Choosing a good domain name for your blog is the first step into your blogging journey. A lot of people go with some generic domain name or they niche way down and this limits the possibilities of their blog. When picking a good domain name you have to be extremely careful, as there are a lot of pitfalls, especially if you are new to blogging. The domain name is basically your blog’s address, where people can go to access your blog.
There are a lot of domain name generators online, although my personal recommendation is to stay far away from these as most of them just add a word or two to the domain and call it a day. The last thing you want is to go with a catchy domain name only to find out that it was used as a PBN or a spam website. Although you can still rank with an expired domain that has been spammed with backlinks, but you will only make things difficult for yourself.
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You can also use backlink checkers for more information about the domain but this is only relevant if you go with an expired domain. In addition to getting a good domain, you will also have to install an SSL certificate, as this is actually a ranking factor, and it gives your blog more credibility. There are plenty of hosting companies that offer free SSL, so you should probably ask your hosting company if they provide it and if they will also install it.
If you are on a tight budget then there are some websites which do offer free domains, although you should stay as far away from these as possible, they will charge you as much as they want the next year when you have to renew the domain and some won’t even allow you transfer the domain to another registrar. If you are new to blogging and you don’t know what kind of blog you should make, then check out my recent article What kind of blog should I start? ( Top 6 Options ).
Always use .com extension
There are a lot of extensions for domains, and new ones are popping off every year, from .xyz, .online, .app, and so on. These domains do cost less money to register than .com domains, but as they are cheaper they are excellent for spammers, who will often buy domains in bulk. This is the same thing that happened to the .xyz extension, due to the low-cost people started buying them in bulk and spamming them as hard as they could.
If you are building a website or blog which offers some kind of service in your local area then you should use your countries extension, although if you are from the US you should still use the .com instead of the .us extension. If you are planning to make an informational or affiliate blog than stick with the .com extension, no matter in what language the blog will be. The simple reason for this is that you will get more traffic. Although backlinks are still a big part of ranking in Google, but they are slowly becoming irrelevant, for more information check out my recent article Can you rank a website without Backlinks? ( Fact or Fiction? ).
Think of branding
A good domain is a brandable domain, this is why you see a lot of blogs having the domain name of the blog owner, with some work they can be easily associated with the niche which they are targeting, and with time they might even become an authority in the niche. Your main goal with your blog is to make a brand for yourself, this way ranking will be extremely easy.
Know your niche
Every niche has some specific keywords from which you can instantly identify the niche of the website. This is the same with google, if you pick a domain like jhonjames.com for example than google has simply no clue what is your blog about. If you pick a domain name like jhonjamesseo.com, than google instantly knows that your website is probably about SEO, and if you set your blog up correctly then it will have no problem identifying the niche.
Keep it short
Generally speaking, most short domain names have already been registered long ago in the .com bubble. Even if you manage to find a short domain name that would be excellent for your blog, odds are that this is already registered and they are probably asking a lot of money. You will find plenty of domains which have 2-3 words in it, just make sure that the domain name is targeted towards your audience.
No hyphens or special characters
You should not pick a domain name that has hyphens or special characters in it. Domains with hyphens were a big thing a couple of years back, basically, if you wouldn’t find the exact match keyword of the domain then you would add hyphens. The problem with domains with hyphens is that they simply look spammy, both in the eyes of Google and the users. Domains with special characters are not that common, but these are mostly used by spammers so stay away from them.
You can use a number in your domain but only if it makes sense, there are some people who want to have the keyword in the domain and as they can not find an exact match domain they will add a number to it, don’t do this as it looks extremely spammy. If you are looking for expired domains then you have most likely noticed a lot of domains that contain only numbers, avoid these at all costs as these are used by spammers from China, I mean just take a look at the backlink profile of the expired domain.
Keyword in the domain
A lot of people will tell you that you absolutely need to have your main keyword in the domain, although this was true a couple of years ago, but it is no longer needed. Google is smart enough to figure out what is your blog about, especially if you use a brandable domain. Exact match domains are not as powerful as they used to be a couple of years ago, and finding a domain with a competitive keyword in it, which has never been registered is simply impossible.
