Attention, please. Open your eyes wide, stare at your screen.

Are you ready? Then read aloud the URL below:

https://penisland.net

If you pronounced “Penis Land” instead of “Pen Island”, let me reassure you: you are not – necessarily – in the wrong mind.

Emma Stone is embarrassed.

I don’t need to draw you a picture: this domain name is really bad.

I used this extreme example to point out an observation that is often shared: choosing a professional domain name on WordPress that is effective and original is not easy.

To help you avoid all the pitfalls that will come your way, I decided to create a complete guide to accompany you from A to Z.

Mistakes not to make, methods to find the right domain name, impact on SEO, or the extensions: these are some of the major subjects you will find in this guide.

Find out more in the overview, below:

This guide is nearly 7,000 words long. If you want to read it at your own pace, you can download its PDF version by following this link.

There are affiliate links in this guide. This means that WPMarmite will earn a commission if you purchase your domain name with Bluehost through our link (it doesn’t cost you anything extra on your end).

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Part 1: What is a domain name?

Numbers… and letters

First, let’s precise what a domain name is.

According to AFNIC*, “an Internet address or domain name is the equivalent of your postal address on the Internet“.

Wikipedia goes a little further by explaining that “a domain name identifies a network domain, or it represents an Internet Protocol (IP) resource.

ICANN* gives even more details about the hierarchical structure of a domain name: the domain name whois.icann.org has three levels of hierarchy: org is the top-level, icann is the second-level, and whois is the third-level.

For precise figures, check out the Verisign* Domain Name Industry Brief, issued in June 2021.

ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers that helps coordinate the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, which are key technical services critical to the continued operations of the Internet’s underlying address book, the Domain Name System (DNS). [source]Verisign is the operator of the .COM top-level domain registry that works hand in hand with ICANN to prevent domain abuse and enhance DNS security, stability, and resiliency. [sources here and there]
AFNIC stands for “Association française pour le nommage Internet en coopération” and operates a number of French country code top-level domain names such as the .fr (for France)
. [source]

An IP address is a number that identifies a computer on the Internet. This number is composed of digits that are very difficult for a human being to remember (e.g. 234.57.98.231).

A domain name – often abbreviated as DN – makes it possible to overcome this problem by replacing the numbers with words, which are easier to remember for any person.

Imagine if you had to type 234.57.98.231 in your browser, instead of wpmarmite.com, it would be more complex, right?

Complicated math formula about the domain name and IP address explanation.
Gee, just thinking about it gives me a headache.

The name and the extension: two major components

Then, you have to know that an DN is composed of two elements:

  • A name, composed of a set of characters.
  • An extension. This is what you find to the right of the dot, in a web address. First, let’s mention the TLD (Top-Level Domain) that includes two classes: gTLD and ccTLD. For example, in a domain name, you can spot the TLD right after the second-level domain. In wpmarmite.com, the com part is the TLD whereas wpmarmite is the second-level domain.
    Regarding the two classes, there are the generic extensions (gTLD, for Generic Top-Level Domain) that include extensions such as .com (for commercial sites), .net (for Internet sites), .org (originally for non-profit sites), etc.
    Then, there are the extensions attached to a country, also called ccTLD (Country Code Top-Level Domain): for example .fr for France, .be for Belgium or .es for Spain, etc.
    We can also mention geographical extensions such as .quebec (for Quebec, Canada) or .berlin (for Berlin, Germany).
    In total, there are more than a thousand extensions available on the market (I’ll come back to this in a dedicated section).

Now, let’s take a concrete example in order to materialize the fusion between these two elements (the name and the extension).

In the domain name wpmarmite.com, wpmarmite is the name and .com is the extension. Easy, isn’t it? Congratulations! You now know how to identify the domain name of a site.

