How to decide on a domain name
Your own domain name is a very valuable marketing tool which when combined with a well implemented SEO strategy should bring visitors and potential customers to your website. It is therefore important to think carefully about your choice of domain name.
There are a lot of considerations here. Your brand conveys what your company is all about; there is no reason why your domain name should be any different. So before you registering a domain name it is worth acquainting yourself with the different styles and types of domain name available so you can choose a name that is best suited to your situation and requirements. It’s also worth remembering your domain name will also be a part of your business’s email address.
If you are a new business in an obvious choice might be a name that matches your company’s name; this will help bring customers to your website without confusion. It’s a great opportunity to opt for a unique and original name before launching your new enterprise. It might be worth doing a trademark search to make sure you don’t register a name that may well lead to problems later on. On the other hand, if your business already exists, but your company’s domain name is already legally in use by another company, a bit more thought and creativity will be needed to come up with something.
1. The length of the domain name
As a golden rule, the shorter and more memorable the domain name, the better. The ideal name is about eight letters long. A maximum of 15 and minimum of 4-6 letters would be practical. A name that is easy to type is better than something long and descriptive. Longer domain names present more opportunity for misspelling when being typed. It is also worth keeping an eye on letters that don’t work well together, or could be misread when linking two or more words. An often-quoted example is that if you had an organisation called the Experts Exchange, the domain name ‘expertsexchange.com’ might not be the best choice!
2. Hyphens and numbers
It is best to avoid using hyphens and numbers if at all possible because they have a tendency to cause confusion with any other variations of the domain name that may exist. For example if you were to register the domain name ‘your-businessname.com’ when verbally conveying your domain name to somebody you would have to explicitly say “your hyphen businessname.com” to avoid confusion with the more straightforward ‘yourbusinessname.com’. With a number you’ll constantly have to explain whether it’s spelt out using letters, or is simply the actual number! After a while it’ll get tedious, and you may well regret your choice.
3. Keywords in the domain name
A keyword is a word that relates directly to the product or service being marketed. An example of a domain name using keywords would be great-washing-machines.com. Keyword domain names often use hyphens to separate the keywords. This type of domain is known in the industry as an Exact Match Domain (EMD). Many years ago they were a popular way of driving traffic to a website. These days Google and other search engines consider the practice to be ‘spammy’, and will penalise websites that use them. Google weeds out these sites in favour of those that are well branded and informative. Of course, from a marketing point of view this type of domain ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’, but beware it may well be considered spam which will negatively impact upon your ranking with Google. It is wiser to create a strongly branded website full of useful content for your visitors if you want to be seen as a trustworthy, legitimate, and get well-placed in the search engines.
4. The domain name extension
The last part of the domain i.e. to the right of the final dot is the domain name extension. Some of the most instantly recognisable and trusted are the top-level domains (TLD). Of the generic variety (gTLD) .com is by far the most widely recognisable and numerous. Other popular gTLDs are .net and .org. Some TLD’s are restricted (grTLD) for use only with certain types of business or activity. Others may be overseen by a sponsor (sTLD) who establishes the rules of eligibility within a given community. For a charity or non-profit-making organisation .org is a good choice because that was the original intention of the extension. If you are running a web portal perhaps consider a .net, otherwise for most commercial activities .com is the obvious choice because it’s the most established and people tend to trust it. In recent years we have seen a massive profusion of new TLD’s available for registration (nTLD). Today there are literally hundreds available. Now is a good time to register one of these if you want to target a niche market or specific geographic location.
If your business is primarily conducted within a specific country, the registration of a country code TLD (ccTLD) is a sensible way to go. For example, if you trade mostly in the UK you could think about registering a .co.uk domain name. When Google encounters this type of domain name extension it will target searches locally towards a more geo-specific region. There are hundreds of different country code TLDs available, and the vast majority can be registered without the need for residency in the corresponding country.
5. Alternative domain names
If your ideal domain name has already been taken all is not lost, there are other options for you to consider.
You could use a slightly alternative or abbreviated version of your preferred name. But if you do, take care to avoid the temptation of registering a name that is too long, possibly confusing, or not sufficiently related to your activity or brand. You can try using a slogan instead of your company name. As long as it is relevant to your brand this could be a clever marketing gimmick.
You could consider picking a different domain extension. For example, if the .com isn’t available, maybe .net version is. Also, one of the new TLD’s might work well for you. Just a word of caution before you jump in: is your proposed line of business closely related to the activities of the company who own the name that was already taken? Have they trademarked their trading name? A different domain name extension won’t necessarily protect you from prosecution. Doing a bit of homework now could avoid potential pitfalls further down the road that could severely damage your business.
6. Make it easy for your customers to remember
Whatever stage you have reached with your business it will always be easier to attract customers with a snappy slogan, a unique logo and memorable name. Your online identity should reflect the professionalism of your enterprise. Your domain name is a key part of your branding. Together with your website it should set you apart from the competition. The perfect domain name will be simple and memorable whilst accurately reflecting your brand.