A lot of people think that the traffic to their blog will come due to the domain. The domain name is just an address, what makes or breaks your website is the quality of your posts. This is why a lot of beginner bloggers want to jump on the bandwagon and register a domain with a keyword in it which has a lot of monthly searches, just don’t do that and save yourself a lot of headaches.
Don’t niche too down
Niching down is a good thing, but you might find yourself that you have niched way too down after the first year or two of blogging. You have to pick a domain name that lets you expand and target more general aspects of the niche which are usually harder to rank but not impossible.
This is also a fairly common mistake made by beginners, trying to associate yourself with a big brand is good, but do not include it in your domain name, as you will most likely get a cease and desist letter which means that you have to abandon the domain name. Some will say that you can use offshore hosting which ignores DMCA, but the truth is that if they can not get the website offline from the hosting they will simply go to the name registrar which will delete your domain.
Don’t use expired domains
You have to plan for the success of your blog, and you will have more problems with expired domains than with a never registered before domains. A lot of people will say how good expired domains can be, which is true but if you are a beginner then you will not know the difference between an expired domain with good metrics and one which has been spammed.
Don’t focus on DA, PA, and TF
These are metrics not by google but by sites like Moz, Ahrefs, and Majestic. Generally speaking domains with high DA and PA are extremely expensive, but the problem is that these metrics can be easily manipulated, and you might end up spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a worthless domain.
In the case you do want to go with an expired domain or with an already registered domain with high DA, PA, and TF, then the first thing which you have to do is to check if the domain is indexed. Even dropped domains tend to be index, although usually just the domain will be indexed. Go to google and type in site:domain.com if the domain is indexed then it is good to go, if it isn’t indexed then it most likely means that the domain has been penalized and deindexed, and indexing a penalized domain is almost impossible, so stay away from it.
Not a lot of people use the Wayback machine, although it is extremely useful. No matter if you are picking up a completely fresh domain or an expired one, you should check it with the archive.org. Hopefully, the Wayback Machine has crawled the domain a couple of times and you can take a look at the website how it looked a couple of years ago. If the snapshots look relevant to the domain then it is good to go.
If you see articles that are irrelevant to the domain, or you see articles in Chinese than stay away from it. This means that the domain was a PBN or a spammed domain at some point. Chinese articles and characters mean that the domain was once dropped, picked up again, and redirected to some Chinese gambling website.
Take your time
Take as long time as you need while you are trying to figure out the domain which you want to buy. Once you have bought the domain and set up your site, you can still buy a new domain and redirect the old one to the new one but you should avoid doing this at all cost. Some people will say that you should pick up the domain as soon as possible, this is true for expired domains but for never registered domains or branded domains the odds of somebody making research on the same domain is extremely small.
Use a reputable domain name registrar
Where there is money, there is competition and a lot of scams. Now you have probably heard of Godaddy, Hostgator, Namecheap, and similar domain registrars, but not all of them offer the same service. Godaddy is notorious for pumping up the price of domains, and this is a known issue in the industry for a couple of years ago. Once you search for a domain it will show the regular price, but if you come back a couple of minutes later and search for the same domain you will see that the price went up by a couple of hundred dollars at least.
There are some domain registrars which will offer the domain for free, although there is a catch, the next year when you have to pay you will find that instead of the regular $10 which you should pay is instead something like $50. Go with a domain registrar which also offers free WhoisGuard, this basically protects your privacy. Some name registrars offer this for free for the first year and they will recuperate the money the next year from you. My personal recommendation is to use Namecheap, they do not lock you in their platform and the WhoisGuard is free forever.
As you can see there are a couple of steps which you should follow when picking a good domain name, and most importantly a couple of pitfalls to avoid, especially if you are a beginner. I know that this can be a lot of information but trust me, once you make the research for your domain you will reap the benefits later on. On the other hand, you can always just buy some random domain and hope it doesn’t have a history which could impact how your website ranks, although I do not recommend it.