To be exhaustive, your Internet address often has a prefix (www, which you are not obliged to use, this is the case of WPMarmite), a name and an extension:

Structure of a web address with the prefix, domain name and extension.
Screenshot from the AFNIC website

It is important to know that each DN is unique. On the other hand, although the choice of the domain name is free, it can’t be bought for life.

To get one, you have to go through an approved registrar which allows you to rent it for a period of your choice (usually from 6 months to 10 years).

The .com dominates the world

So, are you leaning towards .net or .com? Or maybe .info or .io? We’ll see later.

To give you a first idea of the global trends on the adoption of extensions, look at these eloquent statistics:

  • Verisign’s Top-Level Domain Zone File Information shows that “the active zone as of 07/22/2021 contains 155,611,609 .com domain names and 13,325,120 .net domains totalling 168,936,729 domain names”. (These figures are updated minimum once per day.)
  • In ICANN’s annual report 2020, we can read that “The .COM registry is the largest, […] and among the oldest of the legacy top-level domains”.
  • With 44.5% of the market, .com is the most used domain in France, ahead of .fr (according to AFNIC‘s 2020 Q4 data).
Top 10 largest TLDs by number of reported domain names.

After this first general overview, let’s to discover the usefulness of a domain name (on WordPress and in general).

What is the purpose of a domain name?

If you’re wondering what a domain name is for, you should know that it is fundamental for several reasons:

  • It is necessary for your online site to work, just like web hosting. Without it, Internet users won’t be able to find you on the Web (besides, a DN can’t “work” if you don’t have hosting).
  • It allows you to “secure” your public image on the Internet: when you register a DN, it belongs to you and you alone (first come, first served). On the other hand, be careful: no one is the owner of their domain name. You are a sort of tenant and must renew it (generally, every year) at the risk of seeing it expire (it becomes available again for the competition because it falls back into the public domain).
  • It is a precious ally to protect your brand. By owning it, you prevent your competitors from using it. It is therefore sometimes useful to anticipate by reserving a domain name that you are not necessarily going to use right away, in order to prevent someone else from jumping on the opportunity.
  • A DN is required to create email addresses in the name of your business (e.g. contact@wpmarmite.com).

The importance of branding

Finally, a DN must be a brand in its own right, easily recognizable and memorable, because it contributes to the professional side of your WordPress site/blog.

I will develop this point a little more, because it is the most important one in my eyes.

Regarding the domain name, we usually say that the name must be brandable.

A can of coke with sunglasses and headphones.
A good example of a strong brand: Coca-Cola

Let’s take some examples:

  • amazon.com: Amazon is much more brandable than sale-everything-anything.com. It is therefore much more selling.
  • opodo.com: this name has nothing to do with travel, hotels or other. But it is easily memorable.
  • wp-rocket.me: this WordPress caching extension uses a dash and an exotic extension (.me for Montenegro), which is not really recommended. However, their brand speaks to everyone.

You may not know it, but WPMarmite went through several domain names before finding the right one:

  • wordpress-themes-pro.com: this is WPMarmite’s first DN. It contains the name of a brand, in this case WordPress, which I wasn’t really allowed to use. Fortunately, I was warned and I quickly corrected it. The site was not very well known at the time, phew!
  • wp-themes-pro.com: I then chose this one. And as you can see, it’s long and contains two dashes (stay here, it’s part of the mistakes to avoid absolutely that I detail in the next part).
    Since I was only talking about WordPress themes, I wanted to include this keyword in the domain to optimize my SEO. I don’t know if it was a determining factor in the growth of the site but, in any case, it was difficult for visitors to type. When I was asked about my site, people always looked at me with a funny face.
Weird face when seeing a weird domain name.
A face like that, yes.
  • wpmarmite.com: this time, we’re there! Easily memorable, short, original and a nice brand name. Since I wanted to talk about the whole WordPress ecosystem (and not just themes), this was ideal. It also works for our English-speaking friends (hello guys!) because you’ve probably noticed that our logo is a cooking pot. By the way, the correct pronunciation is “ˈdʌbəlˌju pi mɑrˈmit”.

