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How to find a great domain name (or Twitter handle)

by Alex in | |


  1. Should my blog be on my web site or a separate site?
  2. How to find a great domain name (or Twitter handle)

This post is part of a short series that addresses the top questions at Web Fuelled Business, a training program for thousands of companies across the UK run by Doug Richard’s School For Startups. I’ve developed the social media component for this training.

One of the recurring questions at last week’s workshops was:

Should my domain name and Twitter handle match?

You want your Twitter handle, website URL and company name to be as close as possible, and you want them to be memorable and easy for someone to get right when they enter it into Google. If you have yet to buy a domain name for your business, try to find a domain that is also available as a Twitter handle — or is very closely related. For example, our company is Social Signal, our domain is www.socialsignal.com and our Twitter handle is @socialsignal.

How did we achieve this feat of co-ordination? We chose the name for our company based on the available URLs. (Back in 2005, there was more selection — and since we started before Twitter did, we had our pick of Twitter handles when the day came!) We knew our company was going to do only social web projects, so we wanted the word “social” in our name. (Awesome luck that Web 2.0 went out of style and the term “social media” became the industry standard instead.)

I’m in love with OneLook for just this kind of challenge. We used OneLook to search for phrases that included the word social, and then we narrowed the results to “common words and phrases only”. Then we went through the list, and whenever we found a phrase we thought *might* work, we popped over to our favourite domain registrar (these days it’s Hover.com) to see if the name we liked was available as both a .com and a .org (because we did a lot of work in the not-for-profit sector) and ideally also .ca (Canada) and .net.  Of the various phrases that were available at the time, “social signal” seemed like the best bet (strangely, it no longer appears in the OneLook search results.)

OneLook search results for "social"

OneLook search results

List of URLS with "boot" in the name, from Domainsbot

DomainsBot search results

Another tool that is great for finding that perfect domain is DomainsBot. You can put any word into the DomainsBot search engine, and it will show you a list of all the available domains. You can choose a keyword related to your area of business or company name, and it will give you a list of all the possible domains you could register that contain that keyword or its synonyms and variants, which you can then register with the domain registrar of your choice. This is how I recently became the proud owner of bootseeker.com, so that I could create an affiliate marketing site that would allow me to monetize my compulsive boot shopping, until I stopped to ask what would a normal person do and realized a normal person wouldn’t expect  their Friday night boot-browsing to generate an income stream.

Once you’ve found an available domain you like, double-check that it’s available on Twitter before you register. If you can’t get a domain name and Twitter handle that match, you may want to think about a different name/Twitter pairing. And if you are a new company, or one that isn’t known by its corporate brand (maybe you’re known more by the names of your principals, or you’re a walk-in business) you might even think of changing the name of your company to align with an available domain name and Twitter handle.

Having a memorable domain name is much more important than having a matching Twitter handle — you can san always come up with a Twitter handle that is a slight variant, or even fun name, and use the “name” field in Twitter to enter your company’s URL so it shows up whenever people see one of your Tweets. (This is another reason you want your URL to match your company name.) When you are choosing your URL and handle try to:

  • Get a .com domain, and if applicable the national domain for your country (like .ca or .co.uk) and possibly the .net and .org as well.
  • Register possible typos or points of confusion — for example we own social signals.com and alexandrasamuels.com. Redirect all your extra URLs to your main site.
  • Avoid domain names (or company names, or Twitter handles) that could be confusing if they are heard rather than read. That means puns are a bad idea. If you have a chance to do a radio interview that will let you promote your rabbit farm, you want people going to hareraising.com and not hairraising.com. Which is a great reason to put your website (and company) at RaisingRabbits.com instead.
  • Keep your Twitter handle as short as possible since you will want people to “retweet” your posts, and the number of characters in your username (handle) will count against the 140-character maximum when they do.
  • Google any name or term you are thinking of using as a domain and/or Twitter handle, so that you know if anybody else is already using it — even if they don’t have the domain, you want to be careful before exposing yourself to potential confusion. So think about whether the other people or organizations using that name could be confused with yours, or could siphon traffic from your site.

If all this sounds like a lot to consider when naming or branding your business, remember that great creativity often comes from great constraint. The fact that it can be hard to find a good URL — let alone an URL and Twitter handle — is hard to find means that you’ll have to think creatively about how to find your name and nice. The great news is that once you find your great name, you’ve made it easy for your customers to find you.

First posted on January 25,2012
  • http://twitter.com/Flypatterns Rob & Jeff Woods

    One thing to keep in mind is that if your site/business is worth building, it’s worth paying a bit more to get your domain if it’s already taken (a lot of good ones are). Don’t settle for “good enough”. Put paying $500-$1500 for a domain into your business plan. If you can get it for less, great. If you can’t pay that much, is your business plan really that feasible. I wouldn’t do it for a personal blog, but for a site that’s core to your business, make the extra effort to get the best domain.

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