The Effective Strategy For Choosing Right Domain Names

Awesome article posted in Mashable about choosing the bets domain name for your business. Hope you all find is informative as we did.

Naming is linguistic design, and a good domain name is an important part of the overall design of a website. A name plays a prominent role when people discover, remember, think about, talk about, search for, or navigate to a website. It establishes a theme for the branding of a website before people even visit it for the first time.

Coming up with a good domain name requires a combination of strategy, imagination and good linguistic design practice.

You’ll find some basic pieces of advice all over the Web, and it’s worth mentioning those right away. Ideally, your domain name should be:

  • Short
  • Catchy and memorable,
  • Easy to pronounce,
  • Easy to spell,
  • Not too similar to competing domain names,
  • Not a violation of someone else’s trademark.

These are all good rules of thumb. But they lack specifics. These are really criteria to use to evaluate ideas for names after you’ve thought of them. To come up with a name in the first place, you need to know what type of name is best for you. And before you can answer that question, you have to answer two others: one about your resources, and the other about your Web strategy.

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Two Questions

The first question is easy: Are you willing and able to spend lots of money on your domain name? If not, you can forget about a .com domain that’s a single real word, like or They’re all registered, many by domain speculators, and buying one will cost a lot. You’ll need to look for a different kind of name. Real words on .net and .org domains are pretty hard to come by, too.

Word Map
Image from the Visual Thesaurus, Copyright © 1998-2009 Thinkmap, Inc. All rights reserved.

The other question is a strategic one and takes more thought: How do you plan to get traffic to your website? Answering this question can help you avoid a lot of confusion about what makes for a good name. Some views on this issue directly contradict others. For example, Rob Monster, CEO of Monster Venture Partners, believes that and are “lousy domain names” and that and are great ones. Marketing guru Seth Godin advises against real words like these and in favor of unique made-up names like (his company).

So, what’s going on here? These two views correspond to different strategies for getting Web traffic. Monster is interested in what we might call a “discoverable” domain name. That’s a name that can be found by someone who doesn’t know about your website but is doing web searches on keywords and phrases related to a specific topic, or by typing those words and phrases directly into the navigation bar of the browser. Discoverable names are generically descriptive.

The type of name that Godin is talking about is a “brandable” domain name. A brandable name establishes a distinct identity and communicates indirectly to evoke interesting ideas and feelings. Some brandable names, like Squidoo, provide a unique character string unlikely to be found anywhere except in documents that mention that particular website. That means people who know the name of the website can easily use a search engine to navigate there. Godin makes good use of this advantage, though it may not be a significant source of traffic. A unique character string also makes it possible for mentions of your website to dominate top search results for your name. That helps establish credibility, which may be considerably more important.

Discoverable Or Brandable?

So, do you need a discoverable name or a brandable name? If you intend to rely primarily on organic search results for a specific topic, you might want a discoverable name… but not necessarily. Even if your website has a brandable name, it can still rank well in search engine results for keywords and phrases as long as it’s full of relevant content. Discoverable names are only necessary for people counting on “type-in” traffic.

Domains Bot, a search engine that is geared specifically towards finding a domain name. It works best if you’re looking for a compound-word domain rather than an invented word.

Discoverable names are real words and phrases. If you don’t have the budget to buy a single real-word domain, then you’ll need to go for a phrase. Common phrases are often registered as well, so it can take time to find one. The trick to a discoverable name is not to be clever but to think of a phrase that other people would likely think of as well and would type in a search engine or navigation bar. The catch is that you have to find one that hasn’t yet been registered. Instant Domain Search and Domains Bot are great tools for checking the availability of domain names and suggest available alternative names.

If your marketing plans involve paid search listings and buzz generated by prominent mentions of your website, then you will almost certainly want a brandable name. A brandable name is distinctive, evocative and memorable.

Strategies For Brandable Names

So how do you come up with a brandable name? It takes some creativity. You sometimes hear people, including marketing people, say that a name should be an “empty vessel,” so that it can get all its meaning from other forms of branding. That’s not the most productive way to think when coming up with a name. Most great website names are connected to the purpose of the website in an indirect and interesting way. Often they use sensory images or tap into people’s personal experience in some way.

Some names are metaphors. PageFlakes, for example, uses the unexpected flake metaphor to help people understand something about how to use the website: you drag little boxes of content around, and they stick in the places you drop them, like flakes. Smashing Magazine is based on a word used in an enthusiastic appraisal of a performance, outfit, or design — “That looks smashing!” — but it also evokes the idea of being physically clobbered. That metaphor is brought to the foreground by the tagline: “We smash you with the information that makes your life easier. Really.”

Image credit: eBoy.