Is everything clearer for you?

In order to make it clearer, let’s discuss 6 mistakes you should not make.

Let’s go!

Part 2: How to choose your domain name on WordPress: 5 mistakes to avoid

Mistake #1: Using dashes

Let’s start with a question I’ve been asked several times: should you choose a domain name with or without dashes?

Answer: the simpler your DN, the better. As far as possible, I advise you not to use hyphens, or not more than one.

Why, you may ask? Here are some reasons:

  • Hyphens can be tricky to spell. Say the following examples out loud and you’ll see: wp-themes-pro.com, wp-rocket.me.
  • Too many dashes can make one think of spam and phishing sites. I guess that’s the last thing you want your visitors to remember, right?
  • By abusing hyphens, the domain name of your WordPress site may look too long.
  • Finally, you’ll increase the possibility of typing errors by your visitors, and make their lives more difficult. The risk? Losing traffic.
Domain name fail.

In the same vein, avoid the following pitfall: using double or triple letters (e.g. www.awwwards.com), which make the DN more difficult to decipher.

Mistake #2: Overusing numbers

What industry do you think the company that owns the following site, named 888.com, does belong to?

Mathematics? Alcohol? You’re out of luck. It’s a blog that is an “online gaming provider”, according to its About page.

Moral of the story: the use of numbers must be really relevant and very limited (well, the choice of 888 might be obvious for anyone who is familiar with gaming).

Again, try to keep it as clear as possible for your visitors, especially in order to limit comprehension problems when speaking.

Mistake #3: Choosing a domain name that is too looonnng

Let’s continue with the 3rd mistake. In your opinion, can a domain name that is too long do you any harm (the answer is in the question)?

To enlighten you, here are 2 examples that speak for themselves:

  • http://llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk/
  • https://gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooogle.com/

To make it short: the longer it is, the worse it is. Domain names that are too long are more difficult to remember and compromise your loyalty strategy.

Moreover, they are more likely to increase typing errors. For example, there are already people adding letters to WPMarmite by typing wpmarmitte.com… (that’s why I reserved it to redirect to the blog).

Borat disapproves long domain names.
Please don’t do this.

Mistake #4: Including a brand name

This is common sense, but it’s always worth reminding yourself: when choosing a domain name for your WordPress site, you are not allowed to use another trademarked name, or you’ll be sued.

For example, the WordPress Foundation has already filed a lawsuit against an American blogger because he used the term WordPress in his DN.

wordpress-site.org is prohibited because WordPress is a registered trademark.

On the other hand, wp-site.com or wpmarmite.com are authorized.

Do you like Coca-Cola? Then try to create a site named ilovecocacola.com and see what happens…

Coca-Cola leaks on a girl's face while drinking.

Or worse, stopcocacola.com if you hate it. It shouldn’t be long before the lawyer mail arrives in your mailbox!

Mistake #5: Beware of double meaning

You’ve already seen a little bit of this in the introduction to this guide. I’ll put a final layer here, to make sure you don’t repeat this mistake at home.

Once again: be very careful about double meanings in your domain name or brand.

Especially when several terms are side by side. Since it is said that laughing is good for your health, let’s have a good laugh with this uninspired choice of DN: dicksondata.com.

For your information, this site is about environmental compliance. Apparently, nothing to do with something more intimate.

So I’ll spare you the translation of the word dick and let you investigate to find out what it’s about. Be careful, if you enter this query on Google Images, you may be surprised…

Once you’ve come to your senses, let’s continue our journey to choose a good domain name on WordPress.

A quick recap, after these first steps. Even if there is no set rule, a domain name is more likely to be effective if it is:

  • Short.
  • Easy to remember.
  • Simple to pronounce.
  • Related to your business (we will come back to this in the section on SEO).

At this point, you may not really have a firm idea yet. Don’t worry, it’s normal.

