The domain name where your website resides at is an important part of your online identity. It represents your business in a vital way. Your domain name can have a big impact on the overall success of your website.
It pays off to think hard before you choose a domain name. Ideally your domain name should reflect your business’s core activities, but just having your brand name as a domain name sometimes isn’t enough. Here I will outline some things to keep in mind when you venture out and register your first domain name.
1. Pick the right extension for your primary domain name. If you run a local business that’s not in the USA, it pays off to have a domain name with your country’s local extension. So if you’re a Dutch business primarily active in the Netherlands, stick with a .nl domain name. If you do business internationally or primarily in the USA, always go for a .com domain.
Be sure to register your domain on multiple extensions to protect your online brand. Don’t rely on the .com only, also register .net, .org, .biz and .info. If you’re a European company, register the .eu as well. Register the .mobi and .asia just to be safe. You want to protect your domain name and make sure someone else doesn’t grab your domain with a different extension and starts competing with you. Have all these extra domain names point to your primary domain name where your website resides.
2. Make it easy to spell. If you have a very complicated domain name that’s hard to type, users will mistype it and get either an error or, if you’re unlucky, reach a different site entirely. So make sure your domain name is easy to type. This also helps when you have to spell it out on the phone to contacts and potential customers.
If your company has a difficult name that won’t be easily spelled as a domain, consider registering a different domain name to put your website on. You should still register your brand name as a domain, but it might be a good idea to not have that be the primary address of your website.
3. Make it easy to remember. Try to pick a domain name that’s catchy and memorable so it will stick in people’s heads. If people can’t remember your domain they might just try to find your business by searching in Google, which is likely to lead them to your competitor’s websites.
4. Don’t hyphenate unless you really have to. Hyphens, like numbers, make it more difficult for you to spell out your domain name on the phone, and makes your domain more difficult to remember. Only use hyphens to prevent confusion.
5. Make it relevant. If you’re not using your brand name as your domain, make sure your domain name applies to your business. Try to use SEO keywords that describe your core business, but be sure to keep it short. Long domain names often don’t pass criteria 2 and 3.
6. Never use a subdomain or domain provided by your ISP. Always register your own domain name and arrange your own hosting environment. Nothing looks more amateurish than a business website on an ISP’s domain name like http://members.megaisp.com/~user101. A domain name with basic hosting is not expensive and it shows that you’ve at least put some effort into your website.
7. Register alternatives and misspellings. People make mistakes and will misremember or mistype your domain. If you own that mistyped version, you can still get that visitor to your site. Try to determine the most common variations and misspellings of your domain name and register those domains as well.
8. Avoid existing brand names or competitors. Many lawsuits have been fought over domain name ownership, and if you pick a domain name that resembles an existing business or brand too much you’re likely to find yourself on the wrong end of a legal settlement.
Your domain name is not the be all, end all of your online presence, but it’s a big factor and deserves proper consideration.