New parents spend months agonising over babies names. They buy books to help them choose. They research “what’s in a name” and garner opinions from friends and relatives before finally deciding on one which will suit the new addition to their family.

While nowhere near as emotional, when you choose a domain name you go throuh a similar process. You look around for inspiration, you use online tools to help you search and ask for opinions from those around you, before plumping for a name that will determine your online presence. It’s quite a daunting process if you’ve never done it before. So here are some tips and online tools to help you along the way:

.co.uk, .com or dot whatever?

In the past, there were two main top level domains that you chose between – .com or .co.uk. If you were a UK focused business, you chose .co.uk and if you were a global business, you chose .com. Global focused companies could choose .net and .org and other UK domains where available (e.g. .org.uk) but .co.uk and .com were the main ones that people went for. Obviously, these were in short supply as more and more businesses came online, so extra top level domains (tlds) became available to register. These new top level domains are based on the market that you’re in so if you are a media company, you could have a .media domain or a guru could have a .guru domain! The new domains are more expensive and some domain snobs don’t like them but they are an easy way to squeeze your company name into your domain name.

International domains

Many international domains are also available for UK companies or individuals to register, for example the .io domain is popular with IT focused organisations however, again, these are more expensive than the traditional domain names to register. Other international domains are available to register (such as .es, .fr. .de) but you’ll need to have a registered company in the relevant country to do this.

Domain name checkers

Most popular domain registration sites have domain name checkers that you can type your domain name in and they will advise you of availability. Some of the more common .co.uk and .com domain registration sites which provide this facility are Go Daddy, 123 Reg and UK Reg.

One site that I particularly like is Domainizer which allows you to type the name in and while you’re typing each letter it will let you know whether the domain is available. This can be incredibly addictive!

Domain name generators

There are numerous domain name spinners around that can generate your domain name based on your ideas. You simply type in some keywords and a domain is provided for you. Some popular ones include DomainHole, Bust a name and Dotomator.

Deleted domains

Another place to look for domain names is to use a deleted or dropped domains service. When the owner of a domain doesn’t renew, the domain is deleted and becomes available for anyone to register. Some of these domains are available to backorder at a price before they are deleted however the rest just get deleted. You can take advantage of this by checking the deleted domains for ones that you’re interested in. Some of these deleted domains sites are free and some are paid for. A useful free resource is Expired Domains where you can select the country of the domain that you’re interested in too.

Domain auctions

If you have the money then a domain auction is another way to secure that “must have” domain. In the same way as a traditional auction, people bid on the domains until the auction ends. One of the most popular auction sites is Sedo which boasts auctions for around 16 million names.

Ask Google

Search for your name in Google or for the search terms that you’ll be targetting. If you’re a web design company in Beverley or a builder in West Bromwich search for this and see what comes up. Can that help you in your search for the perfect domain name? You’ll notice that if your name includes your search terms then you’re more likely to come up on the first page in Google. You’ll also notice that some of the Google results on the top right are location based and do not depend on your domain name. These are all things to take into consideration.

Check the history!

Finally, when you’ve decided on your dream domain name, make sure that you check its history. You wouldn’t want your child to take on the name of a villain from history so, in the same way, you wouldn’t want to take on the domain name of an irreputable company. The Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive allows you to go back in time and see what the domain has been used for in the past. If you do choose an older domain name that has been registered before, make sure you check its Page Rank too. Page Rank is an algorithm that Google uses to rank your site and having a negative page rank can harm your domain in its search engine rankings.

There can be positives associated with choosing an older domain name too: Google (and other search engines) like older domains and older domains may have other sites on the internet linking to them which can improve their search engine ranking too (providing the links are relevant).

As you can see, there are many things to consider when choosing your domain name and many online tools to help you make the right choice. When you’ve come to a decision, remember to ask others for their opinion too. Its like naming a newborn baby – you may think a name is really cool but others may have a very different opinion on the matter!