To keep you going, I’ll detail 7 methods that should give you a hand.

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Part 3: 7 methods to choose and find an effective and original domain name

Method #1: Rely on an online translator

If you want to think outside the box to find an original DN, you can try to translate a word into a foreign language.

To translate a keyword from Samoan or Chewa (one of the two official languages of Malawi), you can use several handy tools:

In each case, simply type in the word you want to translate into the language of your choice.

“Ikke verst er det ikke?” That’s how you say “Not bad, right?” in Norwegian, according to Google Translate (I’ll spare you my pronunciation, which would create a diplomatic crisis with our Norwegian friends).

Translation of "marmite" from French into Welsh on Google Translate.
“Pot coginio”: that’s how we say “pot” in Welsh, did you know that?

Beware of double meanings, once again. When choosing a domain name on WordPress, if you want to be visible internationally, check that the DN does not mean something pejorative in another language. For example, one of the translations of the Portuguese word “pinto” means “penis”.
You may want to know all about the willy, but not sure if this is the case for your visitors. 🤭

Method #2: Get into yin and yang mode

Are you familiar with yin and yang, the two complementary categories in Chinese philosophy?

The Yin and Yang method can be applied to a domain name.

Well, to apply this method to your DN, all you have to do is take a word from your topic, and associate it with another counter-intuitive word.

Significant examples include:

  • NerdFitness.com
  • GraphicBurger.com

Method #3: Use your name (or nickname)

Ah, I bet you’ve noticed the last example I just mentioned: Graphic Burger. I must say that it makes you curious.

But sometimes, being pragmatic is also good, for example by using your name, or your nickname.

Regarding the nickname, be careful. If your name is Richard and you’re used to being called “Dick”, check twice before taking action.

A man is confused about using the "Dick" nickname in a domain name...

Personally, everyone calls me Alex, so it’s okay. Besides, I used for example 4 domain names for my personal blog:

  • alexandre-b.fr (September 2009)
  • alexandreb.net (March 3, 2012)
  • alexbortolotti.com (July 24, 2012)
  • alexborto.com (November 15, 2016)

The first two lacked identification or contained a dash, which was not great, as you know.

I then switched to alexbortolotti.com. However, people still made mistakes on my last name.

So I went to the simpler alexborto.com, which is even easier to remember and write.

It also works for the examples below:

  • syedbalkhi.com
  • sophiaamoruso.com

Also beware of acronyms. They are not often available and can have multiple meanings.

Method #4: Use a prefix or suffix with a keyword

In this case, I could give you the following examples:

  • WPMarmite.com
  • Maintenance-WP.com
  • Automatewoo.com

If there are alliterations (repetition of consonants) or assonances (repetition of vowels), it’s even better, because the repetition of letters are easily memorable as for coca-cola.com or backlinko.com.

Method #5: Befriend a good old dictionary

It’s heavy, it’s cumbersome, and it can sometimes be used as a handgun: the dictionary is becoming increasingly rare in our homes.

But if you have one lying around, don’t hesitate to use it – I don’t recommend the handgun option, of course – to choose a relevant and effective domain name for your WordPress site.

Failing that, use a book related to your industry to find inspiration.

If you’re not a paper person, there are also plenty of online dictionaries on the web. But you can’t flip through them as easily.

For example, I picked up a dictionary to find a term to associate with my “wp” prefix, and I finally came across “Marmite” (“pot” in French) and “Chaudron” (“cauldron” in French).

Check it out, you’ll be in for some good surprises.

Homer Simpson looking for some domain name inspiration in a dictionary.

Method #6: Pick ideas from a generator

This isn’t necessarily the ultimate method, but consider it for the following reason: it can put you on to something.

As there are a lot of domain name generators out there, I’ve made a first selection for you just below:

  • Bust a name offers DNs by combining words, and offers lists of similar words.
  • Nameboy presents itself as the most popular domain name generator in the world.
  • Domain Wheel which is made by the ThemeIsle team.
  • Instant Domain Search can help you for your domain name and for your business name too.

