Your domain name is how people find you on the web. You will use your domain name for your website and your email address. Therefore, it is extremely important that you spend some quality time and do your research when coming up with a domain name. The tips below will provide some guidance on how to go about choosing a domain name that is perfect for your website.
Selecting a domain registrar
Selecting a reputable domain registrar is the first and most important step in registering your domain. We are affiliated with Site5 and recommend them to our customers. As with anything you buy online, make sure you do your homework and check reviews before selecting a domain registrar. Registering a domain, regardless of the registrar you choose should cost you in the range of $10/year. If you find a registrar that is charging you a lot more than this you should probably look elsewhere. Most registrars also complicate what should be a relatively simple process of registering a domain by offering a myriad of add-on services the typical small business does not need. If in doubt, call the registrar or if we are designing your website let us know and we will explain in plain English what they mean and provide recommendation based on your needs.
Domain name extension or TLD
When registering your domain you will have the option of many URL extensions based on business type, regional, personal etc. For example should you register .com, .net, .org, .biz, .us, .ca, etc. The choice here depends on your type of business/website, where you are located and a number of other factors. By far the most popular extension is .com, and we strongly recomend that you register a .com for your business if available. You can always register additional domains and redirect them. For example, a non profit would usually register domain such as nonprofit.org which will be the primary domain. However, it makes sense to register nonprofit.com and redirect it to nonprofit.org. Most people remember and most of the time will assume that your URL ends with .com. Another example would be a business based in outside the US (i.e. Canada). The primary domain can be mybusiness.ca and mybusiness.com can redirect to mybusiness.ca. Whatever your situation, if there’s a particular name that you want, it’s good to register it quickly. There’s no guarantee that a domain name available today will be available tomorrow. The challenge that we all face today is that there are over 200 million registered domains and your preferred domain may already be taken.
What can I do if my preferred domain is not available?
Unfortunately, if the registered domain does not infringe on your trademarks there is very little you can do. One option is to check the WHOIS data for the domain and see who has registered it. If the domain has expired it may be available for auction at the domain registrar who currently has the domain. If not you can contact the domain owner to see if they are interested in selling. Either way you may end up paying a premium.
Keyword focused or branded
There are primarily two approaches to naming your domain – keyword focused or branded.
A keyword focused domain will incorporate phrases or terms that you want to rank for in search engines. This will be part of your overall SEO strategy where you would first do keyword research and decide which keywords you want to target and optimize for. A branded domain name means that you will be using your company name or brand name as the domain. For example, a branded domain name would be theNetStuff.com and a keyword focused domain name would be WebsiteDesigns.com.
Special characters in your domain
If possible avoid using special characters such hyphens (-) in your domain name. The use of a hyphen to separate words traditionally used to be considered search friendly, however, the major search engines today are good at identifying words within the domain and a hyphen provides no SEO benefit. To make your URL readable, you can use camel case to show your URL. Camel case is when you have words that are typically separated written as one word with the first letter of each word capitalized (i.e. theNetStuff.com).
Bad words in your domain
Once you come up with your domain name, it is always a good idea to have someone else who was not involved take a second look. The domain when displayed online can have a totally different and often embarassing meaning (i.e experts-exchange.com was initially launched without the ‘-‘).
Questions? Anything else to add? Let us know in the comments below.