Many new parents have always been advised to choose their baby’s name wisely as it is its first identity and one that would, except for certain few cases, stick with him / her throughout his / her life. In this sense, a new website is similar to a new born baby. Therefore, a well-chosen domain name is crucial as this is the name that will stay with your website for life. After all, your domain name is your website’s first impression to your website visitors and potential customers and like many things in life, first impression is what matter most especially in this fast paced internet world.
However, I must admit that coming up with a good domain name is probably one of the hardest decisions to make in your website-creating journey. What initially feels like a simple or even unrelated name could turn out to be the perfect one! I mean, who would have thought naming a personal computer after a fruit would result in worldwide recognition and cult-like following!
Of course, that said, you would need to have excellent products and services too. On the other hand, you may also find that your chosen name was not as effective as you had wished… after engaging consultants to brainstorm on your domain name.
At the end of the day, it begs the question of how to choose a good domain name. In this article, I will put forward some suggestions to aid your search.
Domain Name, Website Name and the URL
While this seems like a no-brainer, you would be surprise to know that there are people whose websites names are different from their domains and heaven forbid, both these differ from the URL too. The idea here is to maintain the same name for all three identities. This way, when your customers or followers think of you, they do not need to google for your website or domain name to find your site’s URL, which is what they need to do if you have totally different names.
Here’s an illustration. If your business is known as “Uncle Jamie’s Pizza Delivery”, you would not want to register your domain as “perfectpizzadelivery.com”, right. Chances are your customers would be looking for “unclejamiespizzadelivery.com” rather than “perfectpizzadelivery.com”. This would be akin to sending your customers to your competitors, which is the last thing you would want to do.
Having said that, there are times when the domain name that you wanted is not available. After all, the number of websites is increasing every minute and it would require some creative thinking when it comes to a new domain name. So what are your options in this case? Read on.
Alternative Domain Names
You should also have a few alternative names for just in case. For example you have this clothing business that you have been operating on Facebook thus far, which had grown beyond what Facebook can manage. And you think that it is time to set up your own online boutique with your own domain name and shopping cart. Your current customers had known your business as Zoe’s Closet but a quick check indicates that “zoescloset.com” is no longer available.
You now have a couple of options. It depends on whether you are willing to forgo the hard work you had put into building your brand name in the first place and start all the marketing work on the “new” brand name. If you feel that it would take too much hard work and time and money to re-build, then you can consider contacting the current owner of “zoescloset.com” and requesting to buy the domain name over from them. Under this circumstance, there are a few things that you should be aware of though, like you are most likely required to pay a premium for the domain name. That is if the current owners are willing to sell it. Yes, there is a chance that they do not want to sell it. After all, they too had put in much effort to build the brand.
In this case, your other option is to select alternative domain names that had not been registered. Another quick search at domain search tool brings out a few suggested domains like “zoeschest”, “zoesfashion” and “zoeswardrobe”. These are much cheaper and less complicated to get. The only catch is that you would need to do a bit of marketing to let all your customers know of the change regarding the new brand name.
Top level domain name or Country level domain name?
While the most popular extension is .com, there are plenty of other extensions that are available, for example international ones like .net, .biz and .org and country-specific extensions like .us and .jp. How would you decide which to buy?
Well, if you are in business and are looking forward to expanding to the international market, then it is advisable for you to obtain a .com domain name for long term purposes. This is simply because it portrays an international commercial business that has been around for many years, thus giving a well established image. Oh, and also the fact that majority of people still assume that all websites end with .com.
Should .com be unavailable, you may want to consider using .net. As mentioned above, good domain names that are also unregistered are getting scarce these days. Since most of the older domain names are registered as .com, the .net extension has become more popular in recent years as an alternative extension.
If you could afford it and if it’s available, you may want to consider getting also the .net extension on top of the .com domain. In this case, it doesn’t matter whether you are going to build a website with the .net domain. You could always direct it back to your .com website. Getting it is more of a business tactic to prevent other copycats from riding on your success and registering this domain should your business become very successful then.
What about the country-specific extensions then? This works great for businesses that rely on local customers. An example would be hungry customers in UK are more likely to look up “unclejamiespizzadelivery.co.uk” rather than “unclejamiespizzadelivery.com” to satisfy their hunger pangs.
