Ready to move your business online? Be prepared – finding an effective, affordable and available domain name for your business can quickly turn into an exercise in compromise, disappointment and frustration. Be patient, flexible, and follow these 10 guidelines to find the best online address for your business.
1. Align your domain with your brand and vice a versa: If you’re starting a new business, research available domains before committing to a business name.
2. Find a unique domain name: complete a Google search of possible domain names before purchasing to make sure that you’re not competing with a prominent brand or unknowingly affiliated with unsavory websites.
3. Try to find a .com. They are still the standard for business use. However, if a .com is not possible, from an SEO perspective, other gTLD (Generic Top Level Domains) work just as well. New gTLDs are becoming available all of the time.
4. Your domain doesn’t have to contain your keywords: although it can help with branding, it is no longer tied to improved search rankings*.
*Note: Officially, Google says that it is not a ranking factor, however, some SEOs claim that it still offers a small boost.
5. Your domain should be short and easy to type.
Example: If you repair windshields in Boise, you probably shouldn’t selectboisewindowwelderandrepair (Boise Window Welder and Repair). Although perfectly descriptive of your service, it’s not easy to type or read.
6. Hyphens: Most “Domain” guidelines recommend avoiding hyphens in a domain name (i.e. my business.com is better than my-business.com), however, there are times when they can work.
I would not use a hyphenated domain if the non-hyphenated version is a direct competitor, or business in your geographical market.
Example: A recent client has an existing pet grooming business (Doggy Clips) and decided it was time for a website. Doggyclips.com was already being used, but as the business serves a local clientele, and Doggyclips.com was in another part of the country, we decided that Doggy-Clips.com would work.
Additionally, if you’ve decided to use a long business name, a hyphen can make it much more readable, and may be a good alternative even when the non-hyphenated version is available.
In that case, if both are available, consider getting both, use the hyphenated version on your site for readability, but point both at your site so that no matter which domain a user types, they will find your website.
Example: If your existing business is Boise Real Estate Company and bothboiserealestatecompany.com and boise-real-estate-company.com are available, you could purchase both domains, use the easier to read hyphenated version on your site, but pointed the non-hyphenated address to your site as well. That way, no matter which version the searcher typed in, he/she would end up at your website.
7. Numbers (i.e. 5th vs Fifth): Again, most guides recommend against using actual numbers, instead suggesting that the number be spelled out, however, like the hyphen rule, I think that there are circumstances where it can work.
Example: Another client owns a photography studio called 5th Pictures. He wasn’t sure whether to use 5thpictures.com, or fifthpictures. com. He ended up buying both. His site will display 5thPictures.com, but searchers typing in “fifthpictures” will be redirected to his website.
8. Avoid being too cute or clever with your domain name. It’s become more common to see online businesses intentionally using misspellings or slang terms which can be confusing to new searchers – unless of course you set up a re-direct from the traditional spelling as well.
9. Avoid Copyright infringement.
Example: A web designer, specializing in WordPress web design, may want to include “WordPress” in her business name. However, “WordPress” is copyrighted. She could use WP, and then use the word WordPress in her content, but not in her business name.
10. If your business is specific to one geographical area, use Geo-location terms to differentiate your domain name (i.e. add your City, State, or neighborhood to your URL – “Boiseplumbing.com” )
Finding the right domain name is a big decision, but one that I always find exciting. Keep searching until you find the one that feels right for your brand – then OWN it!
Best of luck in your search, and with your new online presence!