Your website domain name is a huge part of your online brand. But with over 300 million domains already registered, securing the one you want isn’t always straightforward.
Just like choosing your business name – and the two are intrinsically linked – you need a domain that reflects what your business is about and makes your website easy to find and promote.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the name of your website e.g. www.google.com. It’s the address that people type into a website browser address bar to access your website.
Your domain name is completely unique to your website, like a digital fingerprint.
Your domain name isn’t stuck to your website. You can point it to any website you own. However, it can only point to one website.
You can secure as many available domains as you like, but your main domain should be the primary domain address for your website. Your website and domain are separate entities but one can’t exist without the other.
Steps to registering a domain
- Choose a reliable domain registrar such as GoDaddy or 123-reg.co.uk.
- Use the registrar’s domain name search tool.
- Select the best available option for your business.
- Finalise your order order.
- Verify ownership of your domain registration.
- Review and renew annually.
Checklist: How to pick the right domain name
Your domain name is your identity on the web. It’s extremely important to get it right.
Dedicate time to ensuring you pick the best name for your business in first place. For many startups, a company name is chosen based on whether a .com domain is available for it. This should be your first port of call when deciding on a business name. Halt any branding processes until you’ve checked there is a domain available for it.
Here are some other considerations when selecting your domain name:
1. Keep it relevant
Depending on the type of company you own, you could consider adding a bit more detail into your domain name to assist search engine optimisation (SEO) and avoid any domain name clashes with other businesses.
For example; if your business is called Herron & co, it would clarify your service offering by using the domain Herronaccountancy.com.
2. Avoid slang
Make it easy for customers to remember/type your domain name. Avoid any confusion by using the correct words rather than slang. For example, ‘express’ instead of ‘xpress’.
3. Keep it short and simple
The longer your domain, the harder it is to remember and the more opportunity there is for mistyping. Snappier URL’s are also easier to fit on a business card or advert.
4. Include keywords
Immediately improve your SEO with a keyword-friendly domain name. Consider the type of keywords your customers will be using to find your business. Could you include them in your domain? For example:
It’ll also help customers understand the nature of your business quickly. Just make sure that your domain is evergreen and won’t be affected by any future business plans to expand into additional sectors.
If such plans exist, you might want to consider this in your domain name choice, or buy additional domain names at the same time to cover your bases.
5. Consider going local
If your business is based in one specific area, consider using its location in your domain name to target local web traffic. For example:
Again, make sure it considers any future expansion plans and if so, consider securing some additional domain names or build a website with options to expand in the future.
6. Avoid numbers and hyphens
If customers hear about your business and try to search for your website, don’t include numbers or hyphens in the domain name as this can make it difficult to find.
7. Be random
There are millions of registered domains out there. It’s likely the most popular ones are already taken, or very expensive to purchase. While adding specifics such as keywords and location will increase the chance of your domain name being available, using a completely random name will also help to obtain a .com domain.
While this won’t aid your broad keyword SEO, it will mean you won’t have to wrestle competitors for coveted domain names. You might need to rely more on a strong branding campaign and word-of-mouth to increase your brand awareness though.
For example, the name ‘Moonpig’ has nothing to do with cards and gifts, but it’s unique branding and jingle-led marketing campaigns have earned customer recognition within its market. Best to consider this approach if you have enough budget to put towards bigger marketing campaigns and you’re operating in a competitive market.
8. Do your research
Speaking of competitors, don’t forget to make sure any business and domain name you use isn’t trademarked, copyrighted or being used by another business. It could result in an expensive legal mess.
9. Your domain extension: build and protect
Extensions are suffixes at the end of web addresses e.g. .com, .co.uk. Make sure you use the best one for your business.
‘.com’ is the most trusted and well-known by Internet users, plus many SEO experts believe Google favours .com sites in its search results.
Some UK-based businesses might prefer .co.uk but again you need to ensure this fits in with your business development plans.
To be on the safest side possible, secure your .com domain alongside additional extensions for it.
You don’t have to build a website for every domain you own. You can own a number of additional domains but point them to your primary website domain so all customers are directed to the website you want them to arrive at. This ensures you retain control of your domains and protect them from other companies purchasing them.
10. Make room for typos
A popular tactic is to purchase a few misspelt versions of your domain name. This will ensure customers still reach your main domain, even if they misspell your web address.
There’s a lot to consider before buying your website domain name. But if you pick your domain with SEO and customer usability in mind, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
Part 2 will be coming soon, where we look at the ins and outs of actually purchasing a domain, including choosing your domain extension, and what to do if your domain is taken…
Further reading on running your business;
- Protect your small business with the latest on cyber security
- 4 mistakes all accounting websites make – and how to fix them
- Industries on the rise that you should be targetting
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