There should be people who have found a name for their child faster than for their website. In fact, the ideas that are at the top of the wish-list are often already taken – especially with coveted endings such as .com, .de or net.
With more than 100 million .com domains and more than 15 million .de copies, the path to finding the right domain name for new web projects is often long and not easy.
In our guest post, domain expert Johannes Herold presents the most important tips, tricks, and strategies for registering a new domain.
1. Why is a good name so important?
If you start a new internet project, the business idea is the focus. The assumption: if it is really good and innovative, the project will be a success. Finding a name often plays a subordinate role in this phase and is part of the process. This always turns out to be a big rookie mistake. Because unsuitable names can actually cause companies to fail – especially on the Internet. Domain names that are difficult to understand and are prone to typing errors lead to significant traffic losses.
The name search should therefore be taken seriously. Allow plenty of time for this, be patient and do not make decisions for yourself. Tests among friends, colleagues or the future target group quickly show which candidates it is better to forget quickly.
2. What makes a good domain name?
In principle, it’s very simple: Which name can you remember straight away and enter it correctly in the browser address bar? Can you answer the phone with your desired name without any problems? Does the name immediately make it clear what it is about?
The simpler, shorter and clearer, the better a domain name is.
So do not use multiple hyphenated couplings. Be careful with difficult foreign words or combinations of two different languages à la cappuccino-boutique.de. There are several potential typos lurking here and the likelihood increases that users are more likely to end up on the pages of your competitors.
Word games and the mix with numbers are often at the expense of comprehensibility. Test whether the domain name can be typed without errors. And think carefully about what the name should stand for: Does it fit the content and the desired image?
All of this is easy to say, of course, but in times of clear bottlenecks, especially with the most popular domain endings .com and .de, it is much more difficult to implement. That is why creative ideas are required.
3. Ways to Get a Good Domain Name
The starting point is – as is usually the case in business life – the detailed observation of the competition: What names are there already? Which work? And why?
Then go into the creative phase: Play with your desired name. For example, put the end of the word at the beginning. Is there a memorable, clearly understandable abbreviation?
What is the favorite address translated into English, Spanish or Japanese? Admittedly, we have just advised against using foreign words. But especially in Japanese there are a lot of short and clear terms that catch our ears quickly. In other words: Hardly any rule without exception …
Study the key keywords for your project. Which terms do they include? Can you be combined? Are there appropriate paraphrases for it? One of the most successful examples of a slightly modified keyword combination is the social network Pinterest, which cleverly combined the terms “pin” and “interest”. The holiday rental platform airbnb.com is actually a nice play on words and is successfully on the Internet – but much more difficult to remember than Pinterest, isn’t it?
A few more examples from the German-speaking area: hallobabysitter.de is not ultra-short, but tells you exactly what users can find on the site. And billiger.de and guenstiger.de leave no questions unanswered, as does Lieferando.de. Also kommessen.de arouses clear associations (at most it could be that people believe they are getting a finished meal and not just a bag with the ingredients for it). By the way, the competition from hellofresh.de offers exactly the same service – but do you immediately associate hello and fresh with food bags?
Of course, there are also pure fantasy terms that mean nothing, do not arouse any real associations, and have nevertheless established themselves. Or does anyone know what does or as Zalando why Amazon Amazon is? And what wind has to do with accommodation can probably only be explained by the founders.
Another way to get a domain name is via the second-hand shop, so to speak: You can buy domains that have already been registered from others on domain marketplaces such as Sedo or Afternic. You may find your desired combination of favorite names and the appropriate ending here. Perhaps, however, you will also choose a completely new alternative that you had not thought of before.
In addition to the marketplaces, so-called drop markets also exist. On sites like namejet you will find domains whose previous owners have not renewed their registration. A regular look at the corresponding pages is worthwhile, as returned domains can be well-established domains – this way you start with higher traffic right from the start.
4. How important is the right domain extension?
Very clear answer: Very important. The domain extension must match the project and should demonstrate seriousness to users, especially in companies and shops. If you are addressing a local target group, a country-specific domain extension or top level domain (ccTLD) is your first choice – for example .de, .at or .ch.
.Eu is ideal for Europe-wide activities. International alternatives are .com, .biz, .info or .net. These universally popular endings have a decisive advantage: users are used to these endings – it is easier to type in addresses with a well-known TLD than exotic endings.
