Choosing a domain name for your small business is an integral part of launching a new website and online marketing strategy. It is a decision that should not be taken lightly and will impact everything you do, including your company branding, advertising, social media, and likely, your online success.
This is going to continue and, more specifically, expand upon item #2 of 6 Best Ways for Small Business to Find Website Success.
To stay truly relevant in 2015 and beyond, any new or existing small business must carve out their own little niche on the web. And during that process you’ll have to establish a domain name. Your domain name will embody everything you accomplish online, and could be the one thing that will set you apart from your competition. When Google came along Yahoo was already established as the online destination of choice to find what you were looking for. Now years later “Google it” has entered our general lexicon as a term for searching on the web. Google out-maneuvered Yahoo in the zany name category. Google also produced a superior product when all was said and done, but you can bet that their interesting choice of domain name was part of the success.
That being said, it was a whole lot easier to find an available domain name when Google first launched the one search engine to rule them all. When you launch a website, it is the face of your business to the online world. It becomes your front door, office, storefront, salespeople, marketing team, customer service desk, newsroom, and so much more. You need to treat your website and your domain name just as you would your brick and mortar business, and so the ancient rule still applies, “the most important aspect of opening a new business is location, location, and location”. A memorable domain name and a quality website build a strong foundation for the online presence of your small business. That is like having the best location on the block.
There is more than one way to select a domain name for your website. Let’s look at some key ingredients to choosing a good domain name for your small business…
Business Name vs. Meaningful Phrase
Using your business name is a good way build upon the reputation that your business has received in the past. If your business is fairly well known and it has a good reputation then using your business name or something similar is a good choice. But what happens if your name of your business happens to be a common term in the business world, such as “Allied Phalanges” or “Superior Widgets”. Then your choices for a domain name using your business name become more limited. Both allied.com and superior.com are NOT going to be available. And most likely neither are the .org or .net versions of both domains. It turns out that during the last 10 – 15 years there has been a real rush of domains being secured. There are even businesses devoted to snatching up good domains and then selling them. This is known as domain squatting, and it has caused the number of available domain names to dwindle significantly. Even AlliedPhalanges.com or SuperiorWidgets.com might not be available. So, then what do you do?! It has become more commonplace for businesses to you meaningful phrases for their domain name. That can work well to associate a business with what they do, products or services they offer, or what they are known for. This domain name option can be extremely memorable for consumers, especially if your business has a catchy slogan. Not that they need to, but fast food giant Burger King could use HaveItYourWay.com, or automobile manufacturer Dodge could use RamTough.com. That second one, by the way, has been taken by a domain squatter. I’m surprise that Dodge has not sued for the rights to the domain. But I digress. The point I am trying to get across is that your domain name doesn’t necessarily have to be your business name, it can be just as relevant, and even more memorable, if your domain name is a meaningful phrase.
Appropriate Length & Meaning
The length of your domain name is another factor that needs attention. A long drawn out phrase of words that is just too long to type or remember is not a useful domain name. Even though it can be difficult at times to find a domain name that is effective, it is not in your best interest to use something like someincrediblylongdomainthatnoonewillremember.com as a domain name. Not only is it a mouthful, it is also hard to type and even harder to read. That’s just common sense. On the other end of the spectrum are domains that are short just for the sake of being short, especially if it involves the use an acronym that looks like, and is, a random collection of letters. We’ve all seen them, they are horrendous, but again and again businesses continue to go this route when selecting a domain name. It just doesn’t make sense, and it can have a negative effect for your website. Not only is it unremarkable, it is not meaningful or memorable. AND, this is a biggie, it is good for search engine optimization (SEO) to use a phrase that describes what you do as a business, the service(s) you offer, or the type of products you sell. Do NOT use an acronym, Google won’t know what to do with a nasty conglomeration of letters. Oh wait, yes they will, they’ll probably demote the website in search rankings having an unintelligible domain name.
