Getting a domain name for your business: Part 1
Who doesn’t like coming up with new names? I love naming businesses, pets, babies, blogs, products … and when you’ve just been mulling over an idea inside your own head, giving it a name is the first step in making it real. With a fresh and exciting new idea it’s a clean slate, so you can let your imagination run wild! Almost.
Nowadays, when it comes to names, one of the most important things you have to consider is the almighty Internet. If your new idea is going to have a place on that vast digital landscape it will need a domain name and you will want it to be a goodie!
Today I am looking at a few things to consider before you register that all important domain name.
Why is it called registering a domain?
Domain names are not something your can ever own outright. Instead, you are renting the license to use the name for a set period, with an option to renew the lease. The process involves you registering the name you want with an organisation called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) through a domain name registrar. So, when I registered lisakate.wpengine.com I went to a domain registrar and paid a registration fee for a two year lease. In two years I will be asked if I want to renew the lease on that name. If I don’t, it will become available for someone else to use.
Finding the right domain name
Thinking about your domain name early-on is always a good idea, as you don’t want to decide on a new business or product name only to discover that it’s not available as a domain name. Searching for your domain is also a quick way to find out what businesses are out there with similar names and what their digital footprint is like (you don’t want to compete with an established brand with a similar name). So, I highly recommend brainstorming your business name in conjunction with your domain name search (and for that matter obtaining your social media handles, but that is another post). Some tips to think about are:
Domain names don’t have any spaces (of course), so if you are keen on a particular business name, check what other possible words can be made from it once it has been domain-name-ified. There are some very funny examples of names that definitely don’t work (dicksondata.com hmmm?), so make sure you don’t end up on that list. A good way to avoid this is to get someone else to check your proposed domain name, by writing it down all lower case and one word and asking them to read it to you. My brother did read Multiples of Two (my previous business name) as “multiple-soft-wo.com” but of course I just chose to ignore him 🙂 You are mainly looking for rude words or unintended meanings.
If you are going for a unique spelling of a word make it a strong part of your brand. Lots of startups and tech companies drop letters or use cool spellings to get names that have already been registered; like Flickr. Really think about whether this will work for your overall brand and if you are okay spelling out your domain name to everyone you talk to. Lastly, you want your domain to be unique, so choosing a unique spelling of an established brand is definitely not a good option.
My business Puppy Tales is obviously a small play on words which can be confusing in terms of spelling. So when I registered puppytales.com.au I also bought puppytails.com.au and redirected it back to the main URL, so I didn’t have to spell it out every time I told someone my domain name.
Keywords and branding
If you are brainstorming business names you might want to consider having one of your main business keywords in the URL address to help improve your SEO. But, I do not recommend going overboard with keywords, and don’t squeeze them into your business name if they don’t work. It is much more important to build a brand name than incorporate generic terms into your domain and business name just for the sake of trying to rank well in search engines. When you scroll through the Google results for your search a branded domain name is more trustworthy and appealing than a string of generic words like applyingforamortgage.com. However, if you can achieve keywords and a great brand name – go for it!
Hyphens and numbers
In the past there have been suggestions that hyphenated URLs were easier for search engine robots to read. I would say your ability to verbally tell someone about those hyphens is problematic and a good reason not to use them. The use of numbers is also generally seen as a no-no because people are left wondering if it should be spelled out or typed with numerals. I broke this rule with Multiples of Two (my previous business name) but I do own multiplesoftwo.com and multiplesof2.com so this helps to get around the issue.
In some countries you have to be very careful about infringing on anyone’s registered trademark with your site’s name. Visit your local Patent & Trade Office or Business Registration office and search the records before you lock anything in.
Do you need a .com domain or can you get something else?
The extension at the end of you domain — for example .com or .com.au — is called a top-level domain or a TLD. Most people agree it is better to get the .com domain if it is available. We all know business these days is a global endeavour and .coms usually rank better in search engines and are easier to remember. Reasons people might choose a non .com TLD include:
- Wanting to serve a single geographic region i.e. Australia (.com.au), or Germany (.de) or the United Kingdom (.co.uk)
- The .com they want is not available so they opt for a geographic TLD or a .net, .org, .tv, .biz, etc.
My business Puppy Tales sits on a .com.au domain for two reasons:
- The .com domain was not available. A domain squatter had it and wanted a large amount of money for it. While that was annoying it also let me know there wasn’t an established business called Puppy Tales using the .com domain.
- When I started the blog and shop I was concentrating on Australian readers and customers and so felt .com.au would target them better. Since then the blog has grown and I definitely target a global audience.
In hindsight I would recommend trying to get a .com unless you have really good reasons not to.
What if my name is not available?
You might already have a blog name with a big following and you don’t want to change it. Or maybe you have come up with the most amazing business name and someone is squatting on that domain. You can start thinking about adding words to the start or end of your brand. Examples include words like: get, my, your, lets, hq, app, media, group, etc. For example Pocket is getpocket.com and Freckle is letsfreckle.com.
If you’re desperate to have a domain and it’s taken, hope isn’t lost. It’s possible to buy the domain name off the owner, but the process can get a bit cloak & dagger and you want to make sure that you’re not getting ripped off (in a real sense!) Tim Ferriss has some great tips on buying a squatted domain. If you’re lucky and the name isn’t too popular you might be able to get it for $500. But a popular and highly trafficked name can go into the tens or hundreds of thousands.
Should I just use my own name?
If you are a creative and are showcasing your particular skill or service on the website then using your own name i.e. carlahackett.com is definitely a great option. It is actually a growing trend right now because social media is enabling everyone to become their own brand. But if you plan to grow your business into a larger team of creatives or sell it at a later date, using your own name is probably not the best option. If you do happen to find your own name available (first/last or even first/middle/last) I would grab it anyway — you never know when you might need it. (Or what someone else might do with it!)
At the end of the day, remember: word-of-mouth marketing is important for any business so a domain name that is unique, pronounceable and memorable wins. This means thinking about all the above tips and applying them appropriately to your situation.
In Getting a domain name for your business: Part 2 I discuss tools to check availability, Registrars, the new generic TLDs just released and a few other tips around the registration process.
Image credit: Share Design