If your business is looking to expand into the online marketplace, having a safe, branded website is an absolute must. Choosing a domain name, however, can often be as stressful as naming the business itself. After all, domain names are part of the overall brand and influence whether a customer trusts, or can even find, your website.
Similar to choosing a strong business name, deciding on a domain name can have far reaching ramifications for your business. Fear not though! In this guide, we walk you through exactly how to choose the best domain name for your site to stand out and make a great impression.
Why Is Your Domain Name So Important?
Your domain name is one of the key elements of your website that can help make or break business. Whether you’re building a site from scratch or using a website builder to get started, it’s important to choose a memorable name that helps customers find you easily.
Here are some reasons why your domain matters:
- A strong brand: Having a recognizable domain name can help build brand awareness and add to your business identity.
- Customer trust: Domain names are often the first exposure to your business a customer gets. Having a professional and memorable domain name can amplify your brand and build confidence in your customers.
- Professional appearance: A proper, registered domain name can help you seem more legitimate and professional for visitors. While it’s possible to use a subdomain like johndoe.wordpress.com, this can hurt your reputation.
- Control over your brand: Even if you don’t create a website right away, registering your business name as a domain is important for preventing others from registering it instead, which could be used to confuse customers or sell competing products.
How to Choose a Domain Name For Your Business
1. Choose Your Extension
The first step is choosing your extension, also known as a Top Level Domain or domain suffix. Common ones include .com, .net, and .org, but there are tons of options out there today. The most well-known for business use is .com. It can add a look of professionalism, but there are plenty others to choose from.
Newer, more creative options like .photo or .cooking can help set your brand apart. Plus, as .com is the most common, you may have more luck with your first-choice domain name if you use one of the more unique options. The trade-off is that since these are less well known, your domain might be harder for customers to remember or it may look spammy.
2. Branded Is Best
The first choice for your domain name should either be your business name or something close. Keeping it close to your official name will make it easier for customers to seek you out online and embrace your brand identity.
While the name itself is the easiest option, you can choose to branch out slightly to make it unique and memorable, as long as it’s still on brand. For example, Embassy Suites owns the domain escapetoday.com as one of its domains. Even though the domain doesn’t include the name of the brand, it’s still on-brand as it promotes travel and adventure.
3. Avoid Generic or Vague Domains
An important aspect to consider when choosing a domain name is keeping it relevant and avoiding being vague. If you’re a painter who runs a business under the name Jacob Smith, using the domain name jacobsmith.com will probably be too generic.
Instead, you can add a simple keyword to help distinguish your website right away. You could register jacobsmithpainter.com so your customers can easily find you. This is important if your business is a common phrase or is your personal name.
4. Keep It Short
It’s difficult for people to remember long domain names. You want to be able to convene what your site is, but in a concise way. Aim for around 5-15 characters in length, and not more than two or three words.
5. Make It Easy to Type and Pronounce
If your domain name is hard to pronounce or confusing to type, you could lose business. While unique words can make you stand out, if no one can remember exactly what the word is or how to spell it, you won’t see much traffic to your site.
This also means you need to avoid overcomplicating the layout of the words. For instance, putting a hyphen between each word makes it harder for people to get it right, and is generally unnecessary.
6. Consider the Longevity of the Name
While it’s easy to get excited and jump into registering a domain, you’ll want to take a step back and think about its long-term use before committing. It’s not impossible to change a domain once your site is up and running, but it can add a layer of confusion for customers looking for your site.
You want a domain name that will remain relevant as your brand grows and evolves. It’s not a good call to include “new” in your name, for instance, as you won’t be a new business for long. For the same reason, don’t add the year to your domain, as it will quickly become out of date.
If you see your business expanding across multiple locations, don’t include a city or town name in your domain.
7. Brainstorm Alternatives
As mentioned above, keeping your domain name close to your business name will give you the best results. Still, it’s good to have a list of potential names, in case your top choice is already in use. All your options should follow the guidelines above.
