While naming a new business can be a real challenge on its own, finding an available domain name that makes marketing sense can feel like a nearly impossible task. Most of the obvious, single-word domain names are already taken; however, a clever entrepreneur can still come up with a creative domain name that also acts as an effective marketing tool. Let’s look at a few factors to keep in mind when selecting a domain name for marketing purposes.

Understanding the Essentials

Before exploring the marketing value of a domain name, let’s take a moment to review the basic pieces of advice that fill most guides and tutorials. First and foremost, a domain should be short and catchy. It should be both easy to pronounce and easy to spell. In addition, it shouldn’t be too similar to the competition’s domain names. It’s important to do some research before settling on a name to ensure it doesn’t violate an existing trademark. While these rules can help business owners evaluate ideas that they’ve already come up with, they won’t make it any easier to dream up those domain names in the first place.

Discoverable vs. Brandable Domain Names

To create an effective domain name, it’s important for entrepreneurs to think about how they plan to attract traffic to their site. Lots of people who may not know about a website will do searches on related words and phrases. If a fair amount of traffic is expected to come in that way, it might make sense to create a “discoverable” domain name. This type of domain name would be descriptive in nature and contain some of those key search terms.

If a business’s marketing strategy focuses more on paid search and creating buzz, a “brandable” domain name might be the best for them. Many marketers recommend using a ‘made-up’ word for this type of domain name. Not only will the name be more memorable, but it’s less likely to be found in other documents on the web. This can help a business quickly dominate the top search results for that term and establish a sense of credibility.

Creating the Ideal Domain Name

Choosing a discoverable domain name is a fairly straightforward task. Real words and phrases that may be used to search for the business can be mixed and matched to create a winning combination. Crafting an effective brandable domain name is a bit harder. The best website names often refer to the website’s purpose in some indirect way. For example, the photo-sharing site Flickr contains a reference to ‘light’ through its take on the word “flicker”. This name provides a subtle nod to photography that’s indirect but still memorable.

Since most single-word domain names are already taken, a little creativity will be needed to choose a brandable name. Putting two words together to create a new compound word has been a common way to generate domain names, and it certainly worked for YouTube. Blending parts of two existing words is another strategy with a proven track record. For inspiration, just look at Microsoft or Intellicast. If none of these methods yield the perfect domain name, a name can always be made up. Many online tools can help businesses generate made-up words to use as domain names based on a given keyword or category.

Top-Level Domains

Startup owners shouldn’t confine their naming ideas to the .com top-level domain. Most of those are already taken, and it doesn’t make sense to invest heavily to buy those domains from squatters. Top-level domains like “.ly”, “.in” and “.be” have become fairly commonplace extensions. “.ly” is particularly popular since many startup names end with that suffix. The “.io” top-level domain, which is the country code for the Indian Ocean Territory, has gained serious traction among tech startups with its reference to “input/output”. And most recently, with the launch of hundreds of new generic TLDs (domain names ending with meaningful words like .vegas, .organic, .club, a host of colors: .red, .blue, .pink and .black, and upcoming social and political identifiers like .lgbt and .vote) the options for a memorable domain name that reflects one’s brand have exploded.

Not only do these alternative top-level domains have more names available, but abandoning the typical dot-com naming convention can actually give a new brand an edgier, more modern feel and may in the long run be more relevant to one’s brand.

Protecting a Brand

Since a domain name should work as a brand’s marketing tool, it makes sense to take certain steps to protect the brand. Once an effective domain name has been selected, it might be a good idea to buy up any similar-sounding domain names or different extensions of the same domain name. Buying these variations of a domain name will prevent the competition from acquiring them.


Business owners can’t expect the perfect domain name to come to them in a flash of inspiration. Like many other aspects of marketing, the domain naming process should be approached in a methodical fashion. Even as available domain names become harder to find, a bit of creativity and strategic thinking can result in a domain name with serious marketing power.

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