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Nov '23

14 mistakes to avoid when choosing a domain name (and lessons learned) – Domain Name Wire

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Here are 14 mistakes people have made choosing domain names and the lessons they learned.
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We’ve all seen bad domain name choices: hyphenate domains, hard-to-remember domains, clever spellings.
I recently reached out to 14 entrepreneurs and asked them about actual mistakes they’ve made with domain names. Here’s what they had to say.
My biggest regret regarding the acquisition of the Tooltester.com domain name is that I waited too long. Back in 2017, when our website was still operating as Websitetooltester.com, the domain Tooltester.com was offered to us for around $7,000. I thought it was way overpriced and rejected the offer. Only three years later, when I had a serious intent to buy it, the price had jumped to $23,000, with a seller who wouldn’t negotiate at all. In my desperation, I even purchased the plural of the domain (Tooltesters.com) for around $2,000, but I wasn’t happy with it in the end. Eventually, I decided to proceed and paid the full asking price. However, it was worth it in the end, as I love this brand name.
Robert Brandl, Founder and CEO, Tooltester S.L.
 
I’ll never forget when I registered a domain that was a play on words. Clever, right? Not so much. The pun didn’t translate well internationally and caused a lot of head-scratching. I learned that clarity beats cleverness when going global. When crafting your domain, think of it as the title of your book. Make it straightforward and appealing, so anyone, anywhere, would want to pick it up off the shelf.
Dilruba Erkan, Consultant, Morse Code Translator
 
I registered a keyword-heavy domain name with the aim to improve search rankings. This SEO-focused choice resulted in a complex and non-intuitive URL, making it difficult for users to remember and connect with the brand. I learned that while keywords can be beneficial for SEO, a domain must primarily be memorable and brand-aligned.
User experience trumps search engine algorithms when it comes to domain names. A clean, concise, and creative domain name enhances brand identity and appeal far more than a keyword-stuffed URL. The cornerstone of a successful online brand is ensuring the name is short, snappy, and sticks in the mind.
Kate Wojewoda-Celinska, Marketing Manager, Spacelift
 
At first, I wasn’t sure whether I should stick with a traditional .COM domain or go for a country-specific one. For us, it all came down to where we do our business. As a small marketing agency, most of the clients we’re serving are in our country, Australia, so it made sense to sign up for a .AU extension. 
Those country extensions help indicate to potential customers where we operate, and it also helps us rank better within local SEO. Google looks at those country indicators when it indexes your site, and it sees local content as more relevant to its users. Since Google weighs relevancy heavily in creating positive user experiences, using a country extension may help you see a real organic traffic boost.
Hardy Desai, Founder, Supple Digital
 
The biggest mistake I made while choosing a username for my brand was taking a country-specific domain. We have seen domains ending with country codes like .nz, limited to that particular country. I also chose the domain ending with .uk, a geographic indicator. Later, I started approaching customers from around the globe, where it conflicted, and I had to change the domain name. From this, I learned that one should not choose a country-specific domain unless the site targets people of that particular country only.
Fahad Khan, Digital Marketing Manager, Ubuy India
 
I didn’t make it future-proof. Choosing the domain name steamcharts.io was a learning curve for me. Initially, it perfectly matched my tool’s purpose, which was to build charts for Steam games, tracking user counts, ratings, and such. However, as the project grew and I added rich descriptions, reviews, and characteristics, the domain no longer captured the breadth of data offered. It was then I transitioned to steambase.io, a name that better reflected the expanded content. The key lesson here is the importance of future-proofing your domain name. It’s wise to strike a balance between specificity and flexibility. You want a name that tells your users what you offer but is adaptable enough to encompass the evolution of your service.
Lucas Wyland, Founder, Steambase
 
One mistake I made was not considering the potential for trademark conflicts. I chose a domain name without conducting thorough trademark research, and later, I received a cease-and-desist letter from a company with a similar name. This taught me the importance of conducting comprehensive trademark searches before finalizing a domain name to avoid legal complications and protect my brand’s integrity.
Phil Strazzulla, Founder, SelectSoftware Reviews
 
Way back in the day, when I was first setting up my company and the adjacent website, I went through a few different name ideas, including one that was a huge mistake. I’m not going to tell you what I called it, but it was multiple words, which, written together in a URL, could have been read as…something completely different and not…nice, if you catch my drift. 
It was completely mortifying and was a huge lesson about thinking things through and prioritizing our internet presence and our branding. It’s a new age, and the way you present yourself online is paramount to your success, so none of us can really afford to ignore it. 
When you choose a name, think about it long and hard, and make sure you’re considering the way it reads in a URL.
Rick Berres, Owner, Honey-Doers
 
