Your domain name can have tangible impacts on a number of different areas of your business. Online, we are most concerned with your domain in search result pages and how it is displayed on social networks. Off-line, your domain choice can impact things like traditional advertising channels–think printed ads, TV, mailers, and radio.

You can be in a number of positions while searching for a new domain name. Maybe it’s an entirely new company of yours, from scratch, (congrats!). Or maybe it’s a new brand being spun out of your existing business. Your company can be new to the online world and investing in the first website. Maybe it’s a new startup, or something as simple as idea validation before the startup. Not every rule will be 100% applicable to your specific situation, you can think of these as heavily suggested guidelines.

Without further ado, here are our top rules and tips for choosing a domain name for your business.

RULE 1

Your domain name is one of the most crucial aspects of your business’ overall digital presence. Keep in mind…

  • YOU ONLY CHOOSE YOUR DOMAIN NAME ONCE.
  • ONCE LAUNCHED, IT WILL NEVER CHANGE.
  • YOU ARE MARRYING YOUR PIECE OF THE INTERNET FOREVER.

Changing your business’ domain down the road is costly. It almost always results in decreased sales, due to a number of compounding factors. If you’re in this position, let’s chat. The only reason your domain name would change is is due to an earth-shattering lawsuit or other monumental revelation; where the choice of domain change is second only to a complete forfeiture of your entire business.

How do your customers know you and your business? Think long term.

RULE 2

Don’t infringe on anything. We’re talking trademarks, companies, products, and brands. You are your own entity, celebrate that and be unique. Try not to copy anyone. Yes, that means purchasing a slight variation of your biggest competitors’ business name.

Remember: it’s not your perception that matters. Your competitors and their lawyers’ perception reigns supreme. If you’re still thinking, “Eh, I can get away with it”; feel free to refer to Rule 1.

RULE 3

It should be a domain name with a “.com” at the end. The “.com” is officially referred to as a Top Level Domain, or TLD. It’s important because the “.com” TLD is used on about 75% of the websites in existence. It’s where domain names started and it’s going to be most the recognizable by your customers.

RULE 4

Make sure that the domain name you choose is pronounceable. It may seem like an odd rule, but there’s an actual scientific reason behind the suggestion. Processing Fluency and Retrieval Fluency within our customers’ minds are important here. Wikipedia defines retrieval fluency as “… the ease with which information can be retrieved from memory.” Simple enough.

Wikipedia defines processing fluency as “… the ease with which information is processed.” Not necessarily rocket science. The kicker here is the subconscious correlation between an increase in processing fluency and a positive cognitive bias in our brains. Pretty much, our subconscious connects a good experience to pronounceable things, as it makes our lizard-brains work less. Yay for science.

The ultimate question you should ask yourself: Can someone spell this domain after hearing it for the first time? If you’re not 100% sure, test it before buying the domain.

RULE 5

The shorter the better. It’s easier to remember. It’s easier to type. It’s easier to read and recall. The good ‘ole KISS Principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) is very applicable here.

RULE 6

Make sure the domain name you choose is brand-able from a marketing perspective. That means no hyphens, ever. You should also stay away from multiple numbers, except for unique circumstances.

It can be a good idea to research what social account names are available, as well as think about how this specific URL will fair over time.

RULE 7

Your domain should be intuitive, connecting to what your business actually does. After reading or hearing your domain name, does that new person have a good one idea what you do or who you are? Inside jokes, slang terms, and various trends are all things that should be avoided here. You should also be careful when trying to be clever; sadly, our jokes aren’t always as funny as we think they are.

RULE 8

Don’t go keyword crazy. It can actually hurt your marketing efforts when overused, and will ultimately look like spam to your prospective customers as well as Google. A single, specific keyword that is super-pertinent to your business is OK.

RULE 9

Ignore domains that are for sale, 99% of the time. The domain-name-squatting folks and companies expect to receive a premium on their businesses’ products, which happen to be the exact domain you’re absolutely in love with. Prices can range from hundreds to thousands, with very little tangible value associated with the domain name unless it currently has a website that is live at the specific URL. (If there’s a website live at the domain for sale, expect to pay significantly more.) Bottom line, purchasing a domain name for your business can be a significant investment, and should be approached with caution. However, well-established businesses who are looking to invest capital in their overall presence can be warranted to take this action in specific circumstances.

RULE 10

Variations can be OK, only if your brand/business name isn’t available. Attaching some sort of prefix to the front, or suffix at the end of your domain name can really open up the options. A restaurant with a popular name could add a prefix like “DineWithRESTAURANT.com” or “EatAtRESTAURANT.com”. A relevant verb modifier can increase memorability of your website.

If your small business services a specific geographic area; think about targeting and individual neighborhood, borough, town, or city. Stay away from state names and their associated abbreviations. Generally, if you’re big enough to serve the entire state, you probably travel beyond state borders. Which ultimately can create confusion for your customers.

If none of the suggestions outlined above are viable for your specific situation, you can weigh the options of looking at alternative TLD’s. Albeit a last option, I would suggest looking at these TLDs, in order of preference:

  • .net
  • .co
  • .org
  • .biz
  • .info

If you’re seriously considering a “.biz” or “.info”, you should probably pick a different domain name. The “.biz” and “.info” TLD’s are great options for secondary websites that supplement your main business’ website. These TLD’s can serve as excellent options for idea validation. I’d seriously caution choosing either for your business’ main website.

RULE 11

This step is really icing on the cake, but it can be a wise decision in many circumstances to complete the “Extension Collection” for your business. That means purchasing the various TLD’s for your business, as well as slight variations of your brand name. We can help you forward extraneous URLs and minor misspellings to your business’ main website.

Beyond being simply good to have, the alternative domains can actually be very pertinent to the future of your business. Who knows, your business could grow to offer an e-commerce store in the future, or might add additional locations over time.

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