How To Choose A Domain Name: The Dos and Don'ts of Domaining
After all, your domain name is always linked with your brand. Plus, it’ll have a tremendous impact on your customers’ first impression of your company.
Clearly, choosing your name isn’t something you should do without thought and research. To help you get started, this post will guide you through the dos and don’ts of selecting a good domain name.
Why Are Domains Important?
At the most basic level, establishing your own domain establishes credibility for your brand. Without one, you’ll have to publish your website using free Web hosting or your internet service provider (ISP).
Using that method, your site will have a generic URL that doesn’t inspire confidence or trust. Especially in the digital world, confidence and trust are critical.
Another reason your domain is so important is it makes your website portable. Otherwise, if you need to switch hosts and you don’t own a domain, you’ll need a brand new URL. That means any traffic you built up with your previous URL must be rebuilt.
Still, if there’s one reason domains are so important, it’s because your domain name’s affects your branding strategy. When your brand name is easy to remember, it’s easier for customers to find you.
Plus, by matching your domain name with your brand name, you further reinforce your brand to your customers. Customers will remember the name and tell their friends, making it easier for you to win customers via word of mouth.
In addition, your domain name can also affect how you approach your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
Notable Domain Successes
In 2001, the president of Hotels.com, David Roche, paid $11 million for his company’s domain name. Although $11 million is no small sum, the company was later acquired for $1.1 billion. Therefore, paying for the domain name looks like a great investment today.
Hotels.com is also a good example of how an exact match domain name can act as a standalone brand.
When Jeff Bezos started his company, he named it “Cadabra.” It was meant to be a reference to magic, as in “abracadabra.” However, most people didn’t get the reference. Even worse, it was easy to misunderstand.
He tried Awake.com, Browse.com, and Bookmall.com before deciding on the now-famous Amazon.com.
Using Google’s domain-buying platform, Sanmay Ved, a Google employee, purchased the Google domain name out from under the company. Google quickly canceled Ved’s order. However, they rewarded him $12,000 for finding the security flaw that allowed him to buy the domain.
…And A Few Failures
- Microsoft’s Hotmail
In a story that could’ve been much worse, Microsoft forgot to renew its hotmail.co.uk domain name in 2003. As a result, the domain became available for purchase and was bought on the open market.
Fortunately for Microsoft, the buyer willingly turned the name back over and order was eventually restored.
The law firm Morrison Foerster chose its domain name before the meaning of “mofo” evolved. Morrison Foerster decided to embrace the name, using it as branding for a variety of company initiatives. However, it’s easy to see how evolving language can spell disaster when it comes to your domain name.
In an episode that surely hurt Marketo’s brand, the company failed to renew its domain on-time. Chaos ensued when customers were unable to access the site and all their data. Eventually, the problem was solved but the embarrassment for Marketo lived on.
10 Tips To Choosing The Perfect Domain Name
Choosing a domain name for your website — or anything for that matter — isn’t easy. As some of the stories above show, even the most successful companies take some time to find the right fit.
Fortunately, thanks to the experience of others, you don’t have to make this decision on your own. By keeping these tips in mind when choosing your domain name, you can make the perfect choice. In the following section, we’ll outline several of our top tips to choosing the best domain name possible.
1. Whenever Possible, Go With The Dot-Com
When people search for your website, most will assume your domain has a dot-com ending. There’s a reason for this — 48 percent of websites use the dot-com ending.
If you can’t find a domain name you want with the dot-com ending, don’t give up. Look for alternatives that allow you to use dot-com.
Not only is dot-com more recognized, but it also establishes credibility for your brand in the minds of website visitors. Whether that’s justified or not is another discussion but it’s reality.
Ultimately, you should avoid purchasing a .net, biz, or another alternative to dot-com.
2. The Shorter Your Domain, The Better
Typically, the best domain names are short. The shorter the name, the easier it is for people to talk about your company with others. Not only that, a shorter domain is easier to display on marketing collateral.
For example, let’s say your domain name needs to be included on a piece of print marketing material. If that domain name is exceedingly long, there will be more design constraints. Certain elements will have to be sized to fit the long domain name, hampering your flexibility.
