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A first impression.
Search engine optimization.
Your entire brand.
Your domain name is more than just a URL – it’s truly one of the most important elements of your online business.
Sure you’d like to think that your domain name isn’t as important as your company and marketing, but you’d be mistaken. A convoluted domain name or a subdomain of another site isn’t going to be easy for customers to type in or feel confident with.
When you’re choosing a domain name – especially in 2017 when customers are savvy and skeptical – you need to choose wisely.
Make It Brandable
Your URL is just as important as your company name. That means it’s important that you find a URL that you can build a brand around, just like you work hard to brand your company name. This doesn’t mean the URL has to match your existing company name, but it should be in the same field so that it can be incorporated into an existing brand.
Keep It Short
Memories are short, and if you want potential customers to be able to remember, repeat and then type your URL into browsers, it needs to be short. Shorter URLs are more memorable and they have significantly less chance for errors when typed or repeated.
Watch Your Spelling
Words in your new URL should be spelled in the most traditional pattern possible. Creative spelling is cute for a baby’s name, but it can be a huge pain for a business owner and his customers as the try to come up with the right random spelling to pull up your site. It is also important that you avoid words that have multiple conventional spellings. Principle or principal? Your customers certainly won’t know.
There are many websites that have creative URLS that are spelled phonetically, but they are pronounceable. Google, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Be creative with your own URL, but don’t be so creative that nobody knows how to pronounce the word that you’ve created. How can people spread the word if they can’t say the word?
Keywords Can Help
Including keywords in your URL was almost a necessity a few years ago, but it is not as imperative now. If you are able to work a keyword into your URL naturally, it can be beneficial, but it is not required for SEO purposes and it can harm you if your keyword use is too heavy, strange or makes your company seem shady. It’s better to have a professional sounding name than one that is jammed full of forced keywords.
Skip Hyphens and Numbers
Adding a hyphen or using a 2 instead of “two” might seem like a good idea to get closer to the URL you want, but that hyphen or numeral are going to throw off everyone who tries to remember or type in your URL later. Even if you have to do more brainstorming or go in a new direction, a whole word URL is better than a hyphenated one.
Commit for Decades
When you buy a URL and start developing it, plan for the long term. You don’t develop a business for a few months or less. You shouldn’t buy a URL and plan to only use it for a few months or less.
You are going to be investing a great deal of time and money into your project. As your hard work pays off, it will hopefully continue to do so for years. So plan to be invested in your new URL for decades.
Try for the .com
There are more domain extensions available than ever before, but the .com is still the gold standard. Play with URLs to try and reserve the .com rather than the .net or .it or .anythingelsetheycomeupwith. It is possible to be cute and clever with a domain extension, but the majority of people will default to the .com when they write or type, so keep it easy for them. The .com makes you appear more professional as well.
Watch for Trademarks and Confusion
Nobody is going to stop you from registering a URL that sounds and looks suspiciously like the name of another business. It is on you to research and do some due diligence on other companies that may be confused with your own new URL.
Granted, you can register the URL and do the work to set up your new website without interference, but if you have infringed on copyrights, you can expect some legal consequences down the road.
It should go without saying, but it can be said that your new domain name should make sense. Sure, you can use a creative word that nobody has ever heard of before – that’s an internet standard. But if you are going to use traditional words, use them with traditional spellings in a traditional phrase. A jumble of words doesn’t make sense, and customers won’t care for typing in what feels like nonsense.
Don’t forget to do a bit of split testing with your new domain name. It doesn’t cost much to register multiple domain names, so if you’re concerned about a new one, grab a couple of domain names you like and try them both out for a while. Once you’ve lived with both, you will likely find yourself with a clear preference and your testing groups may have a clear preference as well.
Consider Your Area
If you run a local business and you’re looking to attract a local market, including your location in your URL name makes a terrific amount of sense.
Rather than being plumbers.com, you can become Atlantaplumbers.com (although that domain name is probably already taken). Customers generally respond with trust to websites and businesses they know are local rather than an unknown entity that could be from anywhere across the globe.
It doesn’t take long for domain names to be snatched up. If you’re researching and playing with names and you find one you like, don’t let it sit. It might be snatched up by someone in a matter of minutes. This doesn’t give you a lot of thinking time, but it’s better to spend the $10 to keep the name safe than plan to come back to it next week and find the name taken and out of your hands.
Your brand is your business, and you should incorporate your new website smoothly into your existing business smoothly. Even if your URL isn’t the same name as your business, the branding for your domain should be consistent with the business the website is representing.
If you design your website correctly with SEO in mind, customers searching for your business name should be able to find your differing URL easily in a search engine anyhow.
Selecting your domain name might very well be the first step of a new business. If your business is already established, the domain name might be a natural extension of what you already do well. Regardless of your personal scenario, choosing the right domain name is absolutely critical.