What Makes for a Good Domain Name?

A domain name is the unique, human-readable address of a website — the stuff in your browser’s address bar after “http://” but before any subsequent “/” characters. This blog actually has two domain names:

Both redirect to the same content, but each serves a different specific purpose (which we’ll get to in a moment). The idea behind a domain name is that it represents where your website “lives” on the internet, so you’ll be telling it to a lot of people and it plays a very important role. In particular, a domain name should be related to you and easy for people to remember. Each of these qualities is quantitative, and varies from domain to domain.

For this blog in particular, both domain names are easily related to me — they’re my name. Where they differ if in how easy they are for people to remember. There are essentially two high-level ways for someone to find out about a domain name; to hear the domain name spoken out-loud, and to see the domain name written down or on screen. These are different situations which have different requirements:

  • A domain name that is easy to hear out loud should sound very simple and clear. No weird characters, nothing too clever, no ridiculous abbreviations.
  • A domain name that is easy to read should “parse” well. This means that even a quick glance is long enough to comprehend what it says.

I chose to use two domain names for this blog because I couldn’t find one name that matched both those qualities. On the one hand, danmenard.com is very easy to hear out loud. “Dan Menard dot com” or “my name, dot com”. But I hate how it looks; it’s very hard to read, because the “nm” bit kind of obfuscates the whole thing. The other, dan-menard.com, is the opposite. It’s easy to look at an instantly read, but it’s awkward to say out loud “Dan dash Menard dot com” doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, and I’m sure people would confuse the dash for an underscore or a slash. By choosing two domain names, I have the best of both worlds:

  • If I’m talking to someone in person, I tell them my blog is at the pleasant-sounding danmenard.com.
  • If I’m sharing my blog in writing (email, Twitter, etc), I write dan-menard.com because it is easier to read.

What do you think? Do you have a blog? Would it benefit from a second domain name? Leave a comment and share some thoughts.

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6 Responses to “What Makes for a Good Domain Name?”

  1. Ben Dover Says:

    Make sure your domain doesn’t have any alternate meanings. For example, http://www.penisland.net

  2. Noussysok Says:

    Other variant is possible also

  3. rinkjustice Says:

    I suggest leaving the hyphen out. Doing so allows for an exact match against searches on Google.

    For example: a search for “steam turbines” is a lot more common than “steam-turbines”, and the domain name steamturbines.ca matches perfectly and would hopscotch up in the SERPs, often positioning higher than websites of higher Page Rank.

    That’s one reason why it’s important that domain names are keyword rich. They qualify for that exact-match “Google bonus” :)

  4. dan Says:

    Interesting point, I hadn’t really considered any of the pros/cons from an SEO perspective. At the moment Google.ca marks this blog (and this post, actually) as 5th for both “dan menard” and “dan-menard” but that’s probably because of how often I mention myself on the page :)

    Thanks for bringing it up, it’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind.

  5. Zetta R. Canterbury Says:

    Please tell me what template do you use? Is it a expensive template? Did you hire a freelancer to fix it? I love that design. My weblog is http://www.wordpressrobot.com/amazing-wordpress-plugin

  6. dan Says:

    The theme I’m using is called minimalism, and it’s free. I’ve made a few small tweaks myself (switched the main copy font from Arial to Helvetica, tweaked the links that show up on the right, added a few plugins, etc), but other than that it hasn’t been touched.

    I’m a very capable web developer; at some point I’m going to make my own theme. This is just what I’m using until I have some free time :)

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