Choosing the best domain name for your business is an integral part of your digital identity. These three easy steps will show you how to select a domain name that accelerates your online goals.
A domain name might seem like a simple choice, but there’s more to it than you think. Experts say a strong name gives you instant credibility, enhances your ranking potential, and facilitates sales. It’s just as important as choosing a trendy office block or the right street for a busy café.
Being smart about your domain choice will help you establish your company as a fast-growing business on the rise. So, you’ve had a fantastic idea for your next big thing, and now you’re looking to take it one step further; this is the moment to think like a strategist and secure the right domain.
Here’s a straightforward guide that will show you how to choose the best domain name in just three steps.
First, What Is a Domain Name?
Your domain name is the website address that you type into your browser’s URL bar. Think of it as your virtual real estate address. In this case, the domain identifies a host server where your website is located. People searching for your company can use your web address to find you.
In business, domains are used to indicate who owns and controls the website. Nobody owns the domain itself. You only pay for the time you use it. In 1985, there were only six registered domains globally—now, there are over 359.8 million.
During the dot-com boom, there was a seemingly endless amount of great web addresses available for businesses. You didn’t have to think much about it or be particularly creative. We’re 31 years into the modern internet, so things have changed significantly since those early days.
Plus, the coronavirus has caused a massive surge of people registering domains online. Everyone has realized that online business is currently the most stable.
Knowing how to choose a domain as a small business owner comes with a lot of tangible benefits. There are good domain names and bad ones. Some names slow your progress online and make you unappealing to search engines and customers. Others make you the best possible choice.
As you can see by the above examples, the trick is to understand the best practices around how to get a domain name that works for you. The following steps will give you context on choosing the right domain name that will most benefit your reach, reputation, and sales.
You’ll start by choosing your name, then your extension, and then you’ll protect your online presence by investing in your choices. Here’s what you need to know.
Step #1: Choose Your Domain Name
The first step is to choose your new website domain name.
You may already have a company name in mind or are still open to names that would work best on the internet. If you have a name, check which domains are available here.
Choosing a domain name is easier when you know which factors to consider. For this reason, it’s a good idea to stick to the three golden rules of name selection online.
Rule 1: Make It Easy
Evidence suggests shorter names are better, so aim for 12 characters or less. The best domain names are as short as possible because it makes your visitors’ lives easier.
Imagine a potential customer having to type in a 30 character website address each time they want to visit your store! Not to mention the name would be clumsy for your social media presence.
Ease also has to do with consistency!
It can be hard to move on once you’ve settled on a name. The thing is if that name doesn’t translate online, or it makes your business look bad—it’s not worth keeping.
Having a domain “close” to the original or slightly different from your website trading name is bad practice. Consider a company called Roller Derby Girls or Mike’s Auto Shop. There’s a fair chance that these names have already been registered as a .com or .net.
Don’t be tempted to register rollerderbygirlz.com or mikesautoshop99.com—instead of finding a better solution. Your online presence will benefit from a clean, simple, consistent domain name that is also your business name.
At the same time, your domain should be simple to pronounce and write down. People will talk about your company, share your posts online, and look for your business using direct search (and voice search!).
Even with the best domain name—if it’s tough to spell, has unusual words in it, or complex word matches, you’re going to lose traffic. While you’re at it, avoid numbers and hyphens too.
If you need more ideas for a strong name, check out these domain name generators.
Rule 2: Make It Memorable
The internet currently has hundreds of millions of websites. You can bet that there are companies out there with similar names, products, or services as you.
Check this out:
Domain names like these are everywhere because, back in the day, direct keyword matches improved your search engine ranking. That’s no longer the case, yet these domains remain.
They all sound the same! There is nothing unique or exciting about them. Worse still, people don’t trust them! Too many keywords are code for a suspicious business.
Now look at this:
Which of these stands out? It’s the one that appeals to your imagination! Shoefox is the most brandable, and, as a result, it immediately looks like the better choice. Always choose a domain that is sticky and easy to remember.
Rule 3: Use Relevant Keywords
Keyword-based domain names are old school and should be avoided—but—there are exceptions.
If you can find a niche relevant keyword that is also a great brand and describes what you do, that’s fantastic! An example is Vacationrentals.com or Kidcare.com. Both of these domain names represent the company, which enhances the brand. They also sound and look professional.
Potential customers will see your domain in the search engine results pages (SERPS) and will click on it because they know what to expect. In this way, keywords in domains still help with search ranking.
