About this guide: This guide is for picking domain names for you own business website, a client's website or for any project that needs a domain name.
The domain name for a website is just as important as the name of the business. After all, a website is the face of the business online.
But there are a lot of things to consider and it can feel overwhelming, so here are some tips to make it easier. We'll cover the following topics:
- Domain name considerations
- Paying too much
- Domain privacy
- Buying domain names
Domain name considerations
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on a domain name. We'll talk about:
- Domain extensions (.com, .org, .net)
- Numbers & dashes
Some are more important than others, but take them all into consideration. Now let's talk about each one.
At the end of the day availability is the most important because if the domain name you want isn't available, then it doesn't matter how good it is. The best way to increase the chances of the domain name you want being available is to get specific.
In this example, let's say that the website is for a plumber in the Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego and the name of the company is Don's Plumbing. Let's work our way from general to specific to try to find a good domain name.
- Plumbing.com or Plumber.com: Not a chance, way to general.
- CaliforniaPlumber.com: Still too general, but getting there.
- SanDiegoPlumber.com: Better, but San Diego is a large city and county, so it's likely taