What is a domain name exactly?:
A domain name is also called an URL and simply put it is the address that people will type into their browser to find your website.
When do you need one?
Whenever you need a unique web address that isn’t tied to your hosting company, you’ll need to buy and register your domain name.
Allowing third-party platforms like Wix, Weebly, or even Google Sites to own it and tack their extension onto your name is only an option for vanity sites.
For example, if you bought your .com for your new cookie company Ginger Snap people would type in GingerSnap.com to find you, which made the process of finding you easy.
This immediately generates trust and authority in your website than say for example having to type in sites.google.com/GingerSnap or username.wixsite.com/Gingernap which is what your customers have to do when another business owns your URL.
It makes your website address hard to remember, easy to misspell and it is just unprofessional to advertise another company in front of your name.
Some of the benefits to buying your domain are:
- Your content will be indexed higher in search engines because Google values sites registered with ICAN as being more trustworthy than those built on third-party platforms using additional extensions. This translates into increased traffic and more sales.
- · You are building organic traffic which is priceless to your domain over time instead of giving it away to these giant companies that also provide access to your competitors.
- · It makes your business seem more professional and well-established while also making it easier for your customers to find and remember you.
- · It’s yours; you can control it however you want.
1. Choose your domain extension:
So now you’ve decided to buy the perfect domain for your website you have to make some decisions. The first is to decide what extension also known as (TLD) you want to attach to your name.
There are hundreds of domain name extensions available and more on the way every year. Here is a list of all the possibilities:
The best practice and the most effective way to get traffic to your site is to always use the .com extension because it is the most recognized, and people still trust it the most.
Exceptions to this rule are if your business is small and your custom is geared towards local customers and you have overseas competition that you wish to distinguish yourself from you may want to use your country’s extension.
You may also wish to buy other common extensions to protect yourself from competitors. This usually is not a problem for smaller businesses but there are no guarantees and if you can afford to, it is best practice to buy up the common extension variations used in your country and niche.
Using a clever new extension might help you stand out, but it can also make people avoid your site, fearing it is scam bait and it will be harder for people to guess or remember.
If you are in an unusual niche such as A.I. or software development or other cutting edge areas of business you may benefit from using the .io or .ai for example, but you know when you are one of these special exemption cases.
2. Do your Keyword Research:
Doing keyword research is an essential first step when starting a business for many reasons and knowing the terms people search for when wanting to buy your products or service can give you a huge advantage when directing your advertising efforts.
It is also very important to do keyword research when choosing your domain name because it will keep you from picking a name that is already in use by someone else or from using a trademarked term.
It can give you ideas of variations you can use with your name that perform the double duty of making your name available and driving more traffic to your site.
The best domains often contain keywords or location cues relevant to the company’s niche while also sounding natural.
For example, if your business is called ChicStylist.com and it’s taken, you could try ChicStylistGalway.com. You can still use your shorter business name Chic Stylist on your storefront and advertising as long as it’s not copyrighted and Google will recognize from your website copy that your website is selling what it claims.
By adding in a local place name you can get higher rankings in Google Business.
For example, a company called ‘LogoDesign’ would not be able to find their .com domain name available.
They can instead choose SanDiegoLogoDesign.com and in this way hit the target for both local and national searches.
One of my favorite places for free keyword research is Ubersuggest. We offer a free keyword report if you enter your niche and email here. Free Keyword Report. It is always advisable to get a keyword report before you begin to brand your business.
3. Choosing your actual domain name:
What’s in a name? Everything when it comes to your business.
The right domain can boost SEO, improve branding, and drive increased traffic, increasing sales.
It’s important to choose a domain name that suits your brand and accurately reflects the nature of your business, but you also want a simple name so it can easily be remembered and typed in easily by potential customers.
Finding the right name is always a balancing act between simplicity, memorability, accuracy, and availability.
I recommend brainstorming to make a list of variations and possibilities seeing what you can do to make it concise and easy to type.
The most common suggestion is using your company’s name because this will be easy for customers to remember and create uniformity and increased confidence.
You might have noticed that many successful companies like Google or Apple use very short URL names which are simple and memorable.
There was very little online competition when these names were chosen and almost every option was available.
Things have changed and you probably are going to have to be flexible with your name unless you are lucky enough to have an unusual name that is not already taken and also already has brand recognition.
Some other factors to remember are the simplicity of spelling and availability on social media channels.
Also, look at how the name looks written altogether because sometimes you get unintentional words from other words. You may not see the unintended new phrase from the combined letters if your business name is already in the forefront of your mind.
You don’t want to end up like Speed of Art a graphic design company whose URL reads SPEEDOFART.COM. Here are some other amusing examples of what not to do! “Worst Domain Names.”
I once came up with a Url/ Brand Name for a customer that they adored but it turned out to be problematic because almost everybody misspelled the word. Luckily we realized before we launched.
Try saying your URL to friends over the phone and see if they can type it into their browser correctly without seeing it written.
If you can’t find your exact name as an available domain, play around with keywords. Quite often the domain name is dormant or is only being used by another small company in another country, so still using it but adding in a keyword is fine as long as you have done your due diligence.
For example, if a London Streetwear Brand named Mischief wanted to use Mischief.com, and it was taken by a small manufacturer of specialized machine parts in Tulsa, it would not be a problem to use MischiefWear.Com.
Once you have your list of keywords and possible name variations you are ready to see what is available.
4. Check Availability
Now that you have these guidelines in mind you can go ahead and search to see if your domain is available, sometimes it’s not available because someone is legitimately using it, but some businesses buy up domains as speculation, hoping to resell them at a much higher price to someone who wants it badly.
Finally, remember that while you should take your time and do your best to get a good URL, you can always change it later by using an add-on domain. So if you change your mind in the future it is not fatal.
You can check your domain’s availability and purchase it here: Domain Checker. If you already have a website host you can also use their website to search domain name availability or have your developer do it for you. Just as long as the reseller is registered with ICANN as a seller of domains.
5. Register Your domain:
Don’t get distracted at this point by cheap domain name purchases that go along with cheap hosting.
Many of these website hosting companies sell you subpar hosting for very cheap and then charge you extortionately for other necessary services while also charging you double their usual price for the domain the next year.
All the big domain sellers will try to sell you hard on other services you may not need and may cause you problems in the future.
The only add-on when buying a domain that you have to pay for is the Icann fee which is usually less than $1 (depending on your country). ICANN is a regulatory body for website domains and you have to register.
You have to provide accurate details to ICANN so you can be reached if needed and you also want this to be accurate so you can be reminded when your domain is up for renewal or notify you if someone wants to buy it.
However, this information can be used by hackers and spammers to find out who owns an address online so they start targeting it with spam email campaigns and phishing schemes, trying to steal personal information such as passwords, social security numbers, credit card info, etc… This could lead up to identity theft if not stopped!
To avoid this I recommend buying the WHOIS Lookup Privacy service.
Everything else they try to up-sell you is not needed to buy your domain name and is best avoided unless you have researched the services you require and want.
The cost of purchasing your domain name will depend on what type of vendor you buy from as well as how long the domain registration lasts (one year or two).
Some vendors may give you an extension at no extra cost so make sure to read all terms and conditions carefully when choosing where to register with them.
Ensure they allow transfers across different networks-not every network does which makes transferring domains difficult if not impossible sometimes!
Going forward, if you remember this one thing, you will be well on your way to finding the perfect domain name that will guide your business successfully into the future: Do your research! Research your competitors, your keywords, the availability, and how the general public perceives the name.
Now with your new domain, you are ready to build your empire.