A domain name is an important branding aspect for a business. It’s how your website will be known on the web, no matter what type of organization you operate. Many successful organizations are recognized by their URL (uniform resource locator) and search engines will immediately suggest directing to those websites because of their familiarity.

Choosing a domain name for a small or medium-sized business (SMB) isn’t as easy as it sounds. This is because of the high competition found on the web, so before committing to a domain name, it’s important to take several factors into consideration when selecting one.

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Why is Your Domain Name Important?

A good domain name will set you apart from your competitors. The web is a big place, so you’ll need to look at it differently than choosing a name to hang on your storefront. Essentially, your website is your virtual doormat, you want it to be welcoming and to give a great first impression. Your chosen domain name should be recognizable and easy to remember, along with being an accurate representation of your brand identity. Once you choose a domain name, you don’t want to change it, so you’ll want to learn how to choose a domain name with care the first time. A smartly chosen domain name will:

  • Boost recognition and brand awareness
  • Add credibility to your company
  • Over time, boost visitor recall
  • Increase SEO

To succeed, you’ll want to select a brandable domain name – something accurate, but catchy. The keywords you integrate into your domain name can play a large role in your URL gaining search traction. Search engine algorithms, most particularly Google, will track how often people search out your URL and, over time, assign it more authority. The more people learn of and remember your URL, the stronger this traction will get. Eventually, combined with other smart SEO practices, you’ll find yourself with a high-ranking website in search results. However, knowing how to choose a domain name for your business is a lot more involved. Read on to discover more tips to help you succeed.

Tips for Choosing a Great Domain Name for Your Business

As a general rule of thumb, shorter is better, be sure to choose a domain name that is easy to pronounce and avoid integrating hyphens and numbers into your URL. Aim to use one to three words in your name that reflects the name of your website and nature of your business. However, be careful not to narrow down your business too much or with specific words people won’t use when they type in their searches; otherwise, they’ll have a hard time finding you. Here are some additional tips:

  • Write down five words that describe your business and pick one to three words that can be logically combined to be accurate, brandable, and memorable.
  • Stick to a classic name that will be timeless, don’t fall into any short-lived trends because you want your website to be relevant no matter how many years have passed.
  • Check social media platforms to see if anyone else is actively using a name you’ve chosen (e.g. facebook.com/yourdomain). If so, try another combination because you’ll want to streamline your brand across all online venues and not be confused with a competitor.
  • Keep your domain name under 15 characters if possible and avoid double letters (these often are typos that can result in lost traffic).

Once you determine a name, check to ensure it hasn’t been trademarked by anyone else. If you’re stuck for ideas or if every name you choose is already in use, try using a domain generator. Options include Nameboy, DomainHole, Lean Domain Search, and Wordoid.

If your name is too similar to other businesses on the web, try to vary it to differentiate yourself from others. Also, never misspell a word if your preferred name is unavailable as it sets you up for failure.

How to Register your Domain

Once you find an available domain name you like, act swiftly before someone else registers it. To do this, you’ll need to choose a registrar. Popular ones include:

  • Domain.com
    One of the most popular registrars, Domain.com has been in business since 1998 and offers a variety of domain options. The average domain name will cost about $10 a year, but may vary slightly. Extras include free SSL certificate, automatic email forwarding, DNS registration and management tools, along with extra privacy and protection options.
  • GoDaddy
    The largest domain registrar, GoDaddy prices vary, but for the first year will cost about $12 for a .com (varies depending upon top-level domain) and will go up the second year when renewed. GoDaddy hosts a range of features, including security tools, SSL certificate, privacy WHOIS protection, and free domain email address, along with several paid options including a service that will broker unavailable domain names.
  • NameCheap
    Costs vary for NameCheap, but also go for just under $9 per year. Renewals either stay the same or go up, depending upon the top-level domain chosen. Comes with free lifetime WHOIS protection, annual protection against DNS/DDoS attacks, dedicated managed WordPress host, SSL certificate, VPN subscription, and a professional email address.

It’s important to understand, businesses cannot own domain names, they register them and can use them as long as they pay the annual fee and keep their registration up to date. Once a domain expires, someone else can scoop it up after a designated period of time, usually about 30 days. Before buying an expired name, check internet archives to ensure it wasn’t previously registered to a spammer because that will sink you in search engine results.

Choosing a domain name is an important aspect of marketing and is not a decision to take lightly. However, giving it careful thought can go a long way towards strengthening your brand and boosting its online visibility.