Serious mistakes to avoid when choosing a domain name

April 3, 2020

Anyone who is considering starting a website, whether it's a personal blog or business page, would need to choose a domain name.

It may sound easy: just go to godaddy.com or any domain registrar and register the name. Until you realized that the perfect name you wanted is not available because, most of the time, domain squatters have taken it and keeping it until somebody is willing to pay a huge sum of money.

For those who are aware of the new TLDs, they might go to the direction of using the nTLDs, something like yourcompany.store or yourhobby.pizza or yourskill.ninja (yes, these TLDs exist), etc. They may sound cool, but wait until I tell you why they are not so cool as you think.

Take note though that I’m not an SEO expert, so in this article, I will walk you through my journey of choosing my own domain name, and discuss the mistakes I've done in the past. My hope is that it will help you avoid these mistakes and get your perfect (or nearly perfect) domain in a less painful way.

1. Avoid ccTLD when your intended audience is beyond that country.

I used to publish all my code development stuff on a domain noel.ph. It's short, easy to read and remember, and above all, bears my name and my country (so patriotic!).

But no matter how patriotic it was, I realised later that it's not searchable outside the country. Even though my target audience is global, Google would assume otherwise. It means it's almost impossible for people outside the country to find my website.

But if you really want a ccTLD because its short or brandable (like the most cited "del.icio.us" domain), choose the ones that Google treats like gTLD, like .ws, .bz, etc, as mentioned here.

Another reason why noel.ph is a bad domain: its expensive! I eventually stopped using it because I can no longer bear the idea of paying around $25 or more for the annual renewal. Most ccTLDs are expensive.

Whats more? You are at the mercy of a government authority. In this example, the registrant had difficulty renewing a .cd domain, simply because of some changes in the government bureaucracy.

This article talks about how the Libyan government took over .ly registry and started implementing the Sharia Law by shutting down sites that don't adhere.

And more recently, the popular .io ccTLD is now facing some uncertainties because of a recent UN decision regarding administration of the island, as discussed here.

2. Avoid free domains (and so are the cheap ones, like .info).

Because they are free (or cheap), most spammers would use them.

In my search for cheaper options, I got noel.ga from Freenom. Similar to noel.ph, its short, and the TLD bears my family name (at least 2 characters from it).

But something is odd: this domain is blocked from the company firewall. I wondered if it's also blocked from other companies' firewall.

Later I realised that there is this called spam index. Most firewalls use them and block potentially dangerous sites simply based on the domain extension. You can check the spam index of a domain using tools like this one.

Domain Spam Score

One example is when I registered noelpu.ru. It's short and brandable with my name in it. But when I used it to register for an account on Sendgrid, I was blocked outright.

Shady TLDs 2018

I know it's unfair to be treated like others, but thats just how it is. The spam score is very high even if I’m not doing anything dodgy. When you operate within a "dangerous neighbourhood", you will be categorised as dangerous. These dangerous neighborhood are listed by SpamHouse.

Shady TLDs 2020

3. Avoid non .COM domains.

I know, it's the year 2020, and the world is changing. But truth is, not as fast as we would like it to be. Most consumers still associate .com as the Internet, and everything is else is a cheap "knockoff" as others have pointed.

It's not their mistake, because after all, around 50% of all registered domains are .com. Or maybe it's like the chicken-and-egg problem? Consumers trust only .com because most websites are .com because consumers trust only .com because most websites are .com...

This survey by SEMrush from 2017 shows that 75% of consumers trust .co.uk and .com domains more than the alternatives.

And this survey by GrowthBadger shows that .com is the #1 most trusted TLD.

TLD Trust Rating

And if you are a startup company, a .com domain will increase your chances of getting funding.

.com series A funding

4. Avoid names that limit growth.

There were 4 domains I had to choose from:

noelp.dev
This one is short and beautiful. From the domain extension alone, anyone can tell that I'm a software developer. My personal brand is embedded right from the domain name itself.

However, this TLD requires HTTPS. It means I cannot use it without using SSL certificate. That means further that I cannot use it for prototyping projects on Heroku, which doesn't support SSL for free projects. Well, technically, I can use a herokuapp.com subdomain which supports SSL, but then again, its all about "branding".

Also, what if I have a hobby project that goes something like this: coolapp.noelp.dev? Seems like the app is in beta or under development and will never be production ready.

noelcodes.com
I liked this because its very concise and clear. When I use it for prototyping my projects, the subdomain would go something like clientapp.noelcodes.com. It's beautiful, something similar to myproject.herokuapp.com or myproject.appspot.com.

Beautiful as it is, I think this is too limiting. What if I no longer be coding in the future? Do I need to register a new domain for that? I can do that for sure, but I want my past efforts to build into the next one, not starting over again.

I know, i think too much for a small blog site like this, but I think this domain cannot grow with me. Would I invest on something that might not last?

I maybe coding as long as I live; it's what I like doing. I started coding when I was in the university, not because it's needed for my academics, but because I find it fun and interesting. With that said, I don't think I will keep coding as a profession. I might have other priorities in the future.

noelpuru.com
So if I want something that can grow with me, why not use my name? This is no brainer, it's what most professionals and trainers do.

But in my case, my family name is too long and difficult to remember. Even my wife has difficulty remembering it. Most of my friends and classmates back then always put double "r" instead of double "g", or use "a" in place of "u" just because of its weird phonetics.

For sure I can adapt a pen name, or screen name like most artists and actors do. But then, what if in the future I'm no longer the product? This would make sense for professionals like lawyers or trainers, but what if I simply want to host and market my own app?

I think this domain is too personal.

So in the end, I settled with this domain:

noelizer.com
It's English (or English-like) and easy.

  • Equalizer - making things equal
  • Energizer - giving energy
  • Noelizer - building with Noel's skills

It's not too personal, very generic and can grow with me. Just think about these subdomains:

  • code.noelizer.com - Code Noelizer (software developer)
  • language.noelizer.com - Language Noelizer (learning Chinese, etc)
  • farm.noelizer.com - Farm Noelizer (retired and farming like Thanos)
  • finance.noelizer.com - Finance Noelizer (rich and investing)

Cool isn't?! Or maybe its just me :)

5. Avoid names which social media handle is not available.

OK, maybe this one might not be a very serious mistake, but one more thing to consider is whether that name is available in Twitter and Facebook, because part of marketing these days include social media. The goal is to reduce confusion to your audience as much as possible.

So that's my journey. How about you, have you chosen your domain name yet? If you have, please share your experience in the comments below.

Update April 6, 2020: As others have pointed out, "noelizer" has more syllables compared to "noelcodes". And the British version is "noeliser" which will make it more confusing.


by Noel Pure
I'm a Python web developer by profession and the author of Noel Codes and Ancient Views. I like coding and reading books, specially the Bible.