Guidelines in choosing your Domain Names

       Domain names are important. How you choose your domain name is important too. Every website has a URL which is the address from which it is served to a visitor's browser.  Promoting your site requires you to promote your URL so people can find all your great content. Having your own domain name is like having an address on the Main Street. Domain names are the prime real estate in the URL world and by comparison, having your site located at a long difficult URL like this one:

is the equivalent of being tucked away in a backstreet alley. Sites with long URL's have a harder time being taken seriously - while this isn't fair, it is a reality. It has been suggested that some search engines' ranking algorithms favor sites with their own domain names - I surmise they want their search results to look "professional".

     Among domain names, certainly some are much better than others: It is desirable to have a domain name that is memorable, that visitors can spell, and that has some relationship to the content your site. Ideally your domain name will incorporate the keyword that visitors are most
likely to use when trying to find a site like yours using a search engine. It is important that your domain names not lead to confusion with another well branded name  Furthermore, it is very important that your choice of domain names not violate anyone else's trademarks or you'll soon find yourself paying significant legal fees - or worse - facing a costly judgement.

     If you have an idea for a great domain name you should register it sooner rather than later, given the astounding rates at which new names are being registered. Of course, if someone else has already registered the name you like you won't be able to. Try your domain name ideas in the register domain link above. It will advise you if the particular domain name is already taken, and if it is available you will be able to continue and reserve or register it. Before you proceed and register any domain names ( you can always go back and do it later) I'd strongly suggest at least reading the rest of this page and trying some of the suggestions.

     I'm not trying to deter you from registering your name of choice - I'm trying to help save you some serious grief! I believe your decision to register a particular domain name should be an informed decision. It is not enough to just know that the name has not previously been registered. Read that sentence a second time. ;^)

     I know what I advocate here is a lot more than most people who register a domain name ever bother to do. I'm not a lawyer and I don't pretend to be able to offer legal advice but I think you should understand that trademark infringement is a serious charge that clearly you need to avoid. Having to defend ourselves in court could easily bankrupt most of us. The way to handle this right is to hire a law firm specializing in trademark law who'll oversee on your behalf that you aren't infringing on any trade or service marks. There are also companies  that will conduct the necessary searches for you, providing you a report that outlines what exactly was searched and what they found. If you can't afford either a good lawyer or a reputable search service, at the very least protect yourself somewhat by doing as much checking as you can.

     Sharpen your pencil. Write down the available domain name you are interested in registering. Then write down all the variations, similarities, truncations, etc. that you can think of. You'll have to check them all out. Take my domain name for example : DesignStop.Com. Some relevant trade names I should be concerned about checking out include design stop, design-stop,designstoppe, the design stop, etc.

     Your own list can be checked against the United States Patent and Trademark Office's Web Trademark Database. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office has its Canadian trademark database that can be searched online. The UK Patent Office doesn't offer a free online database search but they certainly do have a beautifully designed site - worthy of a quick visit. The above database searches might identify for you any registered marks that could be in conflict with your proposed domain name. Note you should read those sites' disclaimers with regards to the limitations of the searches. Such searches only relate to "registered" marks.

     You also have to be concerned with unregistered marks that have become established through use but have never been officially registered. You can try doing some searches using the popular search engines. My first choice would be HotBot because it allows you to easily search for "exact phrases" which is particularly important if your list includes paired words. Recently I came across a new search engine that is incredibly fast. You have to try it to experience what I mean - it really is hard to believe it can search its database so quickly. It can be found at and it is on the  fast track to having the largest database of websites of any search engine.

     Another great tool if your playing the domain name game is the specialized search engine at that searches only through registered domain names. To see how it works, set it to search for your last name using its "site contains" parameter. When I do this for "macintosh" it returns every registered domain name that contains the word - 112 of them the last time I checked. How it is really useful in researching your choice of a domain name is the way it helps you find if there are already sites with similar names. When I check out my domain name - DesignStop - I learn that similar names like,,, or have not been registered. Note that it is a great tool for finding your competitors or blatant violators of trademarks you may have - click here to see what happens if you search for "starwars". George Lucas should spend a few of his dollars on lawyers.

     Here's an example of how you can use the tools and ideas from this page : You can also use Netcraft's search tool to quickly get a sense of what's out there in regards to domain names that contain a particular keyword. This is a great way to brainstorm for potential names for your site. For instance, if I wanted to do a website about apples ( Macintosh apples of course ), I could search netcraft's database for "apple". Although the results would be discouraging with over 2000 domain names that contain the word apple, a few quick searches would tell me that is not in their database.

     A quick check with a registrar using the submission form I've provided on this page confirms that the name is not currently registered. Checking with a number of search engines I find that there doesn't seem to be anyone using yummie and/or apples in any manner which cause me concern. However, checking with the United States Patent and Trademark Office's Web Trademark Database and the Canadian equivalent identifies that there are registered trademarks that use the words "yummie" and "apples". It is interesting that someone in the USA has actually registered "apples". The word "yummie" is registered in Canada in the context of a frozen snack. Deciding to proceed or abandon the my "yummieapples" name requires I make a judgment call. Is it likely any of those nice folks who may have invested fortunes in promoting their marks will be upset by "yummieapples"? Of course I could consult a trademark specialist for advice on the risks I'd have to accept if I decided to proceed. In the end nobody can make the decision for me. At least any decision I'd make would be based on some research. If I did choose to proceed with registering the name. 

     After you do register your own domain name  you have the option of also registering it as a trademark. Its a good idea if you can afford to do so. It will make it easier for you if you ever find yourself in the situation where you need to try and stop others who are violating your trademark. You can get more info on registering trademarks from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Canadian Intellectual Property Office, the United Kingdom's The Patent Office, or the EEC's European Patent Office.

     In the early days of the web ( like two or three years ago ! ) speculators used to knowingly register domain names that violated well-known trademarks. The better known the name the better. They did so with the expectation that the corporate suits would eventually pay big bucks to protect their marks by buying the domain names from the speculators. Certainly some speculators were paid handsomely. The suits are a little more internet savvy today and are more likely to sue you to make their point than they are to offer you even a penny. In conclusion, take care in choosing your domain name. Let it be your brand and avoid piggybacking on anyone else lest you find yourself in court. This isn't legal advice - it is common sense.