How to Choose a Good Domain Name

Posted on April 16, 2012

Finding a good domain name for a startup or new product can be a huge pain in the ass. Every good .com that you can think of is already taken -oftentimes by opportunistic squatters looking to make a quick thousand bucks; all of the keywords and combinations/permutations of them that aptly describe your business were registered a decade ago; all credible .io’s (and .ly’s) are being bought up at an increasing rate, not to mention that they cost $50/year; and you’re a person who realizes that buying one of the new .guru, .company, .la, or .world, etc. will make you look like a complete and total ass clown. So, what can you do?

First, use the list below as a guideline to help you define what is a “good” versus a “bad” domain name. I put it together a few years ago, and it’s helped many friends, startups, and clients come up with great domains. It’s legit, it works, and it will save you from yourself when you’re ready to pull the trigger on some terrible domain just because you’re tired of searching. Here’s how it works: there are six critical domain violations listed below. Your chosen domain should have no more than one of these violations; zero is preferred; two is a deal-breaker, which means that your domain is a complete dud and you need to keep looking.

Six Critical Domain Violations:

  1. Not a .com or .io.
  2. Consists of two words put together (e.g.,, ) OR it’s only one word but is longer than 9-10 characters (not including the .xxx).
  3. It’s misspelled (e.g. or
  4. Pronunciation is not obvious from spelling (e.g.
  5. It’s a domain hack (e.g., note that they eventually bought
  6. It’s a nonsensical word (e.g.

For example, violates two of the above (#1 and #3) and thus would NOT be a good domain to choose, whereas " only violates one of the above (#3) and is therefore acceptable.

Second, you can save yourself a lot of time by creating a spreadsheet (Google Sheet preferably) of keywords applicable to your product. Many great domains are simply two appropriately descriptive keywords combined and registered as a .com. Create two columns in your spreadsheet, column A and column B. Column A should contain a list of similar/related keywords (or synonyms) that describe some aspect of your product. Column B should also contain a list of similar/related keywords that describe your product… but a different aspect of it than column A describes. For example, I might have the words: drop, keep, upload, push, stow, and save in column A (verbs); and the words: box, safe, db, store, and stash in column B (nouns). Now, try every unique combination of the column A and column B words. If any sound right to you, check them to see if they’re available. Continue adding more synonyms until you find a good combination that is available. In this example, you’d find that is taken (obviously), but that is available -at the time of this writing at least.

Third, use the the second tip above in combination with a crowdsourcing service such as PickyDomains. This is super helpful if you’re short on time -who isn’t -and can dramatically reduce the pain involved in finding a winning domain name. Having said that, following-up on all of the submissions that you’ll receive and providing feedback is, in itself, quite a chore.

Honestly, there’s no magical bullet. It takes a lot of boring and tedious noun and verb-pairing -and a tremendous number of clicks on GoDaddy’s “Search Domain” button but hopefully the tips in this article will help you as they’ve helped me in the past.

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