You need a robust online presence whether you run an established company or are just starting out. When a potential customer is looking for your product or service, the first thing they will do is conduct a web search, and if your website is relatively easy to find and navigate, you will increase your chances of a sale.
Choosing the right domain name should not be done in haste. Careful deliberation and research should be applied, as it might be the most important decision you make when carving out your slice of the online market.
Your domain name is equally important for distinguishing yourself from the crowd of competitors in your industry. Without the right name, you risk becoming just another voice lost in the din of today’s busy marketing. Instead, choose a name that sounds unique, is easy to remember, and feels like a natural fit for the products or services you’re selling.
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain name is a text string that corresponds to a numeric IP address and is used to access a website from client software. A domain name is the text that a user types into a browser window to access a specific website.
A website’s actual address is a complex numerical IP address (e.g. 18.104.22.168), but thanks to DNS, users can enter human-friendly domain names and be routed to the websites they want. This is referred to as a DNS lookup.
Who manages domain names?
Domain registries manage all domain names and delegate domain name reservation to registrars. A domain name can be registered with a registrar by anyone who wants to create a website, and there are currently over 300 million registered domain names.
A Strong domain name:
- Allows people to see your brand name. A memorable domain name serves as a virtual shop window, drawing in potential buyers.
- Benefits your company’s image by setting it apart from the countless other sites promising overnight riches.
- Gives your online presence more flexibility. Your domain name is portable, so you can keep growing your audience and your reputation even if you switch web hosts, move your operations to a different country, or set up your own server in-house.
- Creates an image for your company as cutting edge and technologically advanced. Claiming your online space is important for your reputation whether or not you plan to sell products there.
- Betters your site’s position in search results. Your domain name will become more well-known in search engines like Google as your business grows and your website expands, attracting more customers.
13 Key Tips for choosing the right domain name
- Keep it simple
- Keep it short
- Keep it catchy
- Make it obvious
- Determine the purpose of your website and business
- Make it easy to pronounce
- Choose extension wisely
- Check to see if it’s available on social media
- Avoid domain names that resemble those of competing businesses
- Consider keywords, but don’t exclusively consider keywords
- Do not commit to a single business domain name
- Pay attention to the characters of the name
- Act Fast
Let’s go through them one by one.
1. Keep it simple
Your business domain name should be simple. Long abbreviations, words with multiple meanings, numbers, hyphenated words… They can be distracting and busy.
Consider how difficult the name is to spell when brainstorming your business domain name, and then type it into Google or your browser. You’ll lose a significant portion of your traffic if potential customers get stuck trying to work through your domain name.
2. Keep it short
You’re better off having a shorter domain name. Users may become disoriented and overwhelmed while attempting to access the site, or they may be too lazy to type out the link to share with others.
The internet is all about getting the answers and results you need as quickly as possible. Your business and online presence will suffer if your business domain name is long, wordy, and slows customers down.
3. Keep it catchy
Choosing the right domain name is a balancing act.
You want it to be memorable, something that a potential customer could fully understand, remember, and share in an email, text, over the phone, or even in a conversation.
McKinsey & Company research shows that word of mouth is the main reason why 20% to 50% of all purchases are made. Because of this, you want to make sure that people can remember the domain name of your business well enough that they can tell a friend about it.
4. Make it obvious
You want your domain name to be easy to remember and understand. A name that is subtle and clever might not be noticed by all of your visitors, and you might miss the chance to get their attention and tell them what you do.
If a visitor can see from your domain name what kind of page they’ll land on or what kind of business you run, that’s a big plus for your business domain name.
5. Determine the purpose of your website and business
If you keep these four tips in mind when coming up with a domain name for your business, you’ll be well on your way to a great domain name for your brand.
But as you work on the language of your business domain name, you should always go back to your website’s and business’s goals to make sure you’re on the right track.
It’s easy to get caught up in fun, catchy, and straight-to-the-point business domain names and stray too far from a domain name that actually identifies your business and tells people what it does.
But if you want to be found online, you should make sure that the domain name for your business makes sense for what you do.
6. Make it easy to pronounce
If almost half of buying decisions are based on what people say, you better hope that people can say your business’s domain name so they can tell others.
When coming up with domain names, give them a quick test to see if you can say them out loud. Ask a friend or coworker to read your business’s domain name out loud and tell you what it is.
If they stumble over the words, take a long time to learn it, or say it wrong the whole time, it might be best to get rid of that name.