How do you come up with a metaphor? First, you have to have a clear understanding of what makes your website special and interesting. Then you have to find a simpler concept that helps people understand that concept by analogy, usually by imagined sensory experiences. The sensory information used in metaphors makes them vivid and memorable. There’s no algorithm for finding a metaphor, but it often involves thinking visually, which should come naturally to Web designers.

Some names have indirect connections to a website’s purpose but not through a metaphor., for example, relates to photography through the concept of light that’s implicit in the word “flicker.”

Putting Names Together

Because you won’t be looking for a single-word name (unless you have big bucks to spend), you’ll have to build your name out of pieces. There are several different ways to do that:

Example: YouTube
Two whole words, often two nouns, stuck together. Don’t let anyone tell you that this kind of name is a “fad” and will go away. This has been the most common way to coin new English words as well as to create new names, and that’s unlikely to change in the next few hundred years.

Example: Six Apart
Words put together according to normal grammatical rules. Phrase names can be similar to compounds, but have a different pattern of syllabic emphasis. In compounds, the emphasis goes on the first word, the way we emphasize “white” in “the Whitehouse.” In phrases, the emphasis often goes on the second word, the way we emphasize “house” in “a white house.”

Examples: Microsoft, Farecast
A blend combines a part of a word with another word or word part. The name Microsoft combines the “micro” part of “microcomputer” with the “soft” part of “software.” When blends involve a surprising overlap in sound between the two words, they’re a form of wordplay. Farecast is like that. It combines the words “fare” and “forecast,” and “fare” resembles the first syllable of “forecast.” When you create this kind of blend, be sure to avoid awkwordplay: don’t pile up consonants in ugly ways (like in the name Syncplicity), and don’t use important words to replace syllables that aren’t emphasized (the way the names Mapufacture and Carticipate do).

Tweaked word
Examples: Flickr, Zune
Sometimes you can find a good domain name that’s basically a real word, but changed in some small way. It might have a modified spelling, like Flickr, or it might have a changed or added sound, like Zune (from “tune”) and iPhone.

Affixed word
Example: Friendster
Some names are new words created by sticking a prefix or suffix onto an existing word. Friendster, for example, is “friend” with the suffix -ster attached. Biznik is “biz” with the Yiddish-derived suffix -nik (as in “beatnik”).

Made-up name
Examples: Etsy, Odeo
Sometimes you can find a name that is, or seems to be, completely made up. For example, Etsy is an online hand-made goods marketplace, and Odeo is an online music website.

When building a name out of pieces, be sure that both pieces contribute something interesting. The name LibraryThing fails in this respect. LiftPort, the name of a company that wants to build an elevator to outer space, is not much better. The words “lift” and “port” have very similar meanings; both relate to moving things around. Neither relates to what makes this company really exciting, outer space.

Linguistic Design Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines on linguistic design that you can use in your quest for a name:


Be specific:

  • Good: 37signals
  • Bad: LibraryThing

Appeal to the senses in appropriate ways:

  • Good: Twitter
  • Bad: BookGoo

Make every piece count:

  • Good: YouTube
  • Bad: LiftPort

If you use a metaphor, make sure it’s enlightening:

  • Good: PageFlakes
  • Bad: Fairtilizer (how is fertilizer related to music?)


Keep groups of consonants simple and appealing:

  • Good: Biznik
  • Bad: Sclipo

Preserve the natural syllabic emphasis of words:

  • Good: Farecast
  • Bad: Carticipate

Use sound to support your meaning:

  • Good: Etsy (a short sound for a hand-made goods marketplace)
  • Bad: Syncplicity (an awkward blend for an application that’s supposed to sync your computers seamlessly)


If you’re a Web designer, you know that the design process isn’t unfettered creativity. Rather, it involves elegant, creative solutions to specific problems. Naming is no different. Forget the cliche of the crazy adverstising or marketing genius who’s struck by the perfect idea as if by lightning. Approach the naming process in a strategic, rational way, and look for elegant solutions to your particular naming challenge. Even as domain names become scarcer and scarcer, with the right strategy and enough attention to linguistic design principles, building a great name is still possible.


  • Instant Domain Search
    Checks the availability of domain names in real time as you type, and provides links to popular registrars.
  • ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus
    Shows words linked to synonyms and other related words in interactive maps made of nodes and links. Paid membership required after a brief free trial period.
  • Visuwords
    A free visual thesaurus based on Princeton’s WordNet database.
  • Visual Dictionary
    Online version of the Merriam-Webster Visual Dictionary. You can look at images to learn the names of things.
  • Name Types
    Types of names in more detail, with lots of examples.


Are QR Codes Here to Stay?

QR codes have proven to be a perpetual experiment for most small businesses and organizations. A recent study by Chadwick Martin Bailey found that, while 81% of consumers have seen the codes, 79% aren’t actually familiar with the term ‘QR code.’

