There are a number of things on your to-do list when you start and grow your business. You will need to choose a name for your business, decide on what type of business entity you want to use, create a logo and more. But while you’re dealing with your growing checklist of tasks, don’t forget to think about how to choose a domain name.
Choosing a winning domain name is equally important as choosing a good business name. We live in a world of technology. You are more likely to share your URL than you are to hand out a business card. It is imperative that the domain name you choose is going to help, rather than hinder, your business.
Here are some tips and tricks for how to choose a domain name that will help your small business stand out, as well as questions to ask yourself when deciding on a good domain name!
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain name is the website name that serves as an online “home base” and virtual address for your business. In many cases, the domain name will be the first “place” your clients will visit when discovering your business.
Your domain name is important because it can be your customers’ first impression of your business. If you make your business domain name memorable and easy to find online, and if you choose your domain name wisely, you will be more likely to attract customers and generate new business leads from your website.
How to Choose a Domain Name
Think through this list before making a final decision on how to choose a domain name:
Keep it short. What comes to mind when you think about domain names? Short, simple names that you can remember! Try to avoid a domain name that is greater in length than two to three words. The longer a domain name gets, the harder it is to remember and the more likely it is that there will be errors when people try to type it out.
Build your brand. Your domain name doesn’t have to be the name of your business. Your website is one of the most visible opportunities to share the brand, values, mission and personality of your business. If the general concept for your domain is already being used by a different business, think outside the box. Can you create a domain name based on the type of business, or add LLC to the end of the domain name? Can you get a domain name that includes the name of your home city? If your business name is already in use as a domain name, try playing around with different arrangements of the name until you get one that is short, catchy and works with your business brand.
Try to match your domain with your business email and social media accounts. Combine and conquer! If your domain name matches your email and your business social media handles, that is one less thing that potential clients need to remember. If your preferred domain name matches the business email from another company, it could cause problems down the road. Be aware of the availability of your chosen domain name in other arenas. If possible, try to register your domain name and business email at the same time with the same name.
Shorten it with acronyms. If you have a longer business name, don’t be afraid to play with initials and use an acronym for your URL. For example, IMDB.com is a short domain name based on the business initials; where InternetMovieDatabase.com might have felt clunky and potentially difficult to type out correctly, IMDB is fairly easy to remember and type. The fewer opportunities you give the public to mistype, the better, so if you have a longer business name, give a set of initials a try. Be wary of spelling out something inappropriate or misleading, and always research potential alternative meanings of your new acronym before committing to it.
Compare with others. Do research and get familiar with how other companies are using domain names. Think about your experience with domain names in the past. What was hard to remember? Did you ever struggle with something that was hard to spell or had too many numerals or dashes? Do everything in your power to take the difficulty out of finding your business’s online home.
Avoid getting too creative. You want your domain name to be easy to remember, simple and branded to your business. Try to avoid characters, hyphens, misspellings and other related pitfalls when selecting the domain name for your business. You can let your creativity shine on the website itself; make sure that your domain name is clear and memorable.
Ask a friend. If you have a few domain names that you like, but you just aren’t sure, try taking a sample of opinions from friends or family. A poll of those close to you can keep you feeling safe about the security of the name itself until you can register it, while presenting any potential pitfalls with the domain name that you might have missed.
Options for Registering Domain Names
While .com is the most commonly used domain extension, there are a number of others available to you. Take into consideration that each of the domain extensions comes with a meaning. For example, .com is for commercial business, while .edu is limited to use by educational institutions. Most web registration services will show you all available extensions and give you a breakdown of what each stands for and which parties should be using it.
Some web registration services will even provide you with suggested alternative names if the domain name you want is already taken. This is helpful if you are stuck on a name and can’t see past it; sometimes a slight adjustment to your original idea is all you need to land on the perfect domain name for your business. For example, if your business is “Jim’s Plumbing, LLC,” the domain name of “jimsplumbing.com” might be taken, but “jimsplumbingpro.com” might still be available.
If you have fallen in love with a domain name, it’s very possible that while the .com is unavailable, a .net (network; frequently used by technical companies) or .biz (business) might be an option. If you are going to be operating as a charity or a nonprofit, .org has definitely seen a rise in popularity. Keep in mind that most people will likely default to a .com domain extension out of habit when typing it out, so be prepared to consider that when it comes to marketing your brand.
Ben Gran is a freelance writer from Des Moines, Iowa. Ben has written for Fortune 500 companies, the Governor of Iowa (who now serves as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and many corporate clients. He writes about entrepreneurship, technology, food and other areas of great personal interest.