3. Make It Simple To Spell, And Simpler To Say
Before picking a domain name, consider how that name will be used. For example, your employees will likely refer prospects to your website. If you’re doing so over the phone, you want it to be easy to communicate. When you choose your domain name, think about that phone interaction.
If the domain is hard to spell, trying to verbally tell someone your domain name will be difficult. Customers will be more likely to make errors when typing your domain, leading to frustration. Similarly, if it’s hard to say, you’ll run into other kinds of miscommunications.
4. Avoid Hyphens In Domain Names, Always
According to Moz, hyphens in a domain name strongly correlate with spammy behavior. Due to this, a hyphenated domain name may have more trouble ranking for competitive keywords. This could make it difficult or expensive to generate traffic for your website.
Of course, avoiding hyphens isn’t just about SEO. It also makes it harder to read and remember your domain name. Even if people remember the name of your domain, they may forget where they hyphen goes. Also, they might not realize there’s a hyphen at all.
In any case, the hyphen won’t do you any favors.
5. Do Your Keyword Due Diligence
Depending on your business, using certain words in your domain name can make a significant difference regarding SEO. For example, if you offer a specific product, you should consider using certain keywords in your domain. However, whether your business strategy calls for an emphasis on SEO or not, you must do your due diligence.
In some cases, you may find that there are bad keywords associated with your desired domain name. Whether those keywords actually relate to your business in any way doesn’t matter. What matters is your brand may become associated with something you didn’t want it to.
6. Don’t Use Word Strings
It’s a common mistake to go after domain names with word strings. To be clear, a word string is a linear sequence of words. An example of this in the domain: webuyuglyhouses.com.
As you can see, there are four separate words in this domain. Unless you’re already fairly familiar with the brand, it’s hard to make sense of the jumbled up words.
Unfortunately, this is what happens when you use word strings in your domain name. Therefore, even if your brand name is a string of words, it may make sense to consolidate it in your domain.
7. Do Some Research Into Your Name Availability Elsewhere
By no means should you stop looking if you can’t find your domain name at first. There are several domain name registrars that you can use to search for a business domain name.
8. Register Your Name While You’re At It (If You Can)
Whether you have immediate plans to use it or not, you should register your business name as a domain name. If you’re lucky, the name won’t be too expensive.
Should you ever need or want an online presence for your business, you’re set. Otherwise, you run the risk of someone else purchasing it. Also, domain name prices tend to appreciate, so now may be the most affordable it’ll ever be.
All that said, depending on what your name is, the domain may be very expensive. In that case, purchasing it might not be feasible.
9. Buy Multiple Variations When Possible
It’s important to remember that your domain isn’t just a name. It’s a critical component of your brand. When you purchase domains, you’re taking ownership of an important part of your brand. Often, companies don’t realize this early enough and pay far more than they otherwise would have.
Even after you purchase your domain, think about what variations there are. Purchase the ones that are most closely related to yours. That way, no one can sully your brand image by doing business while using a name like yours.
10. Don’t Let Your Domain Expire
If the stories mentioned earlier weren’t enough, it’s worth reminding yourself to never let your domain expire.
When you fail to renew your domain, it reverts back to the open marketplace. Once that happens, anyone can purchase it. This makes it easy for someone to buy the domain and try to sell it to you for a high price.
If you’ve built up authority with your domain, opportunists will notice if it lapses. There’s an entire industry of people who invest in flipping the best domain names, so always remember to renew on-time!
I Have My Domain, Now What?
As you’ve likely noticed, your domain is going to affect many areas of your business.
Once you have your domain, the work isn’t finished yet. If you purchased the domain name just to protect it from being purchased, you can simply park it. All you have to worry about now is renewing the name before its expiration date.
However, if you want to start a website with your domain name, there’s still plenty of work to do. Once you’ve chosen your domain, you’ll want to get set up with a hosting service. After that, you’ll likely need a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Hubspot.
Using a CMS, you can manage and build your website however you like. From there, since you can’t make any sales without prospects, your first task will be to generate traffic.
To accomplish that, there are tons of different directions you can go depending on your resources and expertise. You can try blogging to reach your audience, focus on improving SEO, or running paid ads.
Whichever direction you go, sign up for our email newsletter for fresh small business insights including plenty of digital marketing tips.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.