When it comes to the internet and your business, choosing the right domain name could be the most important decision you make. Your domain should be selected with the same care and research that you used when choosing the name for your business. Your domain name impacts how easily people find you in search engines and ties directly to your branding. Throughout the past two decades I’ve helped clients select hundreds of domains and have identified several tips and tricks that will help you avoid common mistakes and find the perfect one for your business.
When focusing on an audience based in the United States, the .com domain is king. If you are in the United Kingdom, .co.uk is most popular, while in Germany you would probably consider a .de domain. If you have situations where you are targeting multiple audiences, it might be valuable to purchase several similar domains and have them all point at your site.
A common problem for small businesses who are not online yet is that their preferred domain is already taken. These individuals may want “MyCompany.com,” but it’s already registered by someone else. Instead of looking at other options, they simply choose an alternative like “MyCompany.net” or “MyCompany.us”. While all of these domains are perfectly fine, they will normally not be the best options. Selecting a non-dominant top level domain (a .net instead of a .com, for instance) could result in large amounts of potential visitors going to the .com domain in error and never realizing it. In the United States, most web users simply go to the .com version of a website first and only consider others if what they see there does not match their expectations.
If running a non-profit organization, you would probably want a .org domain, but otherwise there are rarely great reasons for registering one of the other top level domains. At this time, .biz, .info, .me, .us, and others are simply not wise choices. This may change as trends shift. Currently, ICANN is even allowing private organizations apply for new “generic” top level domains like .google or .dating (for very large sums of money).
Recognizing the importance of registering a .com domain and being able to find the right domain are very different. Let’s explore a few different options for selecting the right domain for your company’s website, and a few potential pitfalls that should be avoided.
Do’s: domain selection best practices
A good place to start when selecting a domain is to examine your business name. This works much better for some companies than others. You want the domain to be easy to remember and easy to spell. A long string of words—like those often used by law firm—might not be the best option. Is there a natural nickname or shortened version of your business that would make for a better domain? YourBusinessInc.com? Or YourBusinessLLC.com? Make a list of variations to consider. Remember that you can connect multiple domain names to a website, so even if a business name isn’t the best domain name, it still may be worthwhile to register it and connect it to your site.
There are times that your business name is not distinct enough or there are multiple businesses with very similar names. In cases like this, you can potentially distinguish your site by using a regional label. A local city, state, or region can be added before or after a business name to help make an effective domain. Remember to consider your audience during this step. Do you only do business people living in a particular part of the country? If so, this might be a great option for picking the perfect domain for your website.
Short phrase or slogan:
Most individual English words already have .com domains associated with them. This means that you will likely need to either decide on a very long single word or you can combine a short phrase or slogan into a domain name. Think about what your company does and what your audience may be looking for. Is there a good phrase that would resonate with them?
Domains are not case-sensitive so if you opt to use a phrase, you can CamelCase your domain to make it easier to read. For example, if you decide on using the phrase “Best Beer in Texas”, you can display it like this: BestBeerInTexas.com. This makes it much easier to read than bestbeerintexas.com. Your visitors can type it in either way and your website will come up.
Don’ts: what to avoid when choosing a domain
Difficult to spell:
If you select a big, fancy, uncommon, or made-up word, there is a chance that it will be misspelled. There is the fallback plan of purchasing both the correct spelling that you want and the commonly misspelled version, but you can save yourself some trouble by identifying this problem ahead of time.
This is one of the most common traps that businesses fall into when selecting a domain. As a rule of thumb, I would try to avoid using the words “to”, “two”, “too”, or “for” in your domain. And never, please never, simply replace the words with the numbers “2” or “4”. Something like Designs4U.com violates every one of the pitfalls so far. I’m sure that the owner of that domain loses traffic to several other similar domains which all sound the same when spoken aloud. It is an alluring trap because replacing the word with a single numeric character does make the domain much shorter, but I would err on the side of caution and avoid this temptation.
There is one last thing that I would recommend avoiding when choosing a domain – the hyphen. ICANN does not allow any symbols other than alphanumeric characters and the hyphen. I would still avoid selecting a domain containing one for the same reason as all the other pitfalls – you will lose traffic to the non-hyphenated one. Don’t risk it. Spend some time and exert the extra creativity to come up with a better solution.
Each of these pitfalls has a common problem; they require you to provide additional information after telling someone your domain name. There will be plenty of times when you are speaking to a potential customer on the phone or sharing your domain with someone you meet in passing. You want to be able to tell them your domain without having to clarify yourself.
The right domain name is one of the most valuable assets to a successful company. Make sure to follow these steps to get the perfect one and your customers will be that much closer to finding you on the web.
He currently serves as the Multi-talento in Jimdo's San Francisco office, solving problems, educating users, and helping to grow awareness about Jimdo, the easiest website builder on the web.