List out a few different variations or use a domain name generator if you’re really stuck. Then, run your ideas past friends or family to gauge their thoughts and reactions. While their opinions will be subjective, they can help you narrow down your options.
8. Research the Name
After you’ve settled on a name, it’s a good idea to research the history behind the domain and, of course, check whether it’s available for use. First, you can simply search your ideal name to see what pops up. Obviously, if there is already a site in use, you’ll probably have to go with an alternative.
If there’s no site associated with the domain, you can check to see if it’s already registered to someone else, or was registered in the past to anyone. This can help you determine its validity and check to see if it is associated with any spammy or unsavory sites, as you probably want to stay away from that.
9. Check for Any Risk of Copyright Infringement
A domain name that contains a trademarked brand name or sounds very similar to it (such as amazoon.com) is liable for trademark infringement. This could mean your business winds up in court, potentially owing damages to another company, even if it was an honest mistake.
When choosing a domain name, it’s important to check trademark databases such as the US Patent and Trademark Office, as your domain name might be trademarked or part of a branded name.
Make sure your domain name isn’t too similar to other names, even if they aren’t trademarked. For example, you might want to vary the name if your cleaning service is called CleanRight, but your competitor’s name is called CleanRite. While it may not be trademarked, it is confusing to customers and can lead to disputes between companies in court.
When in doubt about your domain name, it’s best to consult with a lawyer before your site goes live.
10. Register Your Domain Name
As soon as you’ve decided on the perfect domain name, you’ll want to snag it. Domains are snatched up everyday, so if you hesitate, you might end up back at the drawing board. You can use an online domain registrar to register the name and make it your own.
Depending on the domain registrar, you may be able to register the name for anywhere between one and ten years by prepaying. Getting a one-year term makes sense if your business is in transition or just starting out, but if it’s already well-established, you can often get discounts by signing into multi-year domain contracts.
The Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Domain Name for Your Business
To ensure that your future customers will be able to find you easily, keep these points in mind:
- Avoid special characters and numbers where possible. These can be hard to remember correctly. They also tend to look spammy and less professional, so people may be wary when interacting with your site.
- Avoid long names that are confusing or wordy. These can easily be mistyped, which can lose you traffic.
- Avoid choosing a name that is too similar to your competitors or other sites. This can lead to customers finding the wrong business and you losing out to your competitors.
What Can You Do If Your Ideal Domain Name Is Unavailable?
If your ideal domain name is already taken, you have a few options:
- Try a different Top Level Domain. If the .com option of your name is already in use, you could use a .net or .co instead.
- Tweak it slightly. If your chosen name is taken, you could add or remove a word, abbreviate a name, or otherwise tweak it in a minor way that still matches your brand voice.
- Try to buy it. Many times people own domain names that aren’t actually being used. If you are set on the name and it’s not currently an active website, you can reach out to the domain owner (you can find the information on WhoIs) and ask to purchase it.
The Best Way for Your New Business to Accept Payments Online
Once you’ve set up a website, you’ll need a way to accept payments online. Pay.com is a full payment service provider that makes it simple for new businesses to accept a wide variety of payment methods, including credit cards, digital wallets, and more.
Getting started with Pay.com is simple and straightforward with an easy onboarding process that takes no time at all. Once you’ve been approved, you can integrate a customized checkout page directly into your site and start accepting payments immediately.
Plus, with your user-friendly Pay Dashboard, you can track payments made through your site, pull reports, and issue refunds if necessary.
The Bottom Line: Your Domain Name Matters
With online searching and shopping continually on the rise, having a standout domain name really matters. It helps your customers find and remember your site. It’s also a great branding opportunity, and it can distinguish you from the competitors. Choosing a domain name should be a careful and considered process, as it will be a lasting feature of your business.
Once you’ve gotten your domain set up, you can use Pay.com to turn your site into an ecommerce venture. With a custom checkout page and multiple payment options for customers, Pay.com makes it simple to do business online.