By the end of 2020, the World Wide Web was home to more than 336 million registered domain names. Year on year, domain name registrations have increased by around four million, or 1.1%. Given the staggering number of domain names out there, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. That is why selecting the right domain name is crucial if you want your business to make inroads in the online world.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name refers to a website’s address. For instance, the domain name of this website is topnotchdezigns.com, which is the text a user needs to type into a web browser to get to this website. A domain name is basically assigned to a numeric IP address through which a user can access a website. While this number is often complex and difficult to remember, the Domain Name System (DNS) has made it possible for users to enter textual names and get routed to their desired websites.
The Importance of Getting Your Domain Name Right
Your domain name gives you easy means to work on your business’s online branding. Not only can your domain name simplify how your existing and prospective customers find your website, it can also help establish your brand’s identity and increase brand recognition. Other benefits include, but do not limit to:
- It gives your target audience means to find your website
- It can help you create the right first impression
- It can have a positive effect on search engine optimization (SEO)
- A registered domain name gives your business an air of authenticity and authority
- It can communicate the purpose of your business
- You get control over your brand’s digital presence
Do Your Business and Domain Names Have to Match?
If you can manage to get a domain name that matches the name of your business, using it is generally a good way to go. However, this is not necessary as long it reflects the nature of your business in the best possible manner. For instance, if you run Tom’s Jewelry Store in Long Island, opting to go with tomslongislandjewelry.com might work well for you.
Keeping your branding consistent across all online platforms is crucial, which is the case when selecting a domain name as well. Even if your business and domain names are not exactly the same, the latter still needs to resonate with your target audience when it’s looking for your business online.
1. Be Brand-Specific
Your target audience will use your domain name to remember your website, so using a generic name might not have the desired effect. Using a domain name that relates specifically to your brand, on the other hand, will stand out from the domain names of its competitors. While your domain name does not have to come with a specific meaning, it should ideally be easy to pronounce and remember.
Your main aim when coming up with a domain name for your business website should be to build your brand’s value and recognition with time. You may think of completely new and catchy words or short phrases, and you may also consider using interesting words that complement your business.
2. Keep it Simple
In addition to being easy to pronounce, your domain name should be easy to spell. This becomes even more important if you plan to use the same domain name to create business email addresses. The length of a domain name should ideally limit to 15 characters.
Refrain from using numbers and special characters and they might confuse your audience or make your domain name harder to remember. While shorter domain names are easier to recall, data suggests that they also tend to fare slightly better than longer domain names in search engine results.
3. Pay Attention to Extensions
Domain names include two sections – one that’s unique to your brand and the other that functions as the extension or the suffix. These extensions are referred to as top-level domains (TLDs). The options you get when choosing these extensions depend on your domain name registrar.
When you use an extension other than .com, you get the ability to give your target audience better insight into your brand, be it where it is located or its scope of operations. In some cases, businesses might need to get more than one extension. In any such scenario, you don’t necessarily have to create a website for each. You may simply redirect users from all extensions to your primary website.
The Most Common
Several businesses opt for the .com extension, making it the most commonly used. More than 52% of all domains use this extension, mainly because it is easy to remember. Other popular non-region-specific TLDs include .net, .org, .info, and .xyz.
You might reconsider using the .com TLD if your business is region-specific. For example, you may use the .us extension for a U.S.-based business, .uk if your business limits is operations within the UK, and .au if your business caters to the Australian market.
New TLDs on the Block
Non-traditional TLDs that have appeared in recent times are gaining credence quickly. If your business relates to global sustainability, you may select the .green TLD. Tech-oriented businesses that are primarily into web development and coding might consider using the .dev extension. Some other such examples include .club, .agency, .store, and .shop.
4. Use Keywords in Your Domain Name
Keywords can help improve how searchable your domain name is in online searches, and they can improve your website’s ranking as well. Using keywords also gives your audience an indication of the nature of your business.
If your business caters to a local audience, you might consider including the region it serves in the domain name. For example, if you own a business called Almighty Pizzas that are located in Queens, NY, you may consider using almightyinqueens.pizza as your domain name. This example goes beyond using the location, by including the .pizza TLD as well.
