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A Brief Guide to Choosing the Right Domain Name

A Brief Guide to Choosing the Right Domain NameSetting up a new website for your latest venture? How exciting! Congratulations!

Every website needs a domain name, and it’s imperative to pick a good one right from the start. Once you’ve registered your domain, told all of your business contacts, printed business cards and generally branded everything, it’s only going to cost you money and effort if you change your mind later on.

Though picking a great domain name can sound like a big responsibility, it’s easy when you take the right things into account. Following these simple rules should help you come up with a domain name that appropriately represents your organisation online, not to mention one that stands the test of time!

Brand Considerations

Firstly of course, you need to make sure your domain name ties in seamlessly to your brand. If your organisation has been around for a while without a website, brainstorm the different ways that your team and your clients refer to your company’s name. If it’s a new endeavour, consider the possible ways of communicating that name. Let’s say for example that your company is called Smith & Patel Surveying Ltd – you may come up with these examples for your domain name:

  • sandpsurveying
  • sandpsurveys
  • smithandpatel
  • smithandpatelsurveys
  • smithandpatelsurveying
  • smithandpatelsurveyingltd

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These are all great domain name ideas, but remember that the “sandp” examples may only be appropriate if the other branding refers to the company as “S & P,” rather than stating the names “Smith & Patel.” Whatever you choose needs to be the shortest and most intuitive way of rationally conveying your brand.

On the subject of brands, always avoid known brands or potentially infringing ideas. Puns on known brands or slogans are also out – if you can realistically be mistaken for another brand, that’s infringement. Remember that if an infringement claim is made against you, it’s not your word against theirs; it’s the opinion of the legal professionals dealing with the case. It pays to steer clear of any kind of ambiguity and forge your own path.

Be Individual and Memorable

It always pays to give all of your brainstormed ideas a cursory Google search to make sure they’re different enough from other organisations out there, and that there will be no confusion between yourselves and another website. While you’re at it, you might also want to check social media channels for the same names, just to make sure you can reserve whichever name you end up choosing on social media too.

There is some debate about including a keyword in your domain name. Choosing a domain with a keyword in it can have minor SEO benefits, but it is by no means essential. Joel from PixemWeb over on YouTube explains the whole situation far better than I can:

Aim for Clarity

You need to ensure your domain name is as clear as you can make it. Some consider myvideographygear.com a better domain than my-videography-gear.com. This can be due to simply having to say “my dash videography dash gear dot com” when someone asks for your web address, as opposed to simply “my videography gear dot com.” Generally people don’t type hyphens between words, and some also argue that hyphens between words in a domain seems spammy. All-in-all, avoid using hyphens unless you really have to.

You may also want to avoid using numerical characters or alternative spellings where non-essential. If your branding does contain a number, be prepared to register two domains – one with the numerical characters and one with the numbers as words. For example, for a company called “Day 7 Design,” you may wish to register “day7design” and “daysevendesign.” Similarly, if your brand contains alternative spellings like “u/you” or “extra/xtra” you may also wish to register domains with both spellings.

If you purchase any such alternate domain names, you should set up what is called a “301 redirect” to your main domain; this means anyone who tries to access one of your alternative domains will be automatically forwarded to your main site. However, please be aware that this kind of forwarding doesn’t work for email, so be sure to clearly communicate the spelling of your email address to other people.

It’s also a good idea to get “http://yourdomain.com” to automatically forward to “http://www.yourdomain.com” or vice versa. Your web developer should be able to help with this.

It Ain’t Over ‘Til the TLD Sings

The TLD (or “top-level domain”) is the end part of the domain name after the “dot,” i.e., .com, .co.uk, .net, .biz, etc. When you purchase a domain name, one of the things you will have to choose is which TLD you want, which can require a little more thought than you may think. If you’re a business that operates globally, you might not want to be tied to a country code TLD like .co.uk. Conversely, if you operate solely within the UK, then a .co.uk address makes more sense.

A few years ago, a number of new TLD’s were added so you can now buy funky TLD’s like “.builders,” “.photo,” or “.agency.” Though this does give you more choice than ever before, people are far more familiar with a .com or .co.uk, so professional organisations may be best sticking with these more recognisable suffixes.

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Once you’ve chosen your domain name, you may wish to register it with one or two appropriate TLD’s to avoid confusion should someone come along with a similar company name.

Think Practically

Remember that your domain name is a practical thing that you have to be able to convey accurately to others, and something you have to be comfortable saying. As you brainstorm your ideas for domain names, say each out loud, and imagine dropping it into a conversation. Is there any element of the name that is unclear or problematic? Does it flow nicely or do you trip over the words? Your website address needs to be intuitively clear for you and your team to state in general conversation, and for the listener to understand.

What if the domain I want isn’t available?

Well, that’s a shame. Hopefully if you have brainstormed multiple names, you’ll have a second favourite that isn’t too different without being easily confused with the domain that’s taken. Maybe you could consider a different TLD, change a keyword if you’ve included one, or think of a creative way to restate your brand name. You could go back to the drawing board with regards to how people refer to your name, or use initials if you use them in your branding.

Setting up a new website? Start off on the right foot with a carefully selected domain name... Click To Tweet

So reader, what considerations do you think are most important in picking a domain name? Are you in the middle of picking a domain name for a new venture? What are your concerns? If you’ve already got a domain name – what things do you wish you’d considered before registering it? Please share your thoughts down in the comments!