You have a great business opportunity, and you want to share your ideas with the world. Before you can create the website that you’ll use to do this, however, you need to choose a suitable domain name. A domain name (also called a host name) is the same as the website’s URL. It’s the section that comes after “www.” and is usually followed by “.com”, “.org”, “.net” or another extension.
The domain you choose could have a huge impact on the success of your website, as this is what visitors will need to remember in order to find your business online. If you’re in a hurry to start building the actual site, it can be tempting to purchase the first domain your think of from the first seller you find, however by doing this you won’t necessarily get the best domain for your website, nor will you pay the best price.
This article covers several important factors you should consider when choosing and purchasing a domain name for your new website. Follow these steps, and you’ll have a successful, SEO-friendly domain up and running in no time. In case you need more technical info (and the ‘how it works’ logic) about web domain, you can also check out Jerry’s recent article The Technical Details Behind Domain Names.
Choosing Your Domain Name
Choosing the actual words and phrases that form your domain name is probably the hardest part of the process. It requires creativity, marketing savvy, and the ability to look at your website from the point of view of a visitor.
Let’s start with the hostname. This should contain keywords that are relevant to your business and, ideally, your business name. If the name of your business isn’t available as a domain, try selecting a domain that communicates what your business does. For example, if you run a business called “Carpets4Home” in Los Angeles and the domain “Carpets4Home.com” isn’t available, you could purchase “bestLAcarpets.com” instead. This demonstrates what you’re selling, and has SEO potential when you’re writing your web copy.
The Shorter The Better
As a general rule, the shorter your host name is, the better. The more people are likely to remember it, the more likely they are to remember and return to your website. For the same reason, you should also choose a name with an obvious spelling. If the exact name you want isn’t available, think carefully before substituting letters or words, for example choosing “skool” instead of “school” or “catz” instead of “cats”.
No Numbers For Letters
Another domain no-no is replacing letters with numbers (except when you use numbers as part of your business name), for example writing “4” instead of “for”, or “2” instead of “two”. Even if a potential customer or client remembers your domain name, they are more likely to use the correct spelling of the word, and could end up on someone else’s web page.
SEO blog Seomoz suggests additional tips that can help you minimize the risk of losing web visitors, like excluding hyphens, and avoiding using the number 0, as it looks very similar to the letter O.
When selecting a domain name for your new website, it’s important to check you’re not infringing on another website’s copyright. This is illegal and, if you use a copyrighted website name, you could find yourself in trouble, and lose your carefully nurtured brand, further down the line. You can usually tell whether another website has copyrighted the same site or brand name with a quick Google search. If you want to look into the matter more thoroughly, visit The United States Copyright Office and search their directories.
The .com’s Bias
Once you’ve selected a hostname, you need to decide which extension to choose. Many web developers are divided over this issue. Some are adamant that you should choose a domain with a “.com” extension at all costs, while others say that the extension doesn’t matter as long as you have a good hostname.
The arguments for choosing a domain with a .com extension include that it adds more credibility to your website. Additionally, people are more likely to assume the extension is “.com”, and could end up visiting a competitor’s website if you have the same domain name but a different extension. The arguments against only choosing domain names that have a “.com” extension include that you’re limited in your selection, and could end up compromising on your domain name in a way that won’t be helpful for your branding or SEO.
Christopher Heng, founder of thesitewizard.com, advises website owners that it’s a good idea to promote the website using the full domain name if you’re using an extension that isn’t “.com” to minimize the chance that web users will end up on a competitor’s website.
Purchasing A Domain
Once you’ve chosen a suitable domain name for your business, the next step is to compare pricing from different domain sellers. The average price for a domain hovers around $10 per year, however if your domain is only available through an auction, this could be a lot more.
If someone else currently owns the domain you want, you can try purchasing it through auction, or by making an offer to the owner. There is no guarantee that either of these methods will get you the domain you want, and they could end up costing you a lot more than registering a normal domain would, but if you have your heart set on it then it’s worth trying.
Research domain registrars. You might have initially found your ideal domain through a specific seller, but the same domain could also be available through other services at a lower price.
As well as purchasing the core domain you intend to use for your website, you should also try to purchase variations on your domain name, recommends ProBlogger author Darren Rowse. This means that if your new website is happycat.com, you should also consider purchasing the same domain with different extensions (“.net”, “.org”, “.co.uk”), and the plural, happycats.com. Then, you can redirect all these domains back to your original website, increasing the likelihood that potential customers will find you.
If you’re stuck for a domain name and need some inspiration, or you’re not sure where to purchase your domain of choice, here are a list of websites that can help.
Ajaxhois 2.0 is a useful service that enables you to check whether a domain name is free or not. You can also look at any available statistics for the web address to see how many people visit that URL.
Domain Name Soup, Namestation and Domain Fellow are a free domain name generators that can help you through creative blocks. They are particularly useful if you don’t know what you want to call your website or business yet, or are stuck for which keywords you want to include in your domain name.
GoDaddy and Register.com, for example, are domain registrar companies that also offer web hosting services. You can select and buy your domain through these websites without signing up to a hosting package, however if hosting is something you also need, some people find it easier to purchase a domain name and hosting from the same provider.
Even if you’re in a hurry, comparing the prices and terms of different domain registrars will help you get the best long-term deal on your domain name, so you can focus on building your website and moving your business up to the next level.