Unfortunately, narrowing down on a domain name that includes your target keywords and is still up for grabs is easier said than done. Remember that creativity in this aspect gives your business the ability to stand apart from its competitors. However, simply stuffing keywords in your domain name will not only make it long but also generic and boring.
To find niche-specific keywords that can help improve your website’s ranking, you may use keyword research tools such as:
5. Turn to Domain Name Generators
If you or your marketing team fails to come up with suitable ideas, you may look for suggestions by turning to domain name generators. These online platforms are easy to work with – wherein they provide domain name suggestions based on keywords you provide. These tools also give you an indication of which domain names are available.
Some of the popular domain name generators as of now include:
- Domain Hole
6. Think Long-Term
You need to view your relationship with your domain name as one that will last for years to come. This is because it will become the central element in defining your brand’s online presence. Should you choose to change your domain name down the line, it might have an adverse effect on your branding and SEO rankings, not to mention the significant cost you would have to bear.
Consider this example – you select katescakes.com as the domain name for your online cake shop. If in a few years, you wish to expand and offer other types of baked products, just the cakes in the domain name would no longer seem appropriate. In such a scenario, going with katesbakes.com at the very onset might be more appropriate.
7. Check for Availability
Before registering a domain name, you need to determine if there’s a registered business that already uses the same name. Carrying out an online trademark search gives you the means to find out if the exact or a similar name has already been trademarked.
While a similar name can lead to confusion, using a name already trademarked by someone else can result in severe legal implications. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a domain name you wish to use, you might want to get it trademarked and copyrighted as soon as possible.
Conducting an online search on Google, Bing, or Yahoo lets you find out if your desired name is available across social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This is important as it might have a bearing on your overall digital marketing efforts.
8. Register in Haste
It is common for domain names to sell quickly. While some are relatively inexpensive, others can come with significant price tags. If you find a domain name that suits your business and falls within your budget, you should register it under your name quickly. If the domain name you’ve narrowed down on is unavailable, your domain name provider should be able to provide relevant alternatives.
Registering Your Domain Name
Once you’ve decided on a suitable domain name and extension, and found out that it’s available, you need to buy it and register it under your name through a domain name registrar. All domain names are part of a centralized global database referred to as a registry. Your domain name needs to make it to this registry for it to be recognized.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) gives domain name registrars permission to make changes to domain name-related information on behalf of their customers. Domain name registrars give their customers the means to make required changes to their domain names by using their own web browsers.
Not all domain name registrars are licensed to sell all TLDs. For example, some registrars might limit their options to popular extensions such as .com, .org, and .net. Some others might provide just region-specific extensions.
How to Select a Domain Name Registrar?
Factors that need your attention when selecting a domain name registrar include:
- Some registrars offer promotional prices for the first year, after which the cost for renewal can increase significantly. You also need to account for the cost you might incur during your domain name’s transfer.
- Registration period. Most registrars require that you register your domain name for at least one year. Some might require that you register for a minimum of two years. Depending on the registrar you select, you may register for up to 10 years at a time. Most registrars let you sign up for automatic renewals, so you don’t have to worry about your domain name expiring.
- Domain transfers. According to the ICANN, you cannot transfer your domain name within the first 60 days of its registration. While most registrars try to make this process simple and don’t charge any fees, this is not always the case. As a result, go through a registrar’s domain transfer policy before signing up.
- Additional services. Some domain name registrars provide web hosting services, giving you the ability to minimize the number of service providers linked to your website. In such a scenario, you may also expect email hosting services. Other add-ons may come in the form of website builders and email marketing services.
No matter whether you’re launching a new business or a brand, or have an existing business that you wish to bring online, you will need a domain name for your website. Given the impact that a domain name can have on aspects such as building your brand, getting found in online searches, click-through rates, and even offline marketing, you need to select one after giving the process considerable thought.
Being creative with your domain name might be the order of the day if the one you select is already taken. Remember that your domain name should have a recall value and should be easy to type across devices. Using region- or industry-specific extensions makes way for increased clarity.
If you’re still unsure about what domain name to select or how to go about registering a name that you’ve selected, consider getting advice from an expert in online marketing.