How to Choose a Domain Name & Choosing a Blog Name

by Jerod Morris on January 8, 2010

how to choose a domain name - choosing a blog name
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Beginner's Content

What’s in a name?

When it comes to starting a blog, a lot is in the name.

Choosing your blog’s name is a decision that can happen in a Eureka! flash of inspiration, or one that can come as the result of strategic deliberation. Today, I’m going to analyze this subject and provide you with some general guidelines to follow when you are choosing your domain and blog name.

I am splicing how to choose a domain name and choosing a blog name together into one post because the best case scenario is for your domain and blog name to have continuity, consistency, and synergy.

This will be invaluable for your long-term branding and for setting your website up to maximize its ability draw visitors from search engines.

So let’s examine the factors that you should keep in mind from the very beginning, even before that first default “Hello, World” post (for WP users, anyway) hits your site.

First, let’s quickly review the basics, as this post is after all a part of our Beginner’s Series here at How-to-Blog.tv.

Defining Domain Name, Blog Name, and the Difference Between the Two

If you are a first time blogger and not well-versed in Internet lingo, you may be wondering what the difference is between a domain name and a blog name.

  • The domain name of any website (How-to-Blog.tv for this site) is the most pure form of its URL.
  • The blog name is what you call it (again, How-to-Blog.tv for this site), and it is typically highlighted in the header of your site.

Oftentimes, as with our site, the domain name and blog name are the same. We even go so far as to attach the domain extension when describing our site verbally (“How to Blog dot TV“) because we don’t ever want people to misunderstand what address they should type in to get to our site.

Your domain name and blog name do not have to be the same, but it is certainly beneficial in myriad ways when they are.

How to Choose a Domain Name

When choosing a domain name, there are four key factors that need to be considered above all else:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Recallability
  3. Branding
  4. Keyword Relevance

Let’s break these down.

How to Choose a Domain Name Factor #1: Simplicity

You want a domain name that is simple, easy to remember, and that can be typed and spelled without a lot of ambiguity or difficulty.

Consider this:

  • If the address of my home was 1234 Jerod Drive, that would probably be pretty easy for you to remember if you were trying to get to my house or address an envelope to me.
  • On the other hand, if my address was 74901 Krzyzewski Crest Boulevard, Building 10, Apartment 109, it would be a little bit more difficult because it is long, not easy to remember, and includes a word that is difficult to spell.

Again, using How-to-Blog.tv as an example, we certainly could have chosen something like howtobecomea-moreconscientiousblogger.com as our domain name. But look at that nasty, disgusting, unnecessarily long domain name. It almost gives you a headache, doesn’t it?

When it comes to domain names, simple is almost always better.

How to Choose a Domain Name Factor #2: Recallability

In the previous section, I said that you want to choose a domain that is easy to remember. You may be wondering how that is different from recallability.

The difference is that recallability describes that element of your domain name that makes people recall it and visit your site, rather than simply being able to remember it if prompted to do so.

One way that your domain name will have recallability is if it has some pizzazz, some personality. You can even achieve recallability with a domain name that, at first glance, appears somewhat obtuse.

Remember when Google.com first came out long ago? That is a perfect example of a domain with recallability. In fact, it possessed so much recallability that the word itself actually became an accepted verb for the action you performed on the website!

You can also achieve recallability with a domain name that is perfectly associated with your subject matter. Our goal in naming this site how-to-blog.tv was to perfectly align it with what we expect our visitors to be thinking about: specifically, how to blog.

A visitor may have only been here once or twice but may come across a blogging question sometime down the road. When this happens, we hope that the association our domain name has with its subject matter will immediately trigger them to recall their previous time here and revisit us.

That’s recallability, and the best domain names have it.

How to Choose a Domain Name Factor #3: Branding

Especially if you are starting a blog for business purposes, branding is important.

You could name your blog f—you.com and it would certainly have simplicity and definitely have recallability, but something tells me you would not like the branding.

Keep this in mind also when you try to follow in the footsteps of other numerous websites that have named themselves something ambiguous. A couple of quick examples off the top of my head are Fark.com and Woopra.com. Neither of these domain names really tells you what the website is about (like Google.com didn’t back in the day).

Certainly you can build awareness for a quirky, ambiguous domain name through a variety of means, there just won’t be anything intuitive about how it will happen.

How to Choose a Domain Name Factor #4: Keyword Relevance

This is a factor that I believe is often overlooked when it comes to domain names.

Its importance lies in ensuring that your blog has solid search engine optimization (SEO) fundamentals from the beginning. What is SEO? Exactly what it sounds like: optimizing your website to maximize its ability to draw search engine visitors.

It used to be that if you wanted to target a specific keyword for high search engine placement, one quick ticket to the top would be to include the keywords in your domain. For example, our domain includes keywords that would, theoretically, set us up to attract people to this site who are searching the phrase “how to blog”.

The current conventional wisdom is that keyword relevance in the domain has far less importance now than it once did; but, that doesn’t mean it should not still be a consideration.

