If you haven’t already done so, choosing your domain name is definitely one of the first steps you need to take when getting your business online.
Once upon a time, getting your domain name right was a critical step towards getting your site recognised by the search engines (that’s Google et al) which weren’t especially sophisticated and hence were easily seduced by an obvious and descriptive title. If you were selling books, you needed “books” in the domain name, throw in a word such as “cheap” or “best” and you could almost be sure of hitting the top of the list!
Thankfully for all of us, things have moved on a lot since then and the search engines place far more relevance on the actual content of your pages than the name at the top, so you really don’t need to agonise too much over getting it right (after all, look at Amazon – who would have guessed they sell books?! ) but that’s not to say it’s not worth putting a little effort into coming up with something that is meaningful to your business.
Make it memorable
Your domain name should be catchy, simple, and easy to remember. Making it too long or using unusual spelling variations will increase the chances of potential visitors either mis-typing or forgetting your name altogether.
.com or .co.uk
I would always recommend buying the .com version of your chosen name if it is available. It’s what most people default to when typing a domain name and/or they can’t remember the exact address. You don’t actually have to use it for your website address if you prefer .co.uk or another alternative, as it’s very easy to divert anyone typing .com to your preferred option but it’s definitely useful to have.
If you’re a UK based business, then ideally you will also want to register the .co.uk version of your domain name (or whatever happens to be the extension for the country in which your business is located). As above, you can choose which version shows on your website, whilst easily diverting visitors who happen to type any of the other options you have registered.
Back in the day when there were only a handful of other extensions (eg. primarily .org and .net), it was often recommended to buy these too, but with literally hundreds of domain name extensions these days, it certainly wouldn’t be practical to buy them all and nor indeed, is it really necessary.
Should you buy the .com if someone else already has the .co.uk version registered (or vice versa)? There is no obvious answer to this but visiting the “competing” site will probably give you some idea as to whether it’s likely to be a risky (or advantageous) strategy. If it’s a big and/or well known company in the same field, I’d probably recommend against it as you’re more likely to lose business to them than vice versa, but if it’s obviously a smaller and/or not particularly active site and you have your heart set on a particular domain name, it’s unlikely to be a major issue.
Hyphens or not?
There is much debate over whether using hyphens (dashes) in your domain name is a good or bad thing, which usually means there is definitive answer but there are a few points you should bear in mind –
Advantages of hyphens
- You may find it easier to to find your perfect domain name if you’re willing to use a hyphen eg. greenwidgets.com may already be taken, but there’s a better chance that green-widgets.com might be available.
- Using hyphens can also help to ensure that search engines (and others) can correctly discriminate your key words. (The example often quoted here is expertsexchange.com – is it experts-exchange or is it expert-sex-change?)
Disadvantages of hyphens
- It’s a lot easier to tell someone your website is “greatgreenwidgets dot com” than “great dash green dash widgets dot com”… or in other words, having hyphens in your domain name may make it harder to remember and also more difficult to advertise on the radio or through word of mouth.
- For people who notice such things, too many hyphens can make a name look a little “tacky” and/or as if you couldn’t afford anything better. Not to mention that if you’re ever in a position of wanting to sell your domain, hyphens can affect the re-sale value too.
You can probably get away with one or two hyphens (at most), especially if they help to make your name more meaningful, but if you find yourself considering any more, you may be better off looking for an alternative name.
Note that underscores (_) cannot be used in domain names.
Get creative – but not crazy
Whilst Amazon, Apple and even the mighty Google may have had the marketing budgets to spend on branding and promoting a name which has little or nothing to do with their business activity, you’ll be giving yourself a head start if you can come up with a name that makes sense right off the bat. ie. if you’re selling green widgets, greenwidgets.com would be ideal but perhaps naturalwidgets.com or ecowidgets.com would do just as well and will still give your visitors a good idea of what they can expect from your site and your business.
Want to play?
I’m always happy to help businesses come up with the right domain name(s) but if you want to research the options yourself, there are plenty of online tools which will help you do just that. If you want to have a play with ideas, you may like to check out some of the following sites –
Still having trouble deciding on your perfect domain name? Why not contact me and let’s brainstorm together?