How to Choose a Domain

How to Choose a Domain

When you start a new business or launch a new product/service line you may begin very shortly to think about your online presence. Website, social platforms, Google My Business listing, etc. These are all important considerations to take into account and it will all start with the domain name that you choose.

In this article we’ll talk about some best practices when choosing a domain name.

1. Request a .Com if Possible

Ideally, request a domain name that ends in .com. This extension is known the world over as a solid, trustworthy domain extension. There are other extensions, such as .org or .gov, but most businesses won't fall under those categories.

Choosing from some of the newer extensions might confuse your customers too. They're not accustomed to typing in .biz or .me extensions. In fact, they may be wary of your business because of the missing .com.

If a .com isn’t available you may want to try for .net or .us. Although these aren’t as strong as .com, they are at least recognizable enough to appear legitimate. The biggest problem with using a .net or .us isn’t necessarily the trust factor, but that as a matter of habit, most people type in .com by default. If the .com version of your domain is a competitor then you have a problem.

2. Use Your Business Name Where Possible

Your domain name shouldn't be that much different from your company name. Ideally, they should be identical. Use a branded name that cannot be used on other websites. Our website vsquaredcreative.com, for example, is the same as our company name, V-Squared Creative.

Regardless of your chosen name, be wary of any unusual spellings. Slang, shorthand and numbers tend to confuse people when they type the name into their browsers. They end up with an entirely different website. "U" should be spelled out as “you”, “4” should be “four” etc. Avoid symbols, dashes and underscores when possible as well. Any confusion that arises from these misspellings only helps your competitors as consumers get frustrated with trying to find your company and bounce.

3. Add in a Keyword (If it Makes Sense)

The CPA firm, Johnson and Associates may choose a domain such as johnsonandassociates.com to match their name. However, suppose they see that lots of people search for CPAs in Charlotte. They may decide to use the domain johnsoncpas.com or even cpasofcharlotte.com.

Avoid keywords that don't accurately describe your business, however. They'll only confuse the consumer. Using too many keywords is also a problem. "FreeGlassReplacementRepairQuote.com" probably isn't the best choice since it could be hard to remember and type into a browser.

4. Verify Availability

When you know the domain name, start researching its availability. It might be open as a website domain, but also verify social channels. You want to be consistent across every platform. Varying names on several, social-media channels only mars your reputation. Consumers don't know if you're legitimate or not.

As you verify each social platform, place a hold on the name. It's always possible to change it later on if necessary. Preferably, the name should be typed exactly the same for each platform, such as "JoesGlassRepair." Any alterations, including spaces and hyphens, only reduces the impact of your brand on those virtual platforms.

5. Beware Hidden Words in Your Domain

Years ago my son started a website called ForKidsWhoRead.org that was aimed at getting kids to read more. However, every time we tried typing it into our browser our safe filter blocked it. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why until I realized it was because the browser was reading it as ForKidsWhoreAd.org. That little word there in the middle was getting it filtered out.

It’s easy to succumb to tunnel vision when it comes to your domain name. You might be set on a particular phrase and spelling. Try to look at the phrase from an outsider's perspective, however.

Ask friends and colleagues to look at the domain for feedback. They might see a word or phrase that you missed out on. Picking apart the phrase before you buy it and present the words as your business's namesake is critical. You don't want to be known as the business with a hidden curse word or offensive remark in the domain.

6. Check Blacklisted Domains

One of the worst scenarios that you might encounter is choosing a blacklisted site. These sites are different than domains that are simply trademarked or taken by other purchasers. Blacklisted sites have been flagged by the Internet world.

In the past, a domain was "caught" by IP servers when bulk mail was sent through it. These domains are essentially spam generators. No email servers want to deal with these domains that only clog up the data lines. The names have been therefore blacklisted.

If you choose this domain, your mail and site won't have a chance of moving through the everyday channels. Select an entirely different domain so that you have a chance of working with others on the virtual platform.

7. Don’t Use Trademarks in Your Domain

A client of ours once wanted to set up a financial services website that used the name of a well-known guru in the field. They were going to do something like JohnDoeAdvisors.com or something like that.

I immediately advised against this however, as I knew the company would send them a cease and desist if they ever ran across it.  

More seriously, the use of any trademarked name puts your business at risk for a lawsuit. Those names are restricted for a reason. Think about your domain's spelling and purpose as you go through various renditions. A trademarked name can often sneak into the title without you noticing.

8. Avoid Trendy Spellings

Your domain will be with you for the long run. The business might last for decades, which means the domain must do the same thing. Changing the domain when your business is established is a huge mistake. You're essentially risking the loss of many customers by changing the wording.

With this fact in mind, avoid trendy spellings. They seem interesting or "cool" today, but they may not be relevant five years from now. A popular example today is domains that leave out the “e” before the “r” at the end of the word. Like Flickr or Truckr. Some companies use the word “ninja” or popular buzzwords in their domains.

It may seem ok today, but could look outdated five years from now.

At the end of the day, the most effective domains are the simplest words and concepts. From glass-repair shops to craft stores, every business deserves a unique domain to define its legacy among consumers. Use your creative thinking and match it against these consideration points. Narrow down your selection and buy it. It’s time to launch.

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