Registering a domain name is often the first step in launching a new website. Many of our clients are surprised to learn how difficult it is to choose a domain name. Most of the shorter, more memorable “.com” names are already accounted for. We’ll walk you through the major aspects to consider before choosing a domain for your small business website.
What Exactly is a Domain Name?
Every computer that is connected to the Internet is assigned a unique number called an IP address. Think of this as a phone number for each computer. If you want to connect to a website, you need to know the number of their computer.
If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time remembering phone numbers. I always have to put the number in my contacts or look in the phonebook. Wouldn’t it be nice if computers could do the same with IP addresses?
That’s where domain names come in! You can choose and register a memorable name like cemahcreative.com, which is placed in the Internet’s equivalent of a phonebook. People can then look up your website’s computer number just by typing in your domain name. This happens automatically behind the scenes and only takes milliseconds.
Every domain name also has a suffix known as a top level domain (TLD). You can think of these as an area code. You’ll probably be able to recognize the following:
Most small businesses choose .com domain names. It is the most widely recognized TLD and easiest to remember. The .gov TLD is for government agencies only, .edu is reserved for educational institutions, .org is for non-profit organizations, and .mil is for the US military. The .net and .co TLDs are often chosen when a .com version of a desired name is already taken.
Hundreds of new TLDs including .business, .bar, .accountant, and .marketing have recently been made available. While you might have an easier time finding an available domain name with these new TLDs, many Internet users are not used to using them yet.
What’s in a Name? The Importance of Your Small Business Domain Name.
A domain name is part of your small business identity on the Internet. It is seen and used by potential and current customers to locate your website. The name should either directly connect to your business, or connect to your service or product.
We have a client who owns the toolbelts.com domain. You can probably tell what type of products they sell without even having to click on the link. If you’re able to find a simple word domain name related to your industry, then you just won the Internet lottery. But just like the real lottery, I wouldn’t count on winning.
Most commonly, small businesses choose a domain name that matches their business name. If your name is simple or common, you may struggle to find a domain that isn’t already taken. In this instance, consider adding an industry term or a location to your domain name. If your small business is “ABC Plumbing”, consider choices like abcplumbingmichigan.com or abcplumbingcompany.com. As a last resort, try adding hyphens like abc-plumbing.com.
Things to Remember:
- A .com TLD should be your first choice. This suffix is the easiest to remember and most widely used.
- Keep it relevant, short and sweet. Choose something about you or what you do, but keep it simple, easy to pronounce, and easy to spell.
- Check some competitors or businesses with similar names. Try to prevent mixups!
- Make sure the letters from multiple words strung together don’t create swear words or other undesirable words.
Things to Avoid:
- Try to stay away from the .co TLD. It is often mixed-up with .com and you could be sending your website traffic to another business on accident. People get used to typing .com, so they easily make this mistake.
- If your small business name includes an “llc” or “inc”, keep them off. They create longer names and add to confusion.
- Try not to use abbreviations. They are easily mixed up when communicating your domain name verbally.
I’ve Decided On My Name! Now How Do I Buy One?
There are a number of domain registrar companies selling domain names on the Internet. They’re a range of prices, but the product is all the same. Cheapest is best. The .com TLD is often more expensive, but it is worth it. We often find them for less than $10/year. Some common registrars to check in no particular order: Namecheap.com, GoDaddy.com, Name.com, Enom.com, and NetworkSolutions.com. Anywhere you buy a domain, you can look up the availability of a domain name. These sites will also give suggestions for similar names available.
If you’re one of our clients and you don’t already have a domain name, we will help you find, purchase, and renew one at no additional cost. Already have one, or you’d like to buy one yourself? Just remember to keep it renewed yearly!
If you’re buying or renewing a domain name, always search for coupon codes. Registrars often have sales and a quick Google search could save you a few dollars.
Buying a Domain Name Already Owned
Sometimes businesses have an opportunity to purchase a domain name from someone willing to sell it. Either they’re no longer using it, or they purchased it as an investment and want to sell it to the highest bidder. It could be a smart business decision, but expect to pay a premium. Always remember to ask yourself if the marketing benefit outweighs the cost. If the name is good enough, like toolbelts.com, it’s possibly worth it!
Choosing a Domain Name for Your Small Business
Keep it simple and try to closely match your business name. Make sure you keep it renewed on a yearly basis and you’re good to go. Remember, it is a part of your small business identity. Like your business name, it can be a headache to change it later on.