One of the first things to think about when starting your own website is what website address (domain name) to use. Your website address is an important part of the puzzle, because it’s one of the first things potential clients will notice about your online presence.
Here are 10 tips (and one small caution) for choosing something that is right for your business.
Tip 1: Brainstorm keywords but don’t get obsessed with them. Keywords are words, related to your business, that people may use to search Google for services like yours. For example, a wedding photographer’s keywords could be things like photography, weddings, photojournalistic, creative, and so on. These words can help you find a domain name that works for your business and helps people find you in search engines. That said…
Tip 2: Make it memorable and related to your brand. Remember, keywords are just a tool to help you find something that works. But in the end, if they aren’t helpful, that’s ok. It’s way more important that your website address be memorable and suited to your company’s brand. If your company has a name, a good domain would have the company name in it. For example, zappos.com is far more memorable than theshoestore.com, and serves to help Zappos build brand recognition.
Tip 3: Make it easy to type. If you’re talking to someone and tell them your website address, you don’t want them to have to guess how to type it. Avoid ‘text speak’ (such as replacing ‘you’ with ‘u’) or intentional misspellings of words.
Tip 4: Make it short. Shorter means easier to remember, easier to type, and easier to put onto all kinds of different printed items such as flyers or business cards. It’s also good for search engines, as more of your address will display in the results (they get cut off after a certain number of characters).
Tip 5: Choose a good TLD. TLD means Top Level Domain and it refers to the part of the domain name after the . – for example, .com or .biz. Stick to ones that aren’t too weird. Country-specific are fine, such as .ca in Canada. .com of course is great, as is .net or .org if appropriate to your business. .io has become popular with tech startups and I’ve seen more small companies using .co recently, so take a look at those if they’re a good fit for what you do. Just don’t go with the new vanity TLDs such as .guru or .photography. Many people view those as spam, or don’t even understand that it’s a valid address. They might be an awesome option in the future, but need more time for folks to get used to them.
All that said, of course…
Tip 6: .COM is still king. If a good domain for your business is available with the .com TLD, grab it! Of course, the pool of available .com domains is getting smaller every day, so don’t stress if something you like isn’t available. Like I said in #5, you can totally use other options and still have a great site that people will be able to find.
Tip 7: Avoid numbers and dashes. With numbers, people never know whether they need to type the number out or use the numeric character – for example – ‘two’ or ‘2’. And most people don’t expect to see dashes in website addresses so will not remember to type them.
Tip 8: Avoid copyright infringement. This one can be a bit tricky, but essentially, make sure the address you’re reserving doesn’t belong to another brand. For example, trying to reserve an address with ‘Just Do It’ or ‘I’m loving it’ in it (really, don’t do that). Remember that it doesn’t have to be a major brand to be an issue – it could be a small company located in another city. In Canada you can search the CIPO database and in the US, the USPTO database.
Tip 9: Use a domain search tool to find good options you might not have thought of. Webnames.ca is a good tool: it gives you exact matches and also an ‘alternatives’ tab. Try using keywords and/or your company name and see what it suggests.
Tip 10: Buy multiple versions if they are available, to protect your brand. For example, get the .net, .co and .com versions. You don’t have to buy every single version (that would get silly and expensive) but certainly, two or three is reasonable.
And as I mentioned, one small caution before you hit the ‘purchase’ button on that domain name: Make sure you read it over slowly to yourself and look for any unintended hidden words or meanings. Not sure what I mean? Well, rather than give you examples myself, I’ll just link to this article on Huffington Post so you can see for yourself.