You are ready to create your first website so what domain name to choose?
Don’t rush into this because your domain name has to work now and in future. You have to live with it for a long time and if you get it wrong now you will give yourself headaches later on.
What’s the purpose of a domain name?
Your domain name identifies you, your business, your location or a combination of all three. It should tell people whop you are, what you do and perhaps where you do it.
If you are already well known you can register a vanity domain name. That’s not an insult term it simply means a well known name that has already been heavily promoted and marketed so that it is instantly recognisable and people will naturally search for that name alone. For example Johnny Depp, Beyonce, Donald Trump (heaven forbid!) can quite reasonably expect to be searched for and found immediately simple with www.theirname.com.
Unfortunately we lesser mortals can’t expect the same so it is a big mistake to use just your name as a domain if you want to be found by new clients online.
If you don’t need to be found by new visitors using Google, Bing etc. and your visitors will arrive at your site purely from your own low key circulation, amongst friends and colleagues then that’s fine, but generally, avoid the temptation to rely on your own name if you need new business from strangers.
Using keywords in a domain
How do you yourself find want you want online? For example if you want to find a local plumber the chances are you will go to Google and type in something like “my area plumbers”. It makes sense when you don’t know any company names and you just need to see a list of plumbers nearby. Using a suitable domain name in this case will reduce the list of competitors and improve your chances of being chosen.
You can see that keywords can really help in your domain name but it’s important to not go over the top and create a spammy URL. Brainstorm possible keywords and then add prefixes and suffixes to create good domain names. Keywords tell both users and Search Engines what the website is about. If you are targeting a particular region then add your locality.
If you make red widgets in Timbuctoo perhaps your best domain name might be www.timbuckturedwidgets.com?
What if the best domain has been taken?
Most of the simple and logical domain names will already be taken of course but by rearranging your wording you can usually obtain a suitable domain name. Put your locality last, add hyphens to separate keywords, use a different suffix (co.uk, com, uk, info etc.)..be creative and switch things around to get a name that works for you.
Whatever you do, take your time, brainstorm things and make sure your chosen domain name says what you do and where you do it (if that’s relevant) Also make sure that your domain will cover any future expansion or product ranges and diversification.
Less is more
Less is more when it comes to domain names. Short and sweet, logical and easy to remember is the key.
Promote your domain
A website alone will not set the phone on fire and make your rich. A website is just another tool and needs to be seen to be of any use.
Once you decide on your domain name you need to promote it. Make sure it gets seen everywhere… across all your online and offline properties including social media, printed materials, advertisements, banners, vehicles, business cards, flyers and so on. As your business grows, you may see more direct traffic as customers type your URL into their browser – this is a good sign your brand is becoming well known and your hard work is paying off.
Add other domains and extensions
Another good idea is to register variations of your domain name in other extensions and redirect these URLs to your main domain name.
You can also add new domain names to cover different aspects of your business. For example your plumber might also offer bathroom or kitchen installations in which case they can register www.myareakitcheninstallations, www.myareabathroominstallations” and point those domain names to their main website address. It’s a simple way to “spread your net” especially in a diverse business.
Protecting your domain name
To protect your domain name and stop competitors using it in other variations you can of course register the name with different suffixes. For example if you have a website which is a .co.uk you may want to purchase the .com as well as other extensions (info, org, etc). Some companies also purchase the singular and plural version of their name (if applicable). You can go over the top with this but if you are serious about protecting your brand name then it can make sense.
It is crucial that you don’t let your domain name expire as you run the risk of that name being grabbed by a competitor or worse still an unethical company that holds your domain name to ransom and asks you to pay vast amounts for it. To stop this happening, register your domain names with a reputable supplier (www.123-reg.co.uk) who will send you reminder notices so you can renew your domain name well in advance of expiry dates or even set it to automatically renew until cancelled.
NEVER LET YOUR DESIGNER OR ANYBODY ELSE REGISTER YOUR DOMAIN IN THEIR OWN NAME.
I know that sounds obvious but I am constantly working with clients who find out that they don’t actually own their own domain names! In trust or through lack of knowledge they let their “designers” do it for them and in some nasty cases find themselves over a barrel with no legal rights to access or manage their domains.
BE WARNED… do it yourself or with clear guidance if you’re unsure how.