Method #7: Think outside the box

We end this part with a more conventional and obvious method: betting on the originality.

Let’s take a few examples so that you understand: if you are a fan of Italian cuisine, you must have often come across this name of a pizzeria: the Stromboli.

There are many of them in France – the name refers to a Sicilian volcano -, which is not a good way to differentiate yourself from your competitors, is it?

Brad Pitt says you are original, you are one of a kind and so should be your domain name.

Another culinary example related to our transalpine friends: the Dolce Vita. I bet there is one Dolce Vita restaurant in (almost) every country in the world.

You have understood why I insist: dig deeper to find a unique name to stand out!

That’s where Google (the number 10 raised to the power of 100) or Nike (from the Greek goddess Nike) came from.

Part 4: Domain name and SEO: good practices

Should you include a keyword in your domain name?

After the method talk, you may now have several cards in hand for the future domain name of your WordPress site.

But there may be a question on your mind: do you have to think about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) when choosing your domain name? Should your domain name contain a keyword?

To answer this question, let’s recontextualize. To begin with, you should know that the use of a keyword in your domain name acts as a “relevance signal” for Google.

This is what the American SEO expert Brian Dean says in his presentation of the 200 criteria taken into account by the Google algorithm to rank. Dean even adds the following:

“a domain that starts with its target keyword has an advantage over sites that don’t have that keyword in their domain (or have the keyword in the middle or end of their domain).”

However, don’t consider it mandatory to use a keyword in your domain name. It could also be counterproductive and hurt you, because Google hates (and fights) over optimization.

In 2012, the Mountain View firm released its EMD (Exact Match Domain) filter.

EMD refers to a domain name that uses a keyword. For example: watchmoviesfree.tv.

The goal? To penalize sites that abuse this strategy to rank better on Google.

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Beware of over optimization!

So, beware: do not overoptimize. Even if, in some cases, it can improve your clickthrough rate, you risk being caught by the Google patrol (one day). So it’s better to play it safe.

Here are two good practices in this regard:

  • You can include your main keyword in your DN, but without keyword stuffing. Not like this site, for example: beachfrontcondosforsaleinsandiego.com
  • Do not add too many keywords to avoid your DN being too long or containing too many dashes.
A spammy domain name is to avoid.

Still hesitating? To help you decide, SEO specialist Moz recommends the following:

“If you can include a keyword that helps make it obvious what your business does while keeping your domain name catchy, unique, and brand-friendly, go for it.”

If not, or not relevant to your situation, don’t. Moz states that “having a keyword in your domain can still be beneficial, but it can also lead to closer scrutiny and a possible negative ranking effect from search engines”.

In the end, while the domain name was an important SEO criteria in the past, that’s not really the case anymore. Google gives less and less importance to the domain name to rank a page in its search results.

Rather than thinking about it when deciding on a domain name, think also – and especially – about the users who will land on your site.

Focus on branding and user experience

As explained by SEO consultant Olivier Duffez, rather than having a DN consisting of keywords, “it is advisable to prioritize a brand strategy” (remember, I told you about it at the beginning of this guide).

Optimizing content and backlinks remain key elements and quality criteria for search engines: it is above all this that will help you rank better, not the fact of using a keyword in the domain name of your WordPress site.

Take the example of Kayak, which sells trips, not kayaks.

Kayak's website homepage that represent a good domain name despite the fact that its name has nothing to do with what it offers.

Very well ranked, they are big names in their field. And yet, no keyword appears in their DN.

The biggest sites are never called cheap-airline-ticket.com or best-hotel-deals.com.

They’re made-up names, but they are striking and short.

In other words: Google prioritizes user experience above all and including keywords in your domain names is not a requirement to be well ranked.

