Choosing a good domain name is both a business necessity and a mundane website design detail. However, it’s important to get it right. Your reputation may be on the line, as well as market share in your niche, domain brand recognition, sales revenue, and profits, just to name a few.
The point remains that selecting the right domain name is important, not a trivial matter. Otherwise, you may jeopardize a lot of hard work and the foundation of an otherwise promising online business.
Where Do You Buy a Domain Name?
There are essentially three (3) ways to purchase a domain name:
- Directly from a web hosting provider (e.g. GoDaddy.com or NameCheap.com).
- An independent domain name service for people who have their own server.
- Buying established domain names that are expiring through an auction or third-party bidding process.
Selecting the Right Domain Name for Your Business
Thanks to the WHOIS service, any domain name seller (or reseller) should display a textbox on its homepage, from which you can check the availability of your desired names. This also includes the extension, an often undervalued part of the domain name (see below).
Ideally, you should choose a domain name that satisfies some key criteria:
- Easy to speak and spell.
- Easy to remember.
- Either benefit driven (obvious what the site is about) or represents your brand.
Being creative with your domain name can work commercially, especially if it strongly tied into an offline business. However, most online entrepreneurs are best served by using a benefit-driven domain name that clearly represents what the site is about and who it is for. Though a best practice in the past, try to avoid using keyword stuffed domains in hopes of getting better search engine rankings just based off of your domain name. Many ISPs and web hosting companies offer a bulk searching platform that can filter out your options quickly.
Brainstorming Available Domain Names
There’s a good chance that your initial or preferred names are not going to be available. What are you going to do then?
Fortunately, most domain name searches will offer alternatives that may prove as good or better for search engine purposes and your online profile. A good example would be FreeCreditReport.com. Although CreditReport.com would be shorter; adding the free to the domain makes it more descriptive and desirable.
When brainstorming alternative domain name you should also follow established naming criteria, i.e. be short, contain at most one hyphen, and use words that neatly summarize your website, product or service.
You may also want to use a domain name generator to get new ideas and find domains that are available.
Choosing the Right Domain Name Extension
Although extension options are growing exponentially as we speak, search engines like Google (and web surfers alike) still prefer the tried and true, trustable domain name extension. For a business, that means taking the .com extension when possible. The .com extension remains the most popular, trusted, and business-friendly extension. People find it the easiest to remember, and that’s what you’re looking for — name recognition.
The .org and .net extensions are reasonable second choices, but .info and .biz — rightly or wrongly — are considered “spammy”. In some rare cases it can make sense to use another extension; such as if you’re a local business in New York then .nyc could work or if you’re exclusively an online video-based show then .tv could work.
Registering Your Domain Name
Once you have your domain name decided, it’s time to register it. Choose a trusted domain name registration company to handle your domain registrations, since domain name complications could compromise your business. There are also various tools available which can help evaluate domain registration companies (e.g. pricing, service options).
When going through the domain name registration process, here are some terms you’ll want to be familiar with:
- Registrant: Name of the company or individual who owns the domain (this should always be you, don’t allow your webmaster to purchase and own your domain!)
- Administrative Contact: Individual authorized to handle daily matters.
- Technical Contact: Individual assigned to handle the technical details associated with the domain names.
If you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, then most likely you’ll be the contact point for all three (3) functions. However, this can change as your business grows and you are obliged to delegate responsibilities. Beware of who has the registrant username and password. Avoid registering the domain name with your web hosting service, because it could make future domain transfers complicated should you decide to change hosting companies.
Most people will buy their domain name with one company and then host their website with another company; rather than buying and hosting at the same place.
Choosing a solid domain name can make a big difference in your online marketing life. Take the time to understand the process, perform your due diligence and research, and most important of all… pick a great domain name!