The first step in establishing your online presence is to choose your domain name. Since this is going to be your business’ real estate, you’re going to want to put perhaps as much thought into this as you would in choosing a brick-and-mortar location. Yes, you can change your domain down the road, but it can come with some serious downsides. Better to choose wisely in the beginning than to regret it later.
Here are seven tips to help you choose the right domain name for your website.
Dot-Com Domains are Best–Mostly
If you can, choose a dot-com (.com) domain name. Dot-com is the most common and the one 99% of people will type in when looking for your site. However, there are now many options for domain names, so if your preferred name isn’t available as a dot-com, you may want to consider other extensions. Be wise in your choice though. While ICANN now offers more than 800 top-level domain extensions, it’s not a free-for-all. You’ll also want to check out Spamhaus’ list of the spammiest domains (and avoid them).
If you’re going to use something different, make sure it’s appropriate to your business so potential customers aren’t confused.
Register Your Name
If your site is personal or for a personal business (i.e., solopreneur), get your name if you can, like marieleslie.com. The exception to this would be if you have a hard-to-spell name. If it’s for a business, the name of your business is best if you can get it. I also own marielesliephoto.com and marielesliephotography.com as I have been a photographer for many years. If you are starting a new business, don’t lock yourself into a name until you have managed to get a domain for it. You will be most successful if your domain matches you or your business. So register your domain name BEFORE you finalize your business name.
Consider registering more than one variation of your domain name. While it’s best to choose a domain that has only one possible spelling, sometimes it doesn’t work that way. If you have a name that is often misspelled, register the misspelling and use a redirect to send miss-spellers to your website.
Keep It Simple
Keep it short. Shorter names are easier to remember and less likely to be mistyped. It also fits better on your business card. I recently read a statistic that the top 10 websites have no more than six letters in their name, but don’t quote on me on that.
Avoid using hyphens, underscores and other symbols that may confuse people. People don’t really “see” these symbols and instead of typing in my-website.com, they will likely type in mywebsite.com and won’t find you.
Make sure your domain name is easily understandable when you speak it. When a potential customer hears that your website is Photos4U.com, he or she is equally likely to type in photosforyou.com and end up at your competitor’s website. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life explaining your domain name to customers.
Unique is good. Weird is not. If you can find a way to be unique without making it complicated or difficult, go for it. Unique and simple gets remembered. And yes, making up words is perfectly acceptable as long as they aren’t confusing or complicated.
Write your domain name out just as it will look typed into the browser bar. Read it carefully to make sure it doesn’t create other words that will be embarrassing for your business. If you aren’t sure what I mean, check out this list of the 50 worst domain names and you’ll understand.
If you can’t have your first choice of names, brainstorm keywords that describe your niche or business focus. Also consider combining a keyword with your first or last name—or both, if it’s short. For example, my photography site, marielesliephotography.com.
Avoid Legal Minefields
Don’t infringe on someone else’s copyright or trademark. Copyright and trademark violations can be very expensive and can put you out of business. Search here for US trademarks and here for US copyrights. Don’t try to play on a copyrighted or trademarked name either. You run the risk of legal hassles and confusing your customers.
Once you’ve decided on a name and it’s available, register it immediately. There is a good possibility that it could be gone the next time you log on. Once a domain name has been snapped up, you are either out of luck or face the possibility of paying someone’s hefty asking price for the domain of your choice. While domain registration fees vary by registrar and extension, registering a domain is a relatively cheap way to protect your possible names, even if you’re not yet 100% sure you’re going to use them.
To choose the right domain name is more important than ever for blogs and small businesses. Whether you’re starting a brick-and-mortar business or an online business, your digital real estate will be a critical part of your marketing strategy. Heeding these tips as you select and register your domains will help you choose the right domain name and get your business started on the right foot.