You should know that there are different services to buy DNs with SEO potential (Search Engine Optimization). But this is especially and primarily aimed at SEOs, especially those looking for backlinks (prices will also be much higher than for a “classic” DN). If you are interested, you can have a look at the services below, which allow you to buy expired domain names that already have backlinks:

Snapnames and DropCatch: to backorder an expired .com, .net and .org domain name.

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Part 5: Which extension to choose for your domain name?

Here, there is no room for coincidence

If Laurel has Hardy and Bonnie has Clyde, the domain name has its own extension.

It is in a way its driving force, its fuel without which it cannot function.

Finding this good extension is not an easy task.

There are several thousands of them on the market!

Some are quite original, not to say exotic: .biz, .eu, .school, .club, .immo, . shop, . finance, .love etc.

Mickey and Minnie kiss each other.
Thinking about the .love extension

As you can see, you have a lot of choices. But try not to use an extension that is too risky. First, it’s expensive.

Then: not many people will remember your site. If word-of-mouth is not part of your strategy, why not. But between you and me: who doesn’t want to be talked about?

Finally, the general audience is not used to this and can sometimes think that these are scam sites.

Be careful also with your communication strategy, even if it can sometimes be relevant.

Think about your field of activity and location

Remember this: to choose the right extension for your domain name, you must think about your field of activity and your location:

  • Local
  • Regional
  • National
  • Continental
  • Worldwide

Depending on this, choosing a domain name of a particular type may be relevant.

On Bluehost, for example, you can browse the list of all the existing extensions with their prices.

If you are a beginner, a .com or .net (or according to your country like .uk, .de, etc.) domain name will do the trick.

But there is still a central question: should you choose a .uk or .com domain name?

If it is a site intended to be translated into several languages, .com, .co, .net are possible. Or, take a domain by language: .fr, .de, .es, .it.

For example, I was right to choose .com for WPMarmite. Even if I didn’t think about it at the time, it allowed me to launch the site in English, in 2020.

Another example, with WPChef.fr, we could hardly offer our WordPress training in English. It’s rather strange to have a .fr site with English content, isn’t it?

Of course, you are not limited to .com and .net so if your activity is very specific, a dedicated extension can also do the trick:

  • .org will be adequate for a site of organization, institution or association (e.g. Wikipedia.org).
  • .info is great for news sites.
  • .tv will be appropriate for a media or a TV network website (e.g. viloud.tv ; wordpress.tv; dev.twitch.tv). For the record, this extension is a territorial extension associated with Tuvalu.

If you can, take several extensions. Think of combining them with variants of your domain name. Then set up redirects to the main domain name of your WordPress site to secure your brand.

Part 6: 2 things to do (and remember) before buying your domain name

Attention, please. If you think you’ve found the perfect domain name, wait a little longer before purchasing it.

Don’t rush! And check 4 important things. Let’s see what they are right away.

Try to pronounce your DN out loud. Do you quickly get what it is? If so, you are on the right track. If not, read the following (even if you answered yes).

Is your domain name available for purchase?

First thing to do: make sure you have chosen a domain name available for purchase for your WordPress site.

Start by typing it into your browser. If the site is unreachable, you should be fine.

Check properly before being sure that your domain name is available for purchase.
Wait, don’t be too quick to claim victory.

But the verification process doesn’t end there. Use the following tools to check availability:

  • Namechk allows you to evaluate the availability of a DN according to the extensions and social networks.
  • Nameshield to check the availability of a DN and, in a broader sense, to manage it to protect your brand.
  • OVH‘s tool to check the availability of a domain name and the extensions attached to it.
  • Gandi’s tool for DN suggestions and registration according to their availability.
  • Social networks relevant to your business: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.

So, how does this work for you? No, don’t tell me someone else had the same idea as you. Yes, I know, it’s a really unpleasant feeling…

And the worst thing is that sometimes the site is abandoned. In this case, what do you do?

What do you do when the domain name is not available?

