This is your business identity.
Your presence online.
Choose well and you’ll enhance your company’s marketing and sales.
Choose poorly and you may wind up starting all over again.
The right domain name is one of the most essential ingredients of your website. It is imperative that you choose the best one possible. Of course, it’s also important to know how to do exactly that.
Choose Clear Words
Your domain name should be easy to type. Skip the abbreviated “u” for “you” or slang terms that may have unusual spellings. The words used in your domain should have traditional spellings so that you’re not endlessly spelling out the quirky word choices for would-be customers.
Your domain doesn’t have to be all keywords, but if you can fit in a relevant keyword somehow, you’ll be a bit ahead of the game. Choose a keyword that fits naturally or don’t choose one at all. You don’t want to break other domain name rules by making your domain name ridiculously long or strangely worded just to cram in a keyword.
Make It Easy to Remember and Type
A domain name that is easy to remember is easy for customers to use. An easy to remember domain name is usually short, makes sense and doesn’t contain tricky spellings or easily misinterpreted number words or words that may have multiple spellings. In a best case scenario, you’ll also be able to make the domain name catchy and memorable as well.
Make It Local
If you run a local business, include that local in your domain name. If you are a freelance graphic designer in Dallas, for example, consider making your domain name something like DallasGraphicDesigns.com so that you can easily snag local searches through the keyword and also help your customers realize that you are close to home, and presumably easier to find and work with.
Avoid Numbers and Hyphens
As tempting as it may be to get just the right keywords or phrase, if you’re forced to use a hyphen or a numeral, skip that name and find another. Hyphens, or dashes, are confusing for would-be customers trying to type in your domain name. If they forget the dash, they can’t find the site and it’s hard even spell the domain name out loud if you have the numeral 2 instead of the word two.
Find the Right Domain Extension
The domain name is the biggest part of the battle, but don’t forget about the domain name extension. .com is still the most sought-after extension, so it may be your first choice as well. That doesn’t mean other domain extensions won’t work – especially if you’re able to use the extension as part of your clever domain name.
As new extensions appear, like .guru and .nyc, you have a shot at a great keyword username without having to fight for a .com or .net. There are even trade specific domains like .photography or .me for personal blogs and websites. Just remember that some domain extensions like .org have specific meanings, in this case a website that is tied to a non-profit or non-commercial organization.
Make it Brandable and Protect the Brand
The domain name you choose should work as part of your overall brand. If it’s too messy to brand or unspecific to what you’re doing with your company, it will be hard to make into a brand message.
Choose a domain name that you can easily use in advertisements, letterhead and email addresses and then protect that brand by buying up the other domain extensions and registering trademarks as necessary to give yourself some breathing room on the clever name and business you’re building. Remember to also buy common misspellings as domain names to redirect to your site as part of this process.
Be Mindful of Other Trademarks
As you are choosing domain names, be mindful that others may have had similar ideas. Do not choose a domain name that is very similar to another name running the same sort of business you are. When you effectively copy someone else’s domain name and their branding you’re opening yourself up for trademark violations and even lawsuits.
Even if you accidentally choose something that creates an overlap, you’ll still find yourself in trouble and starting the whole process over. It’s better to do your research the first time and find a name that you can use freely and without concern.
Make It Intuitive
If you sell pasta, your domain name should reflect pasta. If you sell hiking gear, your domain name should reflect this. If your domain name works for both pasta and hiking gear, you may need to make another choice unless your pasta is designed to be cooked on the trail.
When a would-be customer reads your domain name he should have a pretty good idea of what you’re selling, even if your domain name is only loosely tied to your wares. A domain name about Italy still translates to pasta. Likewise a domain about nature will tie to hiking gear.
If Necessary Close is Good Enough
With so many websites in existence, it may be a challenge to find just the right domain name. This is especially true if you have a business established before you start your website. The business you built in your hometown will eventually need a website.
But if the easily domain name that ties to your business name is taken, it’s fine to be close to your company name without matching it exactly. Joe’s Motors can easily become JoesMotorsSanDiego.com if necessary. In fact, including your location will help your customers know where you’re located, which is a big plus for brick and mortar businesses.
Use a Domain Tool
There are many domain tools out there to help you make a choice when it comes to finding clever and workable names. Using a domain tool – and there are countless free ones on the web – will let you input keywords and ideas and then brainstorm with the help of technology on what might be workable and what is already taken and registered to someone else.
Buy and Then Design
Finally, when you have found a domain name that works, buy it right then and there. Domain names aren’t expensive and it’s better to buy it and hold it than risk losing it. Don’t start building the brand and website around the domain name until you actually own the domain name and are certain it works. No sense putting the cart before the horse when it comes to expensive and time-intensive website development.
The right domain name can be the basis of a new brand or a great extension of your current business. You will be working from this domain indefinitely, so it is absolutely worth the time and effort to get it right the very first time.