As you will see in the next section, there are still ways that having a keyword-relevant domain name can help your site in the long run.

Choosing a Blog Name

What I have given you above are four general guidelines for choosing your domain name. Now, we are going to bring the other half of the equation into play: choosing a blog name.

By no means, though, are we moving away from the principles above, because remember: you want continuity, consistency, and synergy between the two.

In fact, here is quick rule of thumb when choosing a blog name: the most optimal blog name is one that can easily double as your domain name as well.

How so? Well, because the best blog names are ones that are:

  • simple,
  • encourage recall by users,
  • perpetuate the branding you desire, and,
  • contain keywords you would like your site to rank well for in search engines.

Those four bullet points look and should sound familiar. (Hopefully the whole continuity, consistency, and synergy thing is starting to sink in.)

Think about it this way: if someone knows only your blog’s name, but your domain is something entirely different and hard to remember, how will they get to your site? If they already remember your blog’s name, it must have some level of simplicity and recallability; so why not just use that as your domain name in the first place?

You might be thinking, but what if I want to name my blog “My Blog”, but MyBlog.com is already taken?

My advice would be to a) consider a different blog name that has an open domain, or b) if you are really committed to My Blog as the name, then find the closest domain possible and go with that (i.e. My-Blog.com).

The takeaway here is that there better be a pretty compelling reason to have a domain name that is different from your blog name. It just makes your life so much easier in the long-term.

Getting More Granular with Keyword Relevance in Blog Name

The last point that I want to make is to highlight the potential benefits of thinking strategically with in terms of the keyword relevance of your blog name.

Here is quick rundown of why keyword relevance in your domain name and blog name is important, assuming that maximizing traffic and exposure is one of your goals:

  • One of the most important factors in ranking highly in search engines is the number of external links your site has coming into it.
  • Search engines pay a great deal of attention to the actual words that are used to link to your site. This is called anchor text. (For example, in this link to Corporate Compliance Insights, the anchor text is “Corporate Compliance Insights”.)
  • Most people, when they link to your website, will do so using your blog name as the anchor text.
  • Thus, to maximize the ability for your blog name to help you naturally develop strength with search engines, you should include the most relevant keyword or keyword pair for your topic in your blog name.
  • If you choose a keyword or keyword pair that has high search volume (which you can investigate here), and your site ultimately builds up strength for that keyword/keyword pair – which it will, if you create good content that other people want to link to – you will drive an equivalent amount of residual search engine traffic into perpetuity.

Corporate Compliance Insights (CCI), which is a site that I manage for one of our clients, is a perfect example of this.

The primary topic of the site is corporate compliance. This is a term that is searched, on average, 33,100 times per month. Because the site is named “Corporate Compliance Insights”, the vast majority of links pointing to the the site from external sites include the targeted keyword pair “corporate compliance.”

Additionally, because the domain name is www.corporatecomplianceinsights.com, we have the continuity, consistency, and synergy that I’ve stressed ad nauseum in this post.)

Now, go Google “corporate compliance”. You should find CCI, which has only been in existence for a little over a year, in the #4 or #5 slot.

Look up and down the page. There are a lot of heavy hitters on there, with CCI right there in the mix. (And rightfully so, as the site has great, relevant content written by experts in the compliance field.)

Needless to say, a lot of traffic is driven to CCI from people searches that include the “corporate compliance” keyword pair, and it all developed naturally because we were strategic with how we chose our domain name and blog name.

Conclusion

Ultimately, there are really no explicit rules for how to choose a domain name or for choosing a blog name. Each blog, each person’s goals, and each situation is entirely unique.

What I hope to have given you with this post is a guiding set of principles to use when you are faced with the sometimes challenging and intimidating task of picking a name.

If you remember that having continuity, consistency, and synergy between your domain name and blog name is almost always optimal, and if you remember that simplicity, recallability, branding, and keyword relevance will maximize the overall impact of your choice, I have confidence that you will make the right decision.

**********

Jerod Morris is a blogging and social media junkie who helped found How-to-Blog.tv so he’d have a repository for all of the blogging and social media information constantly swimming around in his head.

When he’s not blogging here, Jerod is the managing editor for both Midwest Sports Fans and Corporate Compliance Insights, as well as an avid user of StumbleUpon (jrod4040), Digg (jrod4040), and Twitter (@jerodmsf).

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Friday Link Dump: Look Back at the BCS Title Game and More
January 8, 2010 at 12:11 pm

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

amrita August 6, 2010 at 2:40 am

Really useful thanks for sharing

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Portable Crusher August 11, 2010 at 8:47 pm

The name is essential for the site , choose a suitable name is not difficult according to the writer’s thinking.

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Niki Beulah September 1, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Great post. I’ve started using a lot of unconventional names for marketing – for example whatisyourbusinessdoingwrong.com and the like. I thought of it and some other userful tips here -http://www.elure.com.au/41_choosing-picking-business-website-domain-name.htm – which was a very helpful article also.

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