You've been busy laying the foundations for your start up business, and it's time to create a website that will do your vision justice. You need to pick a domain name, and it's something you want to get right! Please take some time over this important decision, as the domain name you choose will have a huge impact on your business. It will impact all sorts of things, from how easily people remember and share your brand, to your SEO, the length of your email address and making sure that you stand out amongst the 1.3 billion other websites out there! So, how do you go about picking the perfect domain name?
Let’s start with some technical points;
What makes up a domain name?
Before we get down to business, let's clarify how this works. Your domain name is made up of two parts, which will both require your careful attention. For the sake of ease, I'll use the Teapot Creative web address to demonstrate this: Our website – teapotcreative.co.uk – is constructed of a Second Level Domain, which is the “teapotcreative” part, and an extension or Top Level Domain, which is the “.co.uk” part. The SLD can be absolutely anything you choose, just so long as it's not already been nabbed by someone else. When it comes to TLDs however, there are a limited, but diverse, pool to choose from.
Pick your extension, or “tld”
The extension you will have come across the most is of course “.com”, but there are a host of alternatives. Off limits for government and educational organisations are “.gov” and “.edu” and “.ac.uk”, while the rest are free for anyone to adopt from anywhere in the world. You will likely know “.org” and “.net”, and nationally intended extensions such as “.it” from Italy, and “.es” from Spain. There are many more to explore, such as recently super-trendy “. space”, and “.io”. The latter was originally created for the Indian Ocean territories but has now become synonymous with “Input/Output” and adopted by the tech, gaming, and start-up industries! Before you get spun out by the vast number of options, however, know that sometimes, the old trusty choice is the safest bet.
You can't go wrong with a classic choice
So, which TLD should you use? There is a lot to be said for simply sticking to the classic “.com”, simply because it's the most familiar. As the most used extension, it will be far easier for your audience to remember. “.com” is a sound choice for international companies and indeed if you are aiming at the US. Because of its popularity however, the availability of domains is reduced.
If you are not an international company and only intend to target a local audience, in say the UK, “.co.uk” would be a better pick for you. Google will serve up local territory first in search, as the TLD is geo-targeted.
If there is a niche relevance such as in the “.io” case; or if you are planning on using some clever wordplay which makes your extension read as part of your web address, (the short version domain name owned by Spotify: “spoti.fi”, or Flikr's mini domain: “fli.kr” are great examples of this), you need to give this some careful consideration. Before using a country specific TLD for vanity reasons, you need to carry out some very careful research! It is crucial to note that the domain will be automatically geo-targeted to that country which may mean that you will have difficulty ranking in search in your own territories. Please also keep in mind that some countries are now restricting these TLD’s to businesses based in that country.
Different domain services will offer their own selection of TLDs, so explore your options carefully. We would generally recommend using a service like https://www.123-reg.co.uk/ or we can arrange and manage domains for our clients. Please ensure that the domain is registered in the company name and not an agency or IT supplier. This is to protect this very important company asset from the unscrupulous. Believe me when I say that we have heard it all!
Now let’s help you choose a domain;
Not sure of your company brand name?
Whilst you are deciding on a brand name it is always good to consider the domain name at the same time. Check availability. Don’t forget that there are no 4 letter domain names available.
Choose something unique and catchy
Focus on picking a fantastic, brandable domain name for your website. Take a moment and have a think on which brand websites have stuck in your mind. You no doubt have a handle on your email provider's domain name, and any social media sites that you use, but what else can you recall? Creating a memorable domain name is key, as when people can retain that web address between reading it, and the next time your service pops into their head while they're browsing, yours is going to be the brand that gains their custom.
If your domain name is long and complicated, the chances of anyone remembering it are slim to none. If it's tricky to spell, this will also stand as a probable stumbling point! Imagine someone telling their friend about it over the phone or trying to write it from memory. Think firmly along the lines of short, sweet and easy to share!
Use a domain provider’s search function to check the availability of domain names. Otherwise, you can just test a domain name on Google, and see if it is already owned or not!
What will you convey through your domain name?
You might opt for your business name – like teapotcreative.co.uk – or an abbreviation if your business name is very long. If that doesn't work, you might want to incorporate the service or product niche you’re offering, or even the values and mission behind those things. Keep in mind that your domain name could even hold useful Keywords, which Google will pick up on
Consider search terms in deciding this. Exact match domains (EMDs) were a very valuable asset as it would allow a website to match exact search terms enhancing the ability of a domain to rank. Google supposedly stopped this after a 2012 update but in our experience that is sporadic and they still work. They especially work if the domain name chosen as an EMD is your brand and company name as well. Something to consider.
As with so many things, when it comes to hitting the right note online, balance is key. Weigh up whether your brand name is the thing people remember about your business, or whether your offering is the thing that defines you in the minds of your audience!
Other things to consider
While you are pondering your domain name, definitely take a look at what your competition are up to. You wouldn't want to choose something too similar, resulting in confusion, or worse: a legal infringement on someone else's trademark! Once you've nailed it and are happy that you won’t be treading on anyone else's toes, consider protecting your brand by purchasing other TLDs. Perhaps buy any similar domain names for practicality's sake. If your domain name contains an unusual spelling, it might be worth nabbing the alternative spelling too, and setting it up to redirect to your homepage.
If you opt for “.com”, but are a UK based company, grabbing the “.co.uk” version to protect your brand and allow for flexibility in what you can do in the future could be a wise move. This can also assist you in those occasions when your potential client types in the wrong domain. Creating a re-direct from one domain to another – could be worth the investment. For most, such measures are unnecessary, but you may feel it's a sensible tactic for your brand. Taking all of these factors into account, you are sure to arrive at a great domain name, perfectly suited to the launch of your successful new website!
Need any help or further advice? We are always free to chat through and help.