5. Is the domain of my choice really still available?
Simply enter the desired address in the browser and see whether a page opens or not – that’s not enough for a serious domain check. To be on the safe side, you should rely on professional instruments.
6. Which legal aspects have to be considered?
What is unfortunately all too often forgotten when looking for a new domain name: The legal side is extremely important. Even if you have to say goodbye to a good idea – refrain from domain names that can infringe the rights of third parties. Otherwise there is a risk of warning fees or disputes in court.
Both cases can be tedious and costly. If a company warns you because it sees its rights at risk, the value of the item can quickly reach tens of thousands of euros.
A warning is usually the first step in this area. However, it can also happen to you that the opposing party goes directly to court to obtain an injunction against you.
7. Which domain names are taboo?
Third-party brands and company names are definitely taboo for registration. This applies even if a well-known brand or company name is part of your own name. Courts usually grant the respective company the privilege to use the domain name. Word combinations that contain a brand or company name also harbor legal risks.
“Work titles” are also protected – that is, titles from books, magazines, newspapers, television programs, etc. However, one restriction applies here: Only titles with a high level of awareness are protected, simply because of the large number of titles.
You should also exercise particular caution when seeking inspiration for your domain name from other people – whether prominent or unknown. According to § 12 BGB, the private first and last name enjoys name protection. Specifically, this means: If you want to set up a page around your big idol as a fan, for example, you should definitely contact us in advance and obtain written permission to use the name.
It is forbidden – for whatever reason – to register domains with the names of friends, neighbors or colleagues. In doing so, you are violating the right to a name.
Also not allowed: registering domains with city names. This applies to Berlin, Hamburg and Munich as well as to smaller communities. Only the municipalities have the right to register corresponding domain names for themselves. Important: This rule applies to all known top level domains, i.e. in addition to .de, for example, also for .com, .net or .org.
Which brings us almost to the end of this rather extensive list. All domain names that sound as if they are government institutions are listed on it. So better hands off funny word games with offices, authorities or services.
8. How and where can I find out whether a domain name violates the rights of third parties?
Gute Frage. Praktisch wäre dafür eine zentrale Anlaufstelle, in der alle Namens- und Kennzeichnungsrechte zu finden sind. Doch die gibt es leider nicht. Deshalb bleibt im prinzip nur eine möglichst umfassende Recherche.
- Schritt 1: Nutzen Sie verschiedene Suchmaschinen, um weltweite Ergebnisse für Ihren Wunschnamen zu erhalten.
- Schritt 2: Werten Sie die Ergebnisse aus – finden sich darunter Unternehmen oder prominente Zeitgenossen?
- Schritt 3: Analysieren Sie auf jeden Fall das Handelsregister – gibt es Unternehmen mit dem gleichen bzw. einem ähnlichen Namen?
- Schritt 4: Für Marken gibt es eigene Markenregister. Nationale Marken in Deutschland können einfach über ein entsprechendes Verzeichnis beim Deutschen Patent- und Markenamt abgefragt werden.
- Step 5: If you want to be on the safe side, it is advisable to use the services of a specialized law firm.
9. Should I apply for trademark protection for my domain name?
If you have to fear that your competition will otherwise have the brand protected, this step definitely makes sense. Because if someone else gets ahead of you, it can mean that you have to give your domain back.
However, trademark protection can only be applied for for “fantasy names” (examples here would be amazon or zalando). However, domain names that are descriptive – such as toys.de or fahrrad.de – cannot be protected under trademark law, as they lack distinctive character.
Forms for registering a trademark as well as further information on this topic can also be found on the website of the Patent and Trademark Office.
10. What can I do if I see my own rights violated?
First of all: take a deep breath and keep calm. And then check: Is it really a so-called domain grabbing or was there just a mistake or carelessness during registration?
In the case of domain grabbing, you should refer the matter to a lawyer. In the case of a suspected oversight, however, an amicable agreement is usually the better way to go. Contact the owner of the address and try to negotiate. Paying a small amount of compensation for expenses incurred is usually cheaper than filing a lawsuit in court for the domain to be surrendered. Apart from the financial aspect, you also save your time budget and your nerves. And you can be sure of getting your domain quickly – processes, on the other hand, can take a long time!