Choosing a domain name for your business is a big deal.
After all, your URL will be your new home on the web.
It is the place where your potential customers will find you.
It is the place where you will make yourself comfortable, a space that you want readers to find exciting and informative.
If you have an offline business, naming your website may be an easy process – you will want to snap up the name-of-your-business dot com.
But if you are creating a new venture, finding just the right name will be tough, since so many of the “easy” URL’s are already taken.
10 Things to Consider When Choosing a Domain Name
To begin the process, you want to keep these general guidelines in mind:
- If at all possible go with a “dot com” address
- Keep the URL short and sweet, and preferably without hyphens
- A descriptive URL is nice but not necessary, it may even hurt you
- Can the name grow with your business?
- Make sure the URL is available
- Social media name availability is important for branding
- Check out sites with similar names, just in case
- Critically look at the URL on paper
- Consider any legalities of your name (just because the domain is available, it does not mean that it is legally ok to use for branding your business)
- Limit your time
There are many extensions available for a URL but the most common continues to be the dot com extension.
Readers will return to your website because they remember something about it – an article they read or some little detail.
They will often type in the name as they remember it followed by dot com.
I’m not saying that they won’t find you at dot net or something else but dot com will likely be the first place they turn to.
The infamous Problogger began as a dot net domain.
Eventually Darren had to jump through several hoops to purchase the dot com domain from the previous owner.
If you start out on dot com you can avoid these issues.
Short and Sweet
In order to be memorable your URL should be short and sweet.
We all suffer from information overload, so a short catchy name is likely to stick vs something longer.
Hyphens and numbers should also be avoided if possible. Readers may remember your name but they may not recall that you use hyphens. Hyphens can also take away from the professional feel of the website.
Using numbers in place of letters may seem cute or may seem like a way to grab a name that might be unavailable with the traditional spelling but again, incorporating numbers in place of letters may make the URL less memorable.
A while ago Lisa at the amazingly informative 2CreateAWebsite blog shared her thoughts about using a number in her domain name.
In the olden days of the internet the going advice was to include your keywords in your domain name. In fact the powers that be at Google even came out and said that this practice could actually help your site’s search engine rankings.
These days the advice has changed. In recent years Google has cracked down and penalized sites that appear to be “gaming” the system.
In my opinion, I would only use a keyword in the domain name if it makes sense to the reader and for your business.
If you own XYZ Bakery in New York – then xyzbakery dot com makes sense for a domain name. But new-york-nyc-bakeries dot com is bad form.
And if your domain doesn’t include a descriptive word about your business I think that is ok too.
The search engines are smart enough to figure out what your site is about from the content that you publish on the website.
Growing Your Business
In fact, a descriptive domain name can actually limit the growth potential of your business, if it is too narrow.
What if you choose XYZ Cakes as your domain name?
Right now you make fantastic cakes – but down the road you may choose to expand your business to include cookies, pies, and specialty breads.
What then? Your domain is XYZ Cakes.
People that are looking for pies or cookies may not even click your link in their search engine results.
Keep the future in mind when selecting your website name.
Is The Domain Available?
So now you have a short list of potential names.
It is time to figure out whether the name is actually available for purchase.
A good, free way to check is to use the search tool at who.is.
Any hosting company, like SiteGround, will also have a domain search tool available.
At HostGator, just click on Domains in the menu bar to access their tool. (if you sign up for hosting with HostGator use the coupon code PRACTICALGATOR to get 25% off)*
You will also want to check the major social media sites to see if your domain name is available.
For example, you will want a corresponding Twitter profile and a Facebook page as well. It’s not a deal breaker if the name is not available on social media sites but it is a plus if it is.
There is a site called Knowem that can check for your name across many platforms. I found it to be pretty accurate but it did say one profile was available when it really was not.
Sites With Similar Names
People often don’t think to check out sites with similar names but it is important that you do.
I once typed in a domain name but the word I typed had a common typo. To my dismay the domain with the typo was a pretty unsavory, adult oriented site.
If you expect that your readers might make a common spelling error when they are looking for your site – check and see what the misspelled site will lead you to.
This is especially important if you use a number to replace a letter in your domain name.
Write Your Domain Name On Paper
Sometimes domain names make sense as two or three separate words, but when you run the words together as you would for a URL then the letters start to blend and create new unintentional words.
Just take a look at this list of domain bloopers at JustTheWord and you will understand exactly what I mean.
Make sure your chosen domain looks “right”.
I am not a lawyer. But if you plan for your new domain to also be the name of your new business – then make sure that you can use it without infringing on someone else’s copyright etc.
Hire your own lawyer or use a site like LegalZoom.com to set up your business entity.
Limit Your Time
While choosing a domain name is important, you can’t let it eat up all of your time. Find something reasonable and then move on.
Budget your time for this process and when time is up, make your decision.
Your time is better spent on activities that generate income.
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