In order to bring the petits fours, the champagne and the cotillions, you have 2 solutions:

  • Solution #1: give up and resume your research.
  • Solution #2: try to buy the domain name, if it is of capital importance for your activity. Be aware that some people just reserve DNs to resell them at a higher price. We call it domain parking. In this case, you’ll have to take your wallet out and the bill can sometimes be quite expensive.

Let’s expand on solution #2 with some tips on how to do it:

  • Use a marketplace like Sedo which allows you to buy or sell domains. For example, the DN lovefinder.com costs $114,400.
Sedo's marketplace allows you to buy or sell domain names.
  • If the DN is already taken and the site looks abandoned, you can try to contact the owner to find out what he plans to do with his site.
    If you don’t see a contact form, you can find the domain name of a site on who.is or whois.domaintools.com, to see who owns it. Whois is a big database with names, email and phone numbers of domain name owners. It is sometimes possible to hide some information, but not always.
  • If you manage to reach the person, make sure to minimize your ambitions with your site so as not to raise the stakes.
    Be aware that this will require some manipulation on the part of the owner (and therefore friction, and you will have to pay him enough to make it worth the effort).
  • If you agree, you will have to go through a site like Escrow (a trusted third party, not a scammer) so that no one is fooled. At the same time, you will have to initiate a domain name transfer to change the owner.

In summary: it is better to go back to the drawing board than to try to buy a domain name.

This may disgust you more than anything else, be expensive and complicated (especially if you are starting out).

Is your domain name a registered trademark?

Let’s move on to another checkpoint:

To do so, you have access to various databases and resources to:

When you reserve a domain name, it’s also recommended to register it as a trademark, to protect your intellectual property. As there is no “domain name” category, the organization specifies that you must make this registration in the category of products or services that you intend to present on your site.

Last thing: a series of names cannot become a trademark, in the sense of an expression that describes your service.

Part 7: Where and how to buy a domain name?

This time, we are there. You’ve done a careful and thorough study of the domain name you’re eyeing.

Everything is OK for you, you just have to warm up your credit card and get your super DN.

Yes, but where and how to buy a domain name? Join me in the shopping cart: I’ll take you to a special supermarket to do your shopping.

The registrar, a must

To buy a domain name for your WordPress site, it’s quite simple: you must go through a registrar approved by the organizations in charge of managing domain names (Verisign for .com domain names, for example).

For your information, ICANN lists more than 2,500 accredited registrars. Among them, you will find small and medium-sized companies that you have never heard of, and names that you are probably much more familiar with such as OVH, Gandi, GoDaddy or Bluehost.

The latter are often hosting companies (they rent you space on their servers to host your site on the Internet). But they take advantage of this to offer you package deals for hosting + domain name.

I advise you to go for a well-known player like Bluehost.

Getting a domain name from your hosting provider has many advantages.

Woman says that's good to know about advantages of getting a domain name from your hosting provider.

Advantages of buying a domain name from your web host

If you are just starting out and don’t want to get your hands dirty, I recommend that you get your domain name when you buy your hosting.

Almost all hosting companies will offer you this option which has 3 major advantages:

  • You simplify your life. You buy everything in one place, which will facilitate the deployment of your site. Moreover, if the support of the chosen host is reactive and efficient, it will be able to help you if you encounter problems.
  • You don’t have to worry about the technicalities. It is important to know that if you buy hosting and a domain name for your WordPress site separately (from two different providers), you will have to make what is called a DNS (Domain Name System) change so that your domain name is “connected” to your hosting provider.
  • You benefit from the free domain name. The domain name is very often offered (at least the first year) by most hosting companies. However, let us specify that the free domain name is relative. It is mostly a marketing trick to convince future customers. In fact, the price of the domain name is often included in the hosting offer.

If getting your domain name separately (from a registrar other than your host) is less simple and more technical, note that you gain freedom of choice. For example, you can find a domain name at a more advantageous rate by doing your own research (after the first year, hosting companies often pass on the price of the DN to their hosting offer).
Another advantage: in case of a serious problem with your host (e.g. bankruptcy), all your eggs are not in the same basket. After that, this last case is very unlikely to happen if you go through a major player in the sector, rock solid.

