Five dilemmas in choosing a domain name

With hindsight, it's often easy to see whether a domain name is right for your business. Its appeal, its communicative quality, its length and so on are all easy to judge. However, choosing a domain name also involves considering questions that don't have straightforward answers. Some selection dilemmas require you to use your entrepreneurial intuition. Here are five of the main dilemmas you're likely to face.

  1. Findability versus identity

    An agricultural business wanted a domain name that would attract visitors. The aim was to get people to come for guided tours. And people interested in that kind of activity tend to do searches that include 'farm' ('dairy farm', 'children's farm', etc.). However, the proprietor wasn't keen on a name like that. He wanted something businesslike, which gave the idea of an agricultural enterprise, rather than something 'cosy'. When confronted by a dilemma like that, you have to use your entrepreneurial judgement: is it possible to find a name that appeals to your target audience without undermining your identity?

  2. Clarity versus shortness

    Brevity was once the most highly prized quality a domain name could have. In the days when people usually typed domain names into their browsers, it was a question of the shorter the better. Nowadays things have changed. People read domain names, but don't often type them. So a name whose meaning is clear at a glance will often work better than an abbreviation. For example, is clearer than, but the second option is obviously quicker to type. In a case like that, the branding is crucial: is the target group familiar with the abbreviated name? If so, great: go for the catchy option.  Certainly if the short name can be built into a brand. However, for a business with little brand power, which needs to tell people what it does, a longer descriptive name may be preferable.

  3. Eye-catching versus businesslike

    Not every business wants to turn heads like the Green Smoothies Ninja. But a name like that certainly stands out. When choosing a domain name, it can pay to be bold, but only insofar as you feel comfortable with your eye-catching moniker. A daring domain name can really help, but will it still work for you a decade or two down the line? A US manure transport company has had years of value from, but how would your business partners feel about a name like that, once the novelty wears off?

  4. Attractive versus distinctive

    Sometimes you come across a domain name that's almost too good to be true. Unfortunately, there's a strong possibility that someone else has already come up with something very similar. The same two words separated by a hyphen, for example. However great the name may be, there's a real risk of confusion. In a case like that, we also strongly advise consulting a specialist intellectual property lawyer to minimise the risk of your choice getting you into trouble. You should also ask yourself how great the risk of confusion is. With very short domain names, it's almost impossible to completely exclude the possibility of lookalikes already being in use. From time to time, even we get confused with ‘ISDN’ :-).

  5. Buying versus new registration

    Suppose that you come across a domain name that's perfect for your business, but is already taken. However, the current registrant is willing to sell. Bear in mind that the average business domain name earns its owner € 15,000 a year. How much does that make your preferred domain name worth to you? We take the view that, despite what some people claim, a domain name is unlikely to be worth tens of thousands. Most domain names that change hands are sold for less than € 1000.

Feeling inspired? Visit (in Dutch) and use our suggestion tool to find the right domain name for you.


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