Finding available names on the internet is a losing game. My name is somewhat common (1,200+ results when you type Dan Caldwell on LinkedIn) so it’s been painful to try to get a domain that works for me.
My first domain name was dan.wf, which I registered when I was 14. I wanted a domain that was just “dan,” and .wf was the cheapest TLD I could find ($28). The .wf stands for the small island nation of Wallis and Futuna, which is near Fiji. The domain never showed up when searching for it, since the ccTLD is so obscure.
I then went the “personal brand name” route, registering such names as CreamyGraphics.com (for graphic design stuff) and BrandTheory.org (for, well, theories about branding). Still, branding myself under a specialized website felt too restrictive.
Then I used dcald.com, which I thought was awesome when I found it was expired. Five letters, .com, and part of my name? Amazing! I then tried Googling myself and realized dcald.com is an SEO nightmare. No one is searching for dcald!
Finally, I’m at dancaldwell.org. Yes, the .com and .net is taken. To be fair, I like .org better than .net. .org feels friendlier and cleaner. And it’s my full name — just what people are searching for.
Here are some tips if you’re trying to find a good personal website domain name and you have a somewhat common name:
1. Use your full name.
What are people searching for when they’re trying to find you? Your name. Use your full name — you can add a middle initial if really everything is taken, but I’d go the full name route for SEO purposes.
2. Use .com, .net, or .org.
All of these top level TLDs are ranked equally by Google and Bing. Other TLDs like .wf or .pizza are ranked lower.
I know how tempting it is to want to register one of those new gTLDs such as .site, .xyz, .ooo, .media, .lawyer, etc. These sites look spammy and are not ranked as high in search results as the top three gTLDs mentioned.
3. If you can’t get [yourname].com/.net/.org, add what you do at the end.
If you’re a writer, try [yourname]writes.com. If that’s taken, try .org or .net. Get creative, but not too creative. Using words that are synonyms for your profession can be good — [yourname]design.com can also be [yourname]graphics.com, [yourname]designs.com, or [yourname]art.com.
4. Look on marketplaces or ExpiredDomains.net for your domain name.
If all similar names are registered, try Sedo, Dynadot Marketplace, Flippa, GoDaddy Auctions, etc. to see if the name you want is listed for sale. Also look on ExpiredDomains.net to see if anything you missed has expired. Type in your name and see what comes up! That’s how I found dcald.com. Be patient, something good might show up at some point that you can snatch up.
5. There are no rules.
If you absolutely cannot deal with all of these suggestions, go ahead and get too creative. Your SEO rankings will drop, but maybe you’ll have a cool looking domain name. I registered ae.ee because it looked cool. I never used it for anything but I still liked it.
Either way, personal websites are a good place to showcase your work and a spot for people to contact you. A good domain name does matter — it’s a first impression people have of you, just like your email (I am going to be more interested in messaging JohnDoe@gmail.com than JohnLikesPizza44@gmail.com). Domain names can be infuriating at points when it feels like everything is taken. Try to register something good enough now if everything you want is taken, and wait a bit to see if any name options have opened up.