Two important checks to make… before paying

Now that you’ve browsed the shelves of the supermarket of your choice, all that’s left to do is check out.

If you like a domain name and you are the first person to register it with a registrar, it’s all good: you can use it.

Here are some final recommendations before you enter your credit card numbers.

Use the competition and beware of prices

How much does a domain name cost? $3 on my left. $12 on my right. And $1.50 at the back of the room. You will find DNs at all prices.

In fact, their value will depend on the chosen extension (prices can also change from one year to another). You should know that some extensions sell for less than $5. Others are worth several tens (for example, a DN in .flowers is charged $129.99 on OVH), or even several thousands of dollars (.auto: $2,506.00).

It is up to you to see the usefulness and relevance of some of them.

In this jungle of registrars, it’s not easy to find your way around and to know what price to choose and buy a domain name for your WordPress site (especially if you opt for a separate domain name/hosting purchase).

To help you see more clearly, I have made a comparison at the time of writing (summer 2021).

Here are the average prices charged by the main registrars for the creation of a .com domain name for 1 year:

  • OVH $9.99 (normally $11.49)
  • Bluehost $12.99/1st year (then $17.99/year)
  • Gandi $15.50
  • GoDaddy starting at $11.99/1st year (then $18.99/year)
  • Ionos by 1&1 $1/1st year (then $15/year)

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Speaking of price, does a free domain name really exist?

Some registrars offer it, but often on rather “exotic” extensions (e.g.: .ga, .ml, .gq). If you want something professional, I don’t recommend it.

Cover yourself for several years

Once you’ve chosen your extension, and just before you check out, the registrar of your DN will very often offer to reserve it for 1 year by default.

This is a minimum, and I advise you to “rent” it for several years if you are planning a long-term project.

At least, you are safe and don’t risk a service cut, if you forget to renew it.

Baby gets scared about forgetting to renew a domain name.
Not having an DN anymore is scary.

For example, I have reserved wpmarmite.com until 2023. Know that the average life of a site is about 3-4 years.

Reserve several domain names

Should you buy several domain names? This is a question that often comes to the center of the table. To answer this question, consider that:

  • You can buy the other popular and relevant extensions for you (.net, .co …).
  • You can also buy the variations with hyphens and typos, if available: wp-marmite.com and wpmarmitte.com. Try typing facebbook.com or ffacebook.com or even faceook.com on your browser. You will be redirected to facebook.com because they have bought various DNs to avoid direct competition on their domain name. This is called Cybersquatting or Typosquatting.

Congratulations, you are now in possession of one or more domain names.

Remember to make redirections to your main domain name to avoid visitors arriving on a blank page.

The DNs are now your domain

Here you are at the end of this resource that I wanted to be as exhaustive as possible.

Thanks to all the advice distilled throughout these lines, I hope that you will see more clearly and that you will be able to avoid the traps that will be set on your way.

As you have seen, choosing a domain name is not easy.

Consider making a list of potential names, then weigh the pros and cons and make your final choice.

One thing is for sure: think it through before you decide. Remember, you’re going to be keeping your DN for a long time, so don’t rush it.

What I’m trying to tell you is don’t do what I did. I went back 3 times to find the right one on WPMarmite, 4 times for my personal blog.

This required several migrations, quite complex manipulations for a beginner. So I might as well spare you all that, right?

Once you’ve found your DN, all you’ll have to do is install your site, configure it and promote it to your target audience.

Download the PDF version of this guide

(and read it again to choose the right domain name)

Inside, you’ll find every detail we just saw together about how to choose a domain name for your WordPress site.

Also, remember that you can get a domain name and hosting and support WPMarmite at the same time by choosing the hosting company Bluehost through our links.

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