It is extremely important to choose the right domain name for your business or organization. A great website is the first step to online brand success. And the first step to a great website is choosing a great domain name. Here are some tips for choosing the right one.
Use your business or organization name
Whether you have an established brand or are just starting up, it is generally best to use your name. For small businesses, your business name is usually the same name you try to market and how your customers know you. It is better to use your name and build your online brand around that, rather than try to use something catchy that may or may not hold up well over time. For example, if your business name is Ray’s Transportation, you would try to get the domain name raystransportation.com. Don’t try to create something catchy like pickmeup.com. While potentially catchy, it could also be construed as something completely different and actually damage your brand. Or your customers may not associate it to your business at all.
Note: if you are a start-up business or organization, I would recommend that you develop your name around what domain names are available. In today’s world, your online presence is that important.
Don’t use keyword heavy domain names
In the recent past, Google and other search engines would reward sites that had the key search terms in their domain name. For example, if Ray’s Transportation domain name was transporation-services-topeka.com and those search terms were entered into the search engine, it may very well be ranked first. However, with changes to Google’s keyword algorithm that focus more on content, this is no longer the case, and they may actually penalize the site. The best bet, as mentioned above, it to use your name, and build your online brand around that.
Unless a hyphen is in your name, you should avoid them as it just makes it harder for your customers to type in the domain name.
Choose the right domain name extension
In today’s domain name registration system, there are more domain extensions available than ever. If you are a tech company, you can use .tech as in www.microsoft.tech or .info as in www.climatechange.info. While they can be catchy and more descriptive, the reality is most people still have not caught on to this and more often than not default to .com. For businesses we recommend the use of .com, and for organization we recommend the use of .org.
Your domain name is taken, now what?
As more and more websites popup on the internet every day, that means that less and less domain names are available. For example, if your business name is Southwest Flooring, chances are that domain name is not available. This leaves us with a few options. As mentioned above, we still recommend using a .com domain extension. Southwestflooring.biz may very well be available but going this route could cause brand confusion for your customers. It could also result in a copyright dispute with the owner of southwerstflooing.com.
The first option is you can try to buy it. Companies and people employ a technique known as domain squatting where they buy up popular high value domain names and sell them to the highest bidder. Using WhoIS tools at http://whois.domaintools.com/, you may be able to find out who the owner of the domain is. You can contact them and see if they would be willing to sell. As a warning, this is probably going to be a fairly expensive option and really depends on your financial resources available and how bad you want it.
Another option would be to pursue a copyright infringement. If you have copyright on your brand, and that domain name is taken, you can follow the ICANN Domain Name Dispute-Resolution Policy that can be found at http://www.icann.org/en/help/dndr/udrp. As a warning, no guarantees can be made, and the domain owner would likely fight you on it. Again, it depends on how bad you want it.
If you are not able to buy the domain or win a copyright dispute, you are simply going to have to use something else. While not ideal, it can still be made to work. If your business operates in a certain geographical area, you could localize it. You could use southwestflooringtopeka.com or southwestflooringks.com. Or you could add an article such as thesouthwestflooring.com. If this is not an option, then you may be forced to focus more on the products or services you provide. For example, southwesthardwoodfloors.com. Using slang or terminology common among your group could make for a memorable domain name as well. But be careful as to not confuse your customers.
Choosing a domain name is not a perfect science and the items listed above are meant as a guide to get you started. Theperfectdomainname.com may not be available. The key is to pick the best possible/available domain name for you, and then use your Marketing and SEO tools to get the word out about your online brand to your customers. Take your time, find out what all your options are, and make the best choice for you. To see if your desired domain name is available, you can check with a domain registrar like GoDaddy at http://www.godaddy.com/.
About the Author: Tim Rollenhagen is the founder of TyTEK Solutions, LLC and has worked in the IT industry for 15+ years.