Domain name 101: A beginner’s guide for small businesses

domain-name

Your company’s domain name plays a critical role in both your branding and credibility.

Simply put, a domain name is the unique address for your website. It has two components: 

  • Your address
  • Your suffix

As an example, when considering the domain name “google.com,” “google” is the address, and “.com” is the suffix.

We purposefully did not use the term URL in defining a domain name because a URL can be far more specific than that and navigate to a page or even a section of a page on your website.

The following are reasons why choosing the best domain name for your business is important, our tips on how to do so and how you can register the perfect domain.

Why choosing the right domain name matters

Look professional

A clear, customized domain name gives your website an air of authority and professionalism. Since a huge part of converting leads to customers involves building a relationship, it’s easy to see how the right domain immediately conveys trust to your visitors. 

In this sense, you are the owner of your company’s identity. (You don’t want a Facebook page to act as your website, for example, because you don’t actually own it. Facebook does.)

Easier to find

The more complicated and confusing the domain name, the harder it is to find. It’s also easier for people to forget or have a typo.

Of course, the goal is that your domain is easy enough to remember and go to later after seeing it (if necessary).

For example, if you have a work vehicle with your domain on it, will people seeing not only be able to read and understand it quickly but also remember it? That’s a test you should keep in mind because no matter what the medium, time is currency, and busy people will very easily forget a domain name that’s too long or complicated.

Boost your SEO

A clean domain name is good for your search engine ranking as well. This is because you can always add a keyword to your domain that helps visitors and search engines associate your website with your main field of expertise. That helps it rank better for that keyword topic.

Personalized email

You have to have a registered domain name to have an email address that includes that domain name.

For example, you might expect an employee of Wells Fargo to have an email address that ends in “@wellsfargo.com.” It’s because Wells Fargo owns “wellsfargo.com” that they can do that.

How to choose the best domain name

Keep it as short as possible

While domain names can use up to 253 characters, we never recommend maxing out on that limit. It would be a very bad idea. Trust us.

Just like with every other type of communication and medium (especially online), the shorter the better. Try shooting for fewer than 12 characters if you can.

Is it easy to type and pronounce?

Spelling is huge here. If your domain name is easy to misspell, consider an alternate approach. Also, if you’re stringing two or more words together, take a close look at what that new single address can be read as.

For example, itscrap.com for IT Scrap also reads as “it’s crap.”

Be aware of these potential faux pas in your domain name. A few colleagues or friends could what you’ve come up with to make sure that it’s also easy to understand and pronounce. 

Use letters only

In the same sense that you want your domain to be easy to understand and pronounce, the use of any numbers or symbols (like hyphens) automatically makes that more difficult.

For example, if the word “great” is in your address, you do not want to spell that as “gr8.” Even using the number 4 versus the word for isn’t a great option when it comes to clarity.

And as previously mentioned, hyphens can be very confusing. Is it a dash? Is it an underscore? You never want anyone wondering.

Stay true to your brand

This is about the bigger picture. What does your business stand for? What does your logo look like? What are you planning to post on your social media?

While you’re brainstorming, you want to make sure that what you come up with is reflective of your branding that should already be underway. You domain name is just one (very important) piece of that.

Only include keywords if appropriate

In general, your domain name can be the same as your company name, a variation of it or your company name with an added keyword. Why a keyword?

As stated earlier, using a keyword can help boost your SEO by helping visitors and search engines associate your website with a particular topic or field of expertise.

But don’t let this temptation to improve your SEO derail your domain name altogether. Moderation is always critical when using keywords anywhere on your website (including the domain). Otherwise, it will appear forced and spam-like.

A great example of when it is appropriate to use a keyword is in the photography industry. Using a domain name like johndoephotography.com or photosbyjohn.com is a good approach.

It’s okay to localize

In addition, you might want to consider a nod to your locale if you operate within a specific area. For example, your city or state name might be helpful to add, especially if you’re bumping up against domain name ideas that are not available.

If you’re outside of the United States, you also could consider a suffix like “.fr” for a business operating in France.

This option also can help your local SEO, which refers to the optimization around appearing in search engine results for a specific area. 

Already trademarked or copyrighted?

This is very important and often overlooked as new domain names are selected.

Once you have a top two or three domain name ideas, you must do your homework. Look up competitor brands and dig into trademark and copyright databases.

If anyone else has used your preferred domain name even in other ways than in a domain, you should avoid it.

The “best” worst-case scenario is that you cause customer confusion. The “worst” worst-case scenario is getting sued.

Either way, it’s something to keep in mind before you register your domain name.

Consider your suffix

As we mentioned before, the suffix is the second part of your domain name, and it deserves just as much thought and consideration as the address portion.

The most popular suffix on the internet, “.com,” stands for “commercial” and can be the most expensive and used. However, there are other options that might work even better for you depending on the type of business you are (especially if the address you would like isn’t available with a “.com”).

Examples of the most common alternatives include (but are not limited to):

  • .org: This suffix stands for “organization” and is typically used for nonprofits and charities.
  • .net: This suffix is typically used by online businesses and high-tech applications and services.
  • .me: This suffix is typically used for online resumes, blogs, portfolios or personal branding.
  • .info: This suffix stands for “information” and is typically used for information and educational websites.

Truly, the possibilities these days are almost endless, including “.media” and “.tv.” It all just depends on what you think will work best for your branding, overall functionality and customer use.

Is it available on social media?

Consistency is a big part of successful branding. You preferably don’t want your domain name to be one thing and then all your social media account usernames (or handles) to be something else (or variations that differ across platforms).

Not only will your branding benefit, but it ensures a smoother customer experience.

Don’t wait

As soon as you come up with your top three or five options, do not wait to register! Other businesses and individuals are snatching up domain names all the time. Something that is available today might not be available tomorrow. (This includes usernames and handles on social media as well.)

Think ahead

You might be a small or new business now, but it’s important to think ahead for the future. This means a few things. First, you want your domain name to make sense for any growth your business might see (heads up if you’re localizing your address, for example). 

In addition, be sure to purchase not only your preferred domain but also a few variants of it. This guards against competitors using them. So, think of variations of the address itself (such as with a “the” in the beginning, for example) and different suffixes.

How to register your domain name

You’ll want to start with a licensed registrar, such as GoDaddy, Wix or Google, to name a few. Doing so ensures that your domain name is protected and is only yours for the duration of your purchase.

It’s important to note that the governing agency, called ICANN (which stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), is essentially in charge of domain names. So, when you purchase a domain from a service like GoDaddy, ICANN takes a cut of that because they manage the Domain Name System (otherwise known as DNS) that logs and directs where your domain name sends visitors essentially. 

Of course, now comes the point of cost. Registering a domain name can cost as little as $1 per year to considerably more than that. And it all depends on the popularity and demand for that particular domain. 

To lower costs, make sure you have a top three or five options that you can determine the cost for, knowing that you can play with suffix variations as previously mentioned. Your top choices could either be taken or out of your budget. Don’t feel defeated! Simply start again with your brainstorming. You will find something that works for your budget, your branding and your customers.

Need assistance with your digital marketing? First, check out our Digital Marketing 101 Beginner’s Guide. Then, consider scheduling a free DailyStory demo with us today.

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