Restaurants may include them on menus, some stores may offer check-outs or scans of specials by slapping a code on a package or billboard, but overall, the effectiveness of QR codes is still something that people debate.

So are these computerized ink blots an underground fad, a growing trend, or a flash in the smart-pan? The folks at Constant Contact recently held a debate on the matter with their managing editor, Martin Lieberman, and our senior content developer, Dave Charest.


Why would a business or organization use a QR code?

Martin: A QR code can be great because it's a quick way to get someone to your website, or a specific landing page, without having to give that person a URL.

Dave: See, I think QR codes are just the latest fad. You see a lot of people using them just to use them. That’s not really ideal. What’s the sense in using a QR code to send people to your homepage when you could just give them the web address? Some crazy people think it’s a good idea to use them online. That’s just dumb. Give me a link instead. Don’t make me take out my phone, scan a code and then get to the destination. Like I said: dumb.

The only reason I see for businesses and organizations to use them would be to do something cool or unique. For example, I’ve seen a restaurant have a code at each table that would bring you to their specials menu in case you couldn’t see the board. That’s cool. Or maybe you can use them if you’re going to take people to a secret page with unique content that can’t be found otherwise. You have to make it worthwhile for the person to go through the cumbersome process. Otherwise, it’s best not to use them at all.

Are there potential disadvantages to using QR codes, such as time or budget constraints?

Martin: There aren’t really time or budget constraints, since QR codes are free and take about two seconds to create. I'd say the disadvantages are that not everyone knows what a QR code is or what they're supposed to do when they see one. Any business or organization that chooses to include one in their marketing efforts should include instructions for scanning it (possibly including info about the mobile app needed) and what the person should expect to see when the code is scanned. People will be more apt to scan if they know how and why.

Dave: Like Martin said, I don’t really believe it’s an issue of time or budget. It’s simple to make a QR code and easy to have it printed. The real disadvantage is whether or not your audience is going to use them. But since they’re easy enough to create, if you have something worth sharing, it can be worth a try.

Should all businesses and organizations be using them? How can someone decide whether a QR code campaign is a smart marketing move?

Martin: I don't think everyone needs to be using QR codes just yet. But if you have a hard-to-remember web address, then a QR code might serve you well. Another consideration is whether your website is mobile-friendly. You don't want to use a QR code and send someone to your website on a mobile device if the user experience will be less than optimal. And finally, will the people you want to scan your code have access to the internet? For example, I've seen QR codes included in inflight magazines, and I have no ability to get on a website when I'm thousands of feet in the air.

Dave: You probably can’t decide whether it’s a good marketing move until you use one. Once you experiment with them, you can look at your stats to see if something worth implementing again. I’m all for giving it a go, but I wouldn’t expect it to take you to new marketing heights.

And the bottom line: Are QR codes here to stay? Why or why not?

Martin: I think the jury's still out. Right now, some people are resistant to QR codes for a number of reasons, including the fact that the codes aren’t visually appealing. Or, like Dave, they have super-memories and can remember every URL they come across. [laughs]

I think in the next year or two, as mobile marketing becomes more prevalent, we'll see different versions of QR codes, or technologies that act in similar ways, but are easier to use and more interesting to look at. Microsoft already has a version that's more colorful, and other startups have ones that incorporate a company logo. So I wouldn't close the book on QR codes, or technologies like them, just yet.

Dave: I would happily close the book on QR codes, at least from a consumer use standpoint. In that regard, I’m going to have to say they aren’t here to stay. Sure, there’s a curiosity about them right now, but I don’t see QR codes providing enough value to last. Where I see a lasting use is from a transactional stand-point. If a business is providing coupons to customers, a QR code make the redemption and tracking process pretty painless. That’s where a QR code has some legs, and may just get me to take my phone out.

Mobile Email Design Tips

Reaching as many customers and leads as possible is the main rule of successful email marketing, and mobile technologies grant the access to new markets. You can extremely increase your open and conversion rates by offering a mobile version of you mailing – let people choose. Here are 7 quick mobile email marketing optimization tips:

  1. Use a single-column layout
  2. Put your logo and call to action at the top of your email
  3. If you offer subscribers the ability to click through on a link from their mobile device, make sure the page they’re directed to is also mobile-friendly. Many content management systems offer mobile displays that turn on automatically when they detect a smart phone browser
  4. Use smart contrasts that read well on small screens. Black fonts on white backgrounds work best
  5. Use white space and bullet points to make your emails easy to read
  6. Have a text version available
  7. Have a link at the very top of your message that allows subscribers to “view online” if their phone doesn’t display your email correctly.

Along with the above quick list, I've found these wonderful infographics from Litmus which illustrate many of those same mobile email concepts.