And if you want to be sure that your business domain name is as clear as possible, you can use this test in reverse. Tell it out loud to a friend and ask them to write it down.
Did they do the right thing? That’s a good sign that the domain name for the business is easy to understand and makes sense when you say it out loud.
7. Choose extension wisely
Today, you can purchase business domain names with a variety of extensions, also known as top-level domains.
With .com, .net, .biz, .org, .brand, .me, and many, many more extensions to choose from, you have a big decision to make. In fact, there are hundreds of TLDs in circulation.
Unless you’re working or starting a business in the tech world, .com is the most popular domain extension. Because it is the most well-known and accessible brand, it is usually the most popular choice for a business domain name.
If you want a simple, recognizable business domain name, .com is probably the best extension for you. You’ll be able to create a highly recognizable domain name that your customers and network can use.
8. Check to see if it’s available on social media
When choosing the right domain name for your business, it’s also a good idea to think about how you’ll use it online, but not just on a website.
If you want to have a presence on social media, like a Twitter handle, an Instagram account, or a Pinterest account, check to see if the domain name of your website is available across all social handles before you buy it.
Having your social media accounts linked to your main business domain name and brand will help with the “brandability” and “recognizability” we keep talking about.
Even though the whole phrase in your domain name might not be available for every social handle, you might be able to change it just a little bit so that it still fits with your brand and is easy to remember.
9. Avoid domain names that resemble those of competing businesses
When coming up with a domain name for your business, now is not the time to be a copycat and choose a name that sounds like that of an already established company.
First of all, it will be hard to tell your brand apart from the brand whose domain name is similar to yours. It will be awful for marketing and advertising.
Also, if the domain name of your business sounds too much like that of another, you might be breaking the law.
When you’re choosing the right domain name for your business, make sure you’re not violating someone else’s copyright.
If your business domain name is too similar to that of another business and makes it easy to mix up the two, that other business could take you to court. And in that case, it would be up to the judge to decide if the two names could be misunderstood and mixed up.
You should do everything you can to stay away from these dangerous waters. So, when you’re coming up with a domain name for your business, make sure it’s completely unique.
10. Consider keywords, but don’t exclusively consider keywords
Keywords in business domain names can be helpful from an SEO perspective.
If you own a lamp business and you only want to be found online when people search for “lamps and shades,” you might want your domain name to be “johnslampsandshades.com.”
For one, these main keywords will help with the cognitive recognition of your brand—there’s no mistaking what John does and sells when a visitor comes to his website. It can also help with SEO because people will probably link to you using the anchor text “lamps and shades,” which are the same words that are in your domain name.
But when it comes to adding keywords to the domain name of your business, you don’t want to get too specific and box yourself in for the future. If John ever wanted to pivot to a massive lighting company, “johnslampsandshades.com” would be a pretty narrow description of what he does.
So, you can use keywords in your domain name if you want to. Just try to stay as broad as possible with target keywords so you don’t close any doors down the line.
11. Do not commit to a single business domain name
You’ve probably already taken a ton of advice and followed a lot of procedures to come up with a killer domain name for your company.
It can be disheartening to find that the perfect domain name for your business has already been taken.
Be prepared for setbacks and avoid becoming attached to a single domain name.
Before spending weeks coming up with the name and having your creative team work through it, it’s also a good idea to see if the domain name is available for the business (just by searching it, or using a tool to check for you like Instant Domain Search).
If you run a search on a potential domain name and find that it is already in use, you can either add a suffix or prefix to make it stand out, or use a different TLD than you had originally planned.
However, if the domain name is already taken, you may have trouble differentiating your brand from others if you try to come up with something similar.
12. Pay attention to the characters of the name
Domain names may be formed from the set of alphanumeric ASCII characters (a-z, A-Z, 0-9), but characters are case-insensitive.
In addition the hyphen is permitted if it is surrounded by characters, digits or hyphens, although it is not to start or end a label.
Combination of any or all of the above as long as it does not exceed 63 characters.
The full domain name may not exceed a total length of 253 ASCII characters in its textual representation.
Thus, when using a single character per label, the limit is 127 levels: 127 characters plus 126 dots have a total length of 253. In practice, some domain registrars may have shorter limits.
13. Act fast
Domain names sell quickly. When you are choosing the right domain name, act quickly!
They aren’t expensive, and you’ll avoid the disappointment of losing an excellent business domain name that you’ve worked hard to develop.
With these 13 tips in mind, you should be able to come up with a domain name that will bring customers to your company’s website. Choosing the right domain name is work that will pay off in the end.