A final advice here is that regardless of which extension you get, do remember to include the full domain when marketing your website. This is all the more crucial when you have extensions other than .com. So, let your customers and followers know whether you are “zoescloset.biz”, “zoescloset.co.uk” or “zoescloset.us.
I highly recommend that you include relevant keywords in your domain name. Many SEO gurus would insist that you do so in order to achieve a higher SEO. So if you are about to give your online boutique a domain name, then some keywords that can be considered are fashion, clothes, boutique and design. Mix these keywords around and see if you can come up with a great sounding domain that also reflects your business.
This however, is not thought to be crucial. In this case, brand names take priority. If you have a brand that people already recognizes, do by all means, use that brand name as your domain. Successful brands like hp.com and dell.com do not have the keyword “computer” in their domain name and are way more popular than generic domain like computers.com. At the very least, they are more original.
Now, it is important that you look at your final chosen domain from all sides. Note that domain names do not have any spaces or caps or punctuation marks or symbols. It’s just one long combined letters. So be careful not to unwittingly turn your domain name into a joke! An example would be if you were looking for a therapist online, would you turn to the website called “therapistfinder.com”? I rest my case.
Choose User-Friendly Names
Since domain names are your business’ virtual address, it should be unique and easy to remember. Bear in mind that occasionally, your domain name gets around by word of mouth or you would be telling it over the phone. You are probably the only person who would memorize your domain name, save for perhaps your competitors, who wants to monitor your growth and strategies. Your customers are probably not going to do so.
Therefore, if your domain name has unusual spellings or characters or abbreviations, it would be difficult for you to give it verbally and also for your customers to recall it unless they have bookmarked your website or are regular visitors. But would you want to risk losing customers because of bad domain names?
Choose Short Names
Try not to adopt a domain name that is too long, unless you are trying to get into the Guinness Book Of Records for having the longest domain name. Not that many people would remember “wemakeanddeliverthegreatestpizza.com” and with such long name, the higher the chances are with spelling mistakes. And not to mention, it is such a pain to type long domain names!
A shorter domain name is more user-friendly and is easier to remember. They also tend to be catchier than longer ones and thus, stay longer in people’s memory. Think Google, Twitter, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo and so forth. These examples are short and easy to pronounce and most people have no problem looking them up after hearing it from their friends or over the phone.
Avoid Numbers and Dashes
Domain names are made up of only letters, numbers and dashes. My advice is that you stick to just letters. Numbers would only complicate the name more often than not. And when you are giving out your domain name verbally, you have to keep reminding the listeners that it’s the number that you meant and not the Romanized word.
Dashes, while are great to distinguish each keyword, do have their cons too. Most people would not remember to put in the dashes after awhile and as a result, might end up at your competitors’ websites. Again, just imagine the hassle when verbally giving out the domain name, especially when you have more than a few keywords separated by dashes. Try saying “we-make-and-deliver-the-greatest-pizza.com” to someone over the phone.
Avoid Copyrighted Domain Names
While there is a tendency to pick a domain name that closely resembles a well established business that offers the same product or services as yours, stop before you fall into the Intellectual Property infringement trap. Yes, no doubt you would be able to ride on the popularity of these competitors if you have a similar domain name and thus, reduces your cost and time spent on your own marketing. But the risks are just too great compared to these benefits.
Should these competitors were to take legal action against you and your business, it would be a messy and expensive affair and you might even end up losing your domain name as well as your business. So in order to avoid such legal complications, it is better to do a thorough search to make sure that you are not infringing any copyrighted names. You could visit the US’ copyright site if your business is in the US. For businesses outside of the US, do check with the local government’s Intellectual Property and Trademarks Department for more information.
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Editor’s Final Notes
Remember, domain names are assets to online businesses. It is the domain names that give your websites, blogs, businesses the unique identity. Sometimes, it is the domain names that can make or break a website.
The one thing that you do not wish to see happen to your website is the need to re-create another domain name somewhere down the road and to move the whole website over, just because you had an inappropriate domain name to begin with. Just thinking of all the cost and effort wasted and had to be spent again, is enough to give you months of headache, not to mention a lighter bank account. So do consider your domain name carefully before you decide on one!
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