Whether you're setting up your first blog, launching a new business, or finally adding a website to your 20-year-old company, choosing a domain name, or the network address that identifies your site, can be a complex decision. A great name can stick in people's minds long after they've heard it advertised, while a not-so-great name can confuse potential customers or prevent them from finding your business. With these tried and true guidelines, we'll help you choose the strong domain name your website deserves.
Understand its Potential
Before choosing what's essentially going to be your company's online nametag, it's important that you consider all the places it will appear. Hint: it's more than just the search bar. Your domain name will be attached to your employees' email addresses. It will be written on your business cards. It might be mentioned in newspaper ads or flyers. Your domain name could be read on the radio, at a seminar, or at a community festival. You may see it as part of your chamber's online directory, displayed on a billboard, written across the TV screen, or plastered on the side of a bus. It's not just a series of words, numbers, or dashes, acting like an online code that brings users to your website. It's a hugely important piece of advertising. It needs to look good. It needs to sound good. It needs to be memorable. It needs to reflect your company. Which brings us to our next point.
Keep It Consistent
Ideally, your domain name matches your company name. Not only does this give your site a professional appearance, the consistency helps to prevent confusion. Unfortunately, a lot of simple .com domain names have already been taken. Over 100 million of them to be exact.
Should you find yourself unable to get your first choice in domain name, you have a couple of options. You can add a keyword to the domain name that helps distinguish your company from another while also attracting customers to your specific location, product, or service. For example, if your law firm in Boston, MA is called Millard Group, but MillardGroup.com is already taken by a commercial facility services company in Lincolnwood, IL (it is), you could make your domain name MillardGroupLawyers.com or BostonMillardGroup.com.
Another option is to see if a different extension for your domain name is available. While .com is the most popular and most recommended website extension, you may find that .net, .org, .biz or one of the newer extensions is more suitable for the products and services you have to offer. (.ninja anyone?)
If you're launching a new business and you're not completely in love with your company name, you may want to consider changing it to something that allows you a matching domain. However, if you know you've got a great name that's going to attract customers, capture your brand, and gain you a reputation, it's usually wiser to keep your company name and choose what may be a slightly weaker domain.
Make It Original
While consistency between your company and your website is important, you don't want to achieve that by almost copying someone else's domain. Adding a dash, throwing in a number, using plurals, or misspelling a word in order to set your domain apart from someone else's is rarely a good idea. Not only will these subtle differences confuse customers searching for your site, they may accidentally funnel business over to your competitor. These little add-ons can also interfere with your advertising.
Dashes and numbers don't look crisp and clean when written, and misspellings can be difficult to convey out loud. Imagine having a conversation about your company with someone you by chance meet. As a small business owner, you probably already know that some of the best connections aren't made at popular networking events, but at backyard barbeques, grocery stores, and other places you may not be carrying a business card. Having to explain "that's cake spelled with a k" and "because cake was already taken" gets old real fast.
Domain names with a lot of little extras are also difficult to remember. "Was that a dash or a slash?" Potential customers aren't going to play the guessing game for very long. Your best bet is to pick a simple domain name that doesn't look like anyone else's – and own it!
Keep It Short & Sweet
As you've probably gathered by now, the ability to convey your domain name to others and through a variety of mediums is extremely important. Therefore, in addition to having a crisp, clear, original domain name that reflects your company, you want to keep it on the shorter side. Short domain names, or ones that are only two or three words long, are easy to remember. They look pretty in ads, as part of your email signature, and on business cards. They are easy for your customers to type. They aren't a mouthful to say. Good Examples:
Not-So-Good Examples: JerrysVeryGoodWindowsandDoors.com BostonsBestChocolateChipCookies.com LoganProfessionalInfoTechServices.net
Have Your Own Domain
Whether you're just stepping into the shoes of entrepreneurship for the first time, or you've set up dozens of businesses before, you've probably gathered that there's a lot to do! Thankfully, tools like WordPress and Weebly make establishing an online presence pretty easy.
While paying for your own domain may not be at the top of your priorities list, it's definitely something you should consider doing within the first few months, if not right away. Having a blog with a blogspot.com address, or a business website with a weebly.com address, not only presents many of the advertising obstacles we've described above, it lacks a level of professionalism.
Not investing in your own domain will have others questioning your confidence in, as well as your commitment level to, your business. They may not expect your site to stick around for very long. Buying your own domain, especially one that's readily available, doesn't cost very much. Here at A Small Orange, domains start at just $15.00 for the year.