you may want to consider a .shop TLD, the owner of a picture hosting site might choose .pics, and if your website is just for fun, a .lol or .fun TLD might be appropriate.

Your domain name should be easy to remember

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Think of five domain names off the top of your head. The chances are good that these were all short and snappy. Probably only one or two words, excluding the TLD. This website domain name is thecrow.uk, it’s made up of two words, The and Crow. It’s short, and it’s memorable. Other great domain names include DIY.com, Google.com, duolingo.com, and namecheap.com. The one thing that these domains have in common is that they’re super-easy to commit to memory and recall on demand.

Your website domain name should be descriptive and tell a story

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Whatever your website is going to be doing, selling, showing, or demonstrating, the domain name should reflect that. It’s good for SEO purposes, and it’s good in that visitors know what they’re going to be getting. For a business website, the domain name should be the name of the business – plus an appropriate TLD. For hobby sites, the domain name should reflect the hobby. If your name is Ophelia, for example, and your website will be devoted to documenting your garden, you might choose ophelias.garden or opheliasgarden.me. Visitors checking in to a website with this kind of name will know that they’re in the right place. If you’re a small business serving a particular geographical area, it would be advantageous to add that information into the domain name, too. For example, bradsalbanyfishingtackle.com.

The domain name must be available

The biggest obstacle to registering a domain name is availability. There may already be a website in existence on the web property you want to occupy. It could be a business operating in a similar space to yours, or it could be someone with a similar hobby or interest and a similar name.

But it’s a sad fact that domain names can be bought cheaply and sold on for profit with little – if any – effort being put in by the website owner. This is cybersquatting, and unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do about it beyond approaching the current owner with a cash offer to transfer ownership of the domain to you.

If the domain name you want to use is currently owned – whether by cybersquatters or by a disinterested owner there are a number of actions you can take.

Visit https://whois.domaintools.com to check out when the domain name registration expires. If the owner does not renew the registration, it may be available for you to purchase after this date. If you are very lucky, a whois query may give you contact details of the current owner.

Think up a similar name which accurately conveys your values and your story.

Consider changing the TLD. With over 400 available TLDs, you should be able to find one which suits your website, and you.

You can come up with a great name for your new website!

Now you should think up some great content to put onto your new website. Remember to use plenty of photographs to break up the text, and to use subheadings in a logical way!