If you’re starting a new business, or launching an all-new website for any reason, one of the first steps is choosing a domain name. But choose with care. It can be costly to change later! Here’s how you can make your choice carefully and easily.
Choose An Obvious Domain Name
Every website has a domain name. It’s a calling card that’s both name and address. Think of it like the name of your space on the Internet. It’s an address, too. It’s what you tell people so they know how to find you.
Most companies choose a domain name that matches their company name. This is the most obvious choice and the best. When users search for you by name, the website with your name will show up. An exact match can even help with search engine optimization.
While you’re searching and shopping for your exact match domain name, pick up a few extras. Get common misspellings of your name so that you can set-up automatic redirects if someone happens to misspell it. Or if you have a nickname or another related name that you’re know by, go ahead and purchase registration for those names as well.
The idea is that even if users make a mistake or search for one of those alternates, you can redirect them to the correct destination.
What if your exact match domain name is not available? Most common dictionary words and phrases are already taken. You must be prepared with a list of acceptable alternatives.
Brainstorm Alternate Choices
When companies find that someone else has taken their exact match domain name, they create variations. Maybe you can actually choose one of those nicknames or related names you picked up and just commit to it as your primary domain!
As you brainstorm this list, generate variations by adding a verb at the beginning or a noun at the end. If your company is Acme, Inc. and acme.com is not available, try getacme.com or acmewidgets.com.
Try adding a geographic identifier like a state, city or neighborhood name to the end. For example Acme, Inc. might be in New York City. They could try acmenyc.com or acmeny.com.
Beware of choosing a domain name with an unusual domain extension. That’s the .com, .net, or .org at the very end. Your preferred name might not be available with .com, but it could be registered with one of the other extensions.
However, .com is more highly recognized and popular across the world for commercial websites. Some extensions like .biz actually have a somewhat negative perception. Rather than choose a domain with a weird ending, try to get a .com that works for you.
Once you have a list of domain names you think you like, it’s time to put them through some basic tests to find the strongest options.
Test Out Your Name
Carefully say each of your domain name options out loud. Which ones are difficult to say? Which of them roll off the tongue?
Imagine that you have purchased an audio or video ad and someone else will have to speak your domain name without any coaching. Will they stumble over the words? Avoid tongue twisters.
For example, English vowels adjacent to one another can be awkward to read and awkward to speak. See goacme.com or acmeenginering.com. They both look a little funny to me.
And it feels weird to say “go” immediately followed by “acme”. I think non-English speakers could struggle without hearing it first. In this example, getacme.com is better because the hard “t” sound is easier to say and the letter visually divides the two words.
Speaking of dividing words, domain names don’t have spaces. That’s why adjacent vowels make it hard to tell where one word ends and the next begins. You might think a dash could solve this problem. But beware! Avoid choosing a domain name with dashes!
Though technically allowed, a dash forces speakers to say the word “dash” or “hyphen” when speaking your domain name. Remember the audio/video ad test? Potential customers may mistakenly type in something like acmedashwidgets.com. We all know someone prone to mistakes like that.
Say your domain name options out loud, eliminate the tongue twisters and odd ducks. Don’t use dashes. Make sure all of your domain name options are memorable, easy to say, and easy to spell.
Get Privacy Protection
Still with me? It’s finally time to review that shopping cart and purchase registration for all the domain names you need. And that’s when nearly every registrar will ask if you want to purchase privacy protection. You should say yes.
It’s an add-on expense that initially seems like a rip-off. But to understand the value, you need to know that international law requires every domain name to be associated with publicly available contact information. This means that you will fill out a form with your name, email address, phone number, and your location and this information will be posted online for all to see.
What generally happens is that you’ll receive an overload of sketchy junk mail and spam as the world’s scammers add your information to their database. This public registration system is designed to prevent illegal activity and promote some level of accountability. That’s great. But it requires website owners to expose information they might prefer to keep to themselves.
Privacy protection features from your domain name registrar put the registrar’s name and email on the public record instead. If they’re contacted with any legitimate inquiries, they will let you know. Meanwhile, you’re protected from junk mail and spam. That sounds worth it to me.
Choose your next domain name with careful attention to the way it looks and sounds. When you’re shopping, make sure you have a list of alternatives. And go ahead and buy more than one to cover all your nicknames or misspellings! You don’t want to invest thousands of dollars in a new website just to be cringing every time you type in the name.
Have questions about starting a new website or choosing a domain name? Simply Design Group can help. We’d love to help you build a great website. See our work.
Photo by Firza Pratama on Unsplash