Domain Name Basics
Picking a good domain name could make or break your business. While that may sound a bit dramatic, your first point of contact with many potential new customers comes from a Google search. Your domain name is often your first chance to make a good impression on a prospective client, and therefore it’s vital to be easily understood.
One of the major issues businesses have with domain names is that there are almost too many options. Figuring out what you want your name to be is one thing, but choosing which top-level domain (TLD) is right for you is another decision entirely — there’s way more out there than just .com and .net!
Choosing the Perfect Domain Name
Keep it Short
There are few things that can ruin a domain name faster than excessive length. In general, a good rule of thumb is that you should only exceed ten characters if you have an excellent reason to do so. Among other reasons, a shorter domain name is just easier to remember.
It’s also important to caution against having multiple words — two is fine, but any more has the potential to get confusing quickly. Keep in mind that there are no spaces or punctuation available. If you can’t discern what the domain name says at a quick glance, chances are it’s simply too long.
Example: Instead of a cumbersome name like thisismywebsite.com, try going with something simple like mywebsite.com.
Don’t Use Abbreviations
While you don't want your domain to be too long, you also don't want to force your business into a shorter domain name by using abbreviations. A business name with a commonly used acronym could have a nice succinct domain name, but abbreviated words are otherwise not a good idea.
Even with the popularity of abbreviations in texting and chat apps, using them in your domain won't be effective. Abbreviations can be confusing when used in a sentence; imagine how confusing they would be between a "www." and a ".com".
Example: Let’s say your company is called New Number LLC. While ‘No.’ is a popular abbreviation for the word ‘Number,’ it would be extremely confusing to name your website newno.com instead of newnumber.com.
Pick Something That Sounds Good When Spoken
You should choose a name that is relatively easy to say in person. One of the worst things that can happen to a company's domain name is if you have to verbally spell it out instead of simply saying it aloud. To extend the previous point, the use of abbreviations are always awkward when spoken out loud. Remember, people will be using your domain name in conversation.
Example: There used to be a European travel agency called Choose Spain, which sounds innocuous enough. Unfortunately, when read out loud, it’s tough to tell at first whether www.choosespain.com is spoken as “Choose Spain” or “chooses pain.” Not surprisingly, this website is now defunct.
Try to Get a .com
Whenever possible, stick to the creditable .com for your TLD. There are many novelty TLDs available such as .jewelry and .pizza that may directly relate to your business, but these sound too casual and unprofessional.
Nearly half of all websites in existence use a .com TLD, and this probably isn't the best place to forge your own path. That being said, it might be a good idea to acquire your domain name on other TLDs to prevent someone else from obtaining it and causing confusion between your site and theirs. If your domain name has a common misspelling, think about acquiring that name too and redirecting it back to your original site.
Example: If you own a restaurant called Jimmy’s Pizza, it might seem clever to use the new novelty .pizza TLD to create jimmys.pizza as your website. However, .pizza is so rarely used that many people would not even know that jimmys.pizza refers to a website domain name in the first place.
Use Industry or Location Keywords in Your Domain Name
What keywords are especially important for search engine optimization in your field? Short keywords are a great way to attract visitors to your site. What better way to indicate to potential customers that you have the solution to their needs than to include one of those very words in your domain name?
Another good option is to reference your location in your domain name. Especially if your services are location-based, it might be a good idea to let people know where to find you right in your URL.
Example: Sally wants to start a cupcake business in Idaho called Sally’s Cupcakes LLC. Instead of sallyscupcakes.com, she chooses the domain name boisebakery.com, because it is more specific and helpful for attracting new customers.
Ensure It’s Available on Social Media
In many industries social media is nearly as important as a website. Before you pick your domain name, you should check on popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to make sure the same phrase is available as a username on those platforms.
You don’t want your customers to have to figure out which phrase you’re using as your screenname each time they try to follow you on a social media account. If you have the same name uniformly across all platforms, it’s easier to gain cross-channel followers.
Example: If you own a house cleaning company called Cleaning Guru LLC, you’ll need to make sure social-media handles for @cleaningguru are available to match up with your cleaningguru.com domain name.
Search Through Expired Domain Names
Every week, thousands of domain names expire, making them available for you to purchase for your business. There are plenty of sites that allow you to scan through them and claim one for yourself if you find something you like.
If you’re going to do this, you should look into what the site was used for previously, which you can do at archive.org. If the site was previously used for something that doesn’t mesh with your core values, you clearly shouldn’t use it.
Example: To search through expired domains for one that might suit your company, check out www.expireddomains.net for constantly updated lists of options.
Choose a Distinctive Name
It’s a good idea to avoid registering a domain name that could get confused for another business. Make sure it’s easy to distinguish that this is your company’s website, possibly by checking similar domain names to make sure there aren’t already established sites on any of them.
Example: If you own a company that sells air conditioners in a large metro center, a domain name like metroac.com might seem like a good fit, but the name is too generic to do you much good.