Choosing a domain name is one of the first big decisions a lot of businesses will come across, and its not one to be taken lightly. In this day and age, your website generally forms the backbone for all your marketing tactics, and will act as a first impression for most of your customers.
Many businesses will face this decision at the same time as choosing their business name – as domain availability can play a large role in helping a business decide on a specific name.
If you’re stuck on this first step of choosing a domain name, check out the 10 handy tips outlined below, or use our intuitive Domain Name Generator to search for domain availably at the same time as you find inspiration for a business name!
10 Handy Tips for Choosing a Domain Name
Does your domain sound like a brand? A ‘brandable’ domain is unique, memorable and relates specifically to the tone or voice of your business – as opposed to a generic domain which generally uses bland keywords, and completely fails to stand out from the crowd.
To borrow an example from Rand Fishkin from Moz.com:
If we wanted to create a pasta website that has pasta recipes and sells some pasta related e-commerce products on it;
- Pasta-shop.com = hard to brand, say, or remember.
- com = brandable, unique, but quite challenging to say/spell.
- com = very brandable, unique, memorable, and stands out.
2) Don’t Stress About EXACT Match
Of course, having your domain name match your business name is ideal for brand consistency and general search-ability… but this is proving increasingly difficult! In fact, recent studies have found that all 4-letter domains between AAAA.com and ZZZZ.com are now taken, as are all 3-letter domains!
This has seen an increase in businesses using shortened or abbreviated versions of their business names as their domains, such as Buffer using the domain Bffr.com and Bufferapp.com (before eventually buying Buffer.com).
Whilst an exact match is desirable, don’t let it hold you back if you love your business name, but can’t get the domain!
3) Keep it Short
Put simply, the fewer characters in a domain name the easier it is to type, write, say, share and show in every way. Whether that be typing in to a search engine or URL bar, on a business card, in a presentation, on social media, or on advertising material.
It will also be easier to remember. Think about explaining your business to a friend-of-a-friend at a social function… mygreatonlinebusinesswebsite.com is probably going to leave them confused, and there’s very very little chance they’ll remember that website the next day – whereas mysite.com they’ll more likely remember!
4) Make it easy to pronounce
Following on from the friend-of-a-friend experiment above, your domain name should be easy to pronounce.
Yes, most people will by typing your domain name and not speaking it, however scientific studies have proven a natural bias in humans towards remembering and having more positive associations with words we can easy say and pronounce in our own minds – this is called “processing fluency”.
5) Avoid Numbers and Hyphens
Numbers and hyphens in domain names are too often and too easily misunderstood. People who hear your website address don’t know if you’re referring to the number “3” or the word “three”, or they misplace or forget the dash altogether.
If you have to provide a caveat everytime you say your domain name – “that’s a number 5, not f-i-v-e, and there’s a dash after it” – then you are probably losing a lot of traffic to confusion!
6) Choose the Right Domain Extension
Most businesses fall under one of the most common ‘Top Level Domains’ (TLD) such as:
- .COM: this is the most commonly used domain extension (almost 50% of websites globally in 2018) and is traditionally used by commercial (for-profit) websites
- .NET: is a domain extension traditionally reserved for network-related websites, such is Internet or telecommunications providers
- .ORG: is a domain extension traditionally reserved for non-profit organisations
- .CO: is a newer, increasingly popular domain extension that is an abbreviation for ‘company’, and generally used by big brands with a global presence
Depending on your country of origin, you may also want to choose your ‘Country-Specific’ TLD for familiarisation and trust with your market (unless you have an entirely global market) – such as .US (United States), .UK (United Kingdom), .DE (Germany), .CN (China) and .AU (Australia).
Furthermore, recent trends have seen certain industries targeting specific domain extensions – such as .IO becoming increasingly popular in the tech start-up world. This stresses the importance of doing your research before you register a domain!
For more information on TLDs and what they mean, check out our previous blog HERE!
7) Think Long Term
It can often help to think about where you want your business to be in 5 years before you go locking in a specific domain name. For example, if you have every intention of expanding the services you currently offer as your business grows, then don’t set yourself up for time-consuming or costly changes in the future by having a service-specific domain name.
Example: If you’re starting a travel blog whilst you tour Europe, but have every intention of continuing to travel the world and document your adventures, don’t lock yourself in to changing your domain and your marketing material latter down the track by using a domain like EuroJohn.com… think WorldJohn.com instead.
8) Avoid Trademark Infringement
It doesn’t matter if you own the domain legitimately and are using it for unrelated business purposes… trademark owners can still attempt to sue a domain name owner for trademark infringement.
Importantly, it is not whether or not YOU think your domain name could be confused with their brand, it is what a judge in a jurisdiction thinks, should a company take legal action against you.
If you have any genuine concerns when choosing your domain name, it is always recommended to have a chat to a legal professional before proceeding!
8) Make it Intuitive (if possible)
A lot of really successful websites have domain names that people can look at and think – I have a pretty good idea what this website is about based purely off that domain.
A cool example of this can be seen with the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmith Kline (who use the domain GSK.com): They wanted to promote a vaccine for whooping cough, and thus created an entirely new website using the memorable and intuitive domain BigBadCough.com… to great success!
10) Act Fast!
As mentioned earlier, domain names are becoming increasingly unavailable. Don’t stress, ponder or procrastinate over the “perfect” domain name… because it probably doesn’t exist!
Whilst the point of this article is to encourage you to do your research and tick as many important boxes as possible when choosing a domain name, there is always going to be pros and cons to any domain name – so do your research by all means, but when you find something that all the decision makers agree upon, go for it!