Everything you need to know about domain hacks


What the heck is a domain hack? Is this going to get me stopped by the NSA when I’m traveling? Is pizza the most delicious type of food?

In short, a domain hack is a domain that uses the domain extension as part of the word it’s trying to spell. So:

  • This: iwantmyna.me
  • Instead of: iwantmyname.com

This will not get you stopped by the NSA. And yes, pizza is the most delicious type of food. Moving on.

  1. Are domain hacks useful?
  2. Are domain hacks bad for SEO
  3. What about domain hacks for URL shortening?
  4. Are there any tools for finding domain hacks?

Are domain hacks useful?

street art

Is street art useful? Not really, but it sure is fun to look at. With a domain hack, you can create a domain name that’s uniquely yours —one that may align with your whimsical brand mentality better than a .com ever could. If the last few letters in your name happen to be a ccTLD, like .is (the local TLD for Iceland) in Chris, then you have yourself a good domain hack:

  • chr.is
  • is more fun than chris.com

And if the last few letters in your brand happen to be a new gTLD, like .press in Express, then:

  • ex.press
  • is more fun than express.com

Note that I use the word “more fun” than “better.” Using a domain hack often means you’re more interested in whimsy than safe results, and that can have real consequences.

Are domain hacks bad for SEO

The most common advice you’ll hear from SEO experts is that you should use .com and never look back. Followed closely by your local ccTLD if you happen to be in that country, then perhaps followed by generic TLDs (gTLDs) with keywords you’re trying to target, like .pizza for a pizza shop, although that’s a big hot debate right now.

Google says (emphasis mine):

Q: How will new gTLDs affect search? Is Google changing the search algorithm to favor these TLDs? How important are they really in search?

A: Overall, our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com & .org). Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.

But others claim to see real results from keyword matches, perhaps due to human preferece (people tend to like things that feel obvious).

From a domain hack POV though, you’re by nature not using that ccTLD to target you to a specific country, and you’re not using that gTLD to give yourself a keyword match. You’re using it to be clever. So what are the risks?

Here you go, in a tidy package from Moz:

Although the majority of ccTLDs are associated with content specific to their corresponding country or region, some webmasters have started using country codes like “.me” and “.tv” as generic web addresses. As a result, Google has, over time, decided to treat some of those ccTLDs as generic country code top-level domains (gccTLDs) rather than ccTLDs. But, Google’s former Head of Webspam Matt Cutts advises caution if you decide to use a ccTLD that is not already considered a gccTLD because your content could be considered geotargeted (which could affect your global search rankings). You can find a list of the country codes Google considers gccTLDs (and are thus safer to use universally) on this page.

So basically, if you were hypothetically using .in for mclov.in, Google would geotarget your site to India because .in is India’s ccTLD, and it’s not on their list of ccTLDs that act as gccTLDs. That’s great if you’re in India, but if you’re not, you may struggle to get to the top of search results unrelated to your exact name.

If you don’t care about search, than no worries. If you do though, you may want to think twice about using a ccTLD in a domain hack that’s not a gccTLD.

What about domain hacks for URL shortening?

Short link

When Twitter was first created, links were a real problem. Just picture it — you have 140 characters to complete a thought, and links can be quite long. If you wanted to send a link to our .COM page (iwantmyname.com/domains/com-domain-name-registration-for-commercial), you’re looking at a hefty 67 characters. To get around that link bloat, a bunch of companies created shortening solutions which linked desired (long) URL’s to a short URL, like bit.ly/XXXXXX or ow.ly/XXXXXX (the XXXXXX being a randomly generated, unique string of characters). Then, using custom domain names, you could brand your short URL’s using your own custom domain name, so instead of bit.ly/XXXXXX, tweets would show something like iwmn.me/XXXXXX.

These days, this] Twitter does this:

A URL of any length will be altered to 23 characters, even if the link itself is less than 23 characters long. Your character count will reflect this.

Woohoo! So no, in 2018, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use a goofy domain hack as a URL shortener (if you’re into that sort of thing). Let it all out. You be you.

Are there any tools for finding domain hacks?

iwantmyname search

If you’re not specifically looking for one, domain hacks can be tricky to think up. Fortunately, there are tools:

  1. the iwantmyname domain search has a basic domain hack finder built in. Just type any word in, and the second result (if applicable) will be a domain hack using one of our many domain extensions.
  2. If you need a bit more though, try doing a search over at Domainr. Doing the same search I did above (whatismydomainname), they pulled out some crazy stuff like whatismydomainn.am/e, whatismydoma.in.na/me, and whatismydomain.na/me. Pretty fun stuff.
  3. Another fun tool is domainhack.me. Just type in a word and see the awesome unfold.