Specificity and/or Locality
When your average consumer in today’s technocentric environment wants to purchase something, whether they plan to go shopping at a retail establishment, or online, the majority of buyers search online first to find the best deal. That includes services as well as tangible products. They do if they are smart anyway. This is where SEO comes into play when choosing a domain for your small business, and this is where a meaning phrase is useful for your domain name. Once they begin their online search, on Google for example, they will most likely type in a common phrase for the item or service they want. And it will start with something specific. If they are planning to get a new pair of jeans, they won’t be searching for “clothing store”. They will search for “jeans”, or probably more specifically, a type of jeans, such as “childrens jeans” or “skinny jeans” or “distressed jeans”. If they ARE planning to shop at a retail outlet, locality will become part of the equation. They will search for “bootcut jeans des moines, ia” or “womens jeans miami, fl”. Consider what a customer or client might type into a search engine when deciding on a domain name, and figure out what best describes your products or services for greatest impact, strongest sale numbers, or optimal profit. Remember, you will get a higher ranking for a search in Google if your domain contains descriptive keywords that are in the search phrase, like JuniorSkinnyJeans.com or DiscountGolfClubs.com. For a brick and mortar retail operation locality in search is critical, so leverage that by including location in your domain name, such as FruitSmoothiesDallas.com or YogaSantaFe.com. There is an additional benefit when using locality in your domain name. Increasing numbers of consumers are searching on their mobile phones where they can get instant directions to a location. If your domain closely matches there search phrase, you will reap the benefits of that domain name selection.
The best and most common domains include the domain extensions of .com, .org, and .net. These are known as Top Level Domains (TLDs). They are the most widely use and sought-after domains, with .com being the most desirable, and according to Google, holds the most weight for ranking in their search engine. But the days of finding desirable .com domain names that are available are behind us. With the boom of the web in the early 2000s, and the subsequent rush for quality domains, most, if not all, of the common names and words from the dictionary are taken. This is where .org and .net domains can be beneficial. If you absolutely want to use your company name as your domain name, and the .com domain has been used, then you have the .org and .net TLDs to fall back on. If those are taken there are other options, but it is better to find a .com address that suits your needs. The additional options include .co, which is growing in popularity, and a multitude of newly introduced TLDs. As you can see, I have decided to use the .media TLD for this website, which was a personal decision when the new TLDs became available. The domain guerdonmendia.com was taken at the time, and it still is, so I opted to use guerdon-media.com for my business website. I have since forwarded that domain to guerdon.media, so in reality I have both. Your selection of a TLD will be based on whether your desired domain name is available within the .com space. If using your business name is important to your brand or you just feel the need to use it, then you can opt for a .org or .net version of that domain name. But there are factors to take into account when choosing to use the .org and .net TLDs. Using the .org or .net version can cause confusion with consumers because they are naturally accustomed to typing in .com for a domain. If you desire to use a meaningful phrase as your domain name, and the .com TLD is taken for that phrase, it might be better to select a different phrase instead of resorting to the .org or .net TLDs. Say for example, you select ReliableRoofingNewYork as your domain name of choice, but find that the ReliableRoofingNewYork.com domain is taken. You could register ReliableRoofingNewYork.net. That will allow you to keep your top choice for the domain name, but you run the additional risk of sending customers to a competitors website. Ultimately it is best to find a quality domain with a .com extension for search ranking on Google, but sometimes that is easier said than done.
Take time to consider all your options when choosing a domain name for your small business. A meaningful, memorable domain that is concise and easy to read or type, with just the right specificity or locality, and a .com extension will often be the difference between website success and website failure.
Remember these tips when it comes time to decide on your small business domain name:
- a memorable phrase can be just as powerful, if not more so, than the business name
- don’t use an acronym, no one will know what it means except for yourself
- be specific with your product or service, and use locality if you have a physical location
- choose wisely when selecting a domain extension, especially when using a phrase for the domain name