- Short keyword terms that describe your business are valuable.
- Avoid long, spammy keyword terms. (Google doesn’t like them.)
- Make sure your keywords have flow, style, and make sense.
Only use keywords that support your brand identity and that add a description to your domain name choice. If your phrase is more than 12-15 characters, see if something better works.
Step #2: Choose Your Top Level Domain (TLD)
Once you’ve tested and found the perfect domain name, you’ll have to decide on an extension. A strong name, coupled with the right extension, is the formula for a powerful online brand presence.
What Is a Domain Extension?
Your domain extension is the notation at the end of your domain address. There are various types of extensions, and these are known as “top-level domains.”
What Is a Top-Level Domain?
The terms “top-level domain” and “domain extension” are used interchangeably—they both mean the rightmost part of your domain address.
New top-level domains, or TLDs for short, should be chosen with care. Choosing the best domain name, followed by the wrong extension, could limit your internet growth.
- .com (.commercial—the most popular and carries the most weight)
- .net (.network—similar popularity to .com)
- .edu (.education—an extension for higher educational institutions)
For a full list of TLDs, click here.
As a default, you should always try to get a .com or a .net address. People are used to clicking on these, and they’re the most commonly used. That said, it does depend on your industry. For example, if you’re a non-profit organization, .org will work best. Match your industry to your extension.
If the popular or industry specific TLDs aren’t available, you can try a country code TLD (.us / .ca / .uk). If these aren’t available, then you’ll have to explore the new TLDs that were released a few years ago (.shopping, .io, .business, .me, .website).
You might have noticed a host of new extensions cropping up, and these are all viable options. Just use a smart domain search tool, and they will recommend which new TLDs are available for your chosen name if the others are already in use.
Google has stated very clearly that new TLDs won’t hurt your search presence. They’re great for original branding and can be more memorable too.
- Shoefox.shop is better than a longer .com alternative that dilutes your brand.
Plug in your chosen domain name to see the TLD variations here.
Step #3: Protect Your Online Presence
The third and final step will round off this tutorial on how to choose the right domain name. This last step is about protecting your online presence.
Sometimes, when a business is doing well—unethical companies will swoop in and buy up all of the TLDs with your business name. Their goal is to redirect traffic to their websites and to steal your customers. Investing time and money in your business only to have it hijacked is not ideal.
While this is illegal to a certain extent (trademark infringement and intellectual property infringement), it does happen. You don’t want to be involved in an expensive lawsuit. There are many more reasons why people will buy up your domain name TLDs.
Here are some of them:
- To redirect your hard-earned traffic to a similar set of products/services.
- You might have a similar or exact brand name match.
- You may be competing head-to-head for traffic in different industries.
- Typos, look-alike or sound-alike names, name changes.
- To sell to other companies.
- To sell back to you (yes, it is exploitative).
This is all avoidable if you buy your own domain name extensions. A good tool will tell you which TLDs are most at risk and recommend that you purchase them along with your domain. All of your TLDs can be set to “domain pointing” and will redirect to your website.
It’s better to own your small business TLDs than to leave them exposed to risk.
How to Register a Domain
To register your domain, you’ll need to pick a domain registration service. It’s easier to have a single host that deals with domains, website creation, and hosting all-in-one. You’ll want to do your research to make sure you find a reliable domain host.
To register, you’ll just need to conduct a basic domain search using your host’s search tool. From there, you can add the domain to your cart and whatever additional TLDs you want to secure.
How to Buy a Website Domain
As we mentioned earlier, you can’t buy a domain address. You can pay to rent it for as long as you want. If you stop paying for your domain, it will eventually fall back to the public domain for resale. So, always make sure to renew your domains each year!
In February of this year, before coronavirus struck, Visual Objects reported that 29% of small businesses planned to launch their company websites in 2020. With COVID-19, that rate has climbed considerably higher. It’s never been more important to secure your online presence.
When you do, you protect every marketing, SEO, and promotional dollar you sink into your online brand. This is an essential part of creating revenue on the internet!
There are three steps to follow when choosing the best domain name.
Step 1: Choose an easy, memorable, and keyword-relevant domain address.
Step 2: Choose the best possible top-level domain that matches your brand identity.
Step 3: Protect your interests by purchasing the major TLDs for your company
If you follow these steps, you’ll select a short, brandable domain name with a trusted extension and enough protection to avoid being hijacked no matter how big your company gets.