I once grabbed a domain name with a funky spelling because the traditional spelling was taken. Big mistake. People kept mixing it up, and it didn’t show up in searches like I wanted. What did I learn? Stick to simple and clear. If someone can’t hear it and type it in one go, it’s not the one. Now, I go for names that are easy to spell and make sense for my business—no more spelling games for me.
Diego Cardini, Founder, The Drum Ninja
 
We made the mistake of not picking up both the singular and plural versions of our domain name, and it taught us to purchase common name variations if possible.
When we were coming up with a name for our brand, we decided that we wanted it to be a one-word domain name. We eventually settled on the plural word “Repairs” because we are a home-improvement services company that offers many repair services.
We realized after more than a year that a lot of our customers were remembering us as the singular word “Repair”. We heard many complaints that our website returned a blank page, but the reality was that our customers were misremembering our name. 
Unfortunately for us, the singular word domain name was purchased by someone else during that one-year period. Every year after that, on the domain expiry date, I would check if the owner had let it expire. It took four or five years, but they finally did, and we now own the domain. It now directs users to the correct domain.
Zames Chew, Co-Founder, Repairs.sg
 
My biggest mistake was that I went and grabbed a .org domain for my business instead of a .com. I didn’t realize then how much of a difference it could make. But trust me, a .com domain really gives off a whole level of trustworthiness and professionalism that a .org or .net just can’t match. 
So, when people started expecting a .com at the end of my business name, I had to actually spend a fortune to get it! My advice—just go for the .com domain from the get-go. It will save you a lot of headaches, and money, down the line.
Madhav Bhandari, Head of Marketing, Early Stage Marketing
 
Our company was founded using the .net domain. It made sense at the time, given that the .com domain was a few thousand dollars, and the product had yet to achieve fit in the market. However, once the product took off, the company could’ve easily made the choice to switch to .com as a near-term marketing consideration. We bought the domain in 2022 and have switched over, but it definitely could’ve happened a few years earlier in hindsight.
Trevor Ewen, COO, QBench
 
When I started my business, I really wanted to establish a personal brand that could evolve with me.
Initially, when searching for my name, I couldn’t get an exact match. This was really frustrating, especially given that my parents had blessed me—or cursed me—with an unusual spelling of my first name.
So, determined to forge ahead, I initially set up under a shortened version of my name. However, it just never sat right. It didn’t feel like me; I felt fraudulent, as if I was doing something wrong. I never connected, and I lost motivation.
Like anything in life, everything flows easier if you get it right from the start. So, I was finally able to get my exact match for a domain name and migrate my old website.
For me, it was worth the wait, as I now feel a lot happier developing my own legitimate brand name.
Katharine Gallagher, Founder, Personal and Professional Growth, katharinegallagher.com
 
A valuable lesson my team and I learned firsthand in choosing a domain name was the importance of considering the future growth of your website. Initially, we named our website “RGC Advertising,” which perfectly suited our services at the time. However, as our service evolved and included several aspects of digital marketing, this choice started to feel limiting.
The lesson from this mistake is crystal clear: Think about your long-term goals and whether your domain name will remain relevant as your website evolves. Avoid the trap of pigeonholing yourself into a specific niche. Our own evolution led us to rebrand as “RGC Digital Marketing” to better encompass our wider range of services that we could offer businesses. 
This taught us the value of adaptability and foresight in domain-name selection. Always choose a name that not only fits your current business but also accommodates future growth, ensuring that your online presence remains aligned with your ever-expanding offerings.
Kieran Frank, Content Marketing Executive, RGC Digital Marketing
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Mike Sallese says

Great article Andrew- love to hear the perspectives from actual end users!
Mike
Squarely says

Don’t listen to those so called domain experts ,domain investors, domain professionals they are all fakers
Just do it , eat your losses and learn from mistakes
Steve says

Yes, all good — meanwhile, I received an offer of 200 USD for a short .com domain today that I paid about 7K for in 2018.
This is from a company that is using the .co and a hyphen in the .com and they have received over 10 million usd in funding and of course, the owner/ceo called me a F***ing squatter — a generic word w/zero trademark issues …LOL
You would think entrepreneurs would be better educated about domain valuations after 25 years of branding and marketing on the Web
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Joker
Joker

Joker has been buying and selling domains since the late 90's. He has worked with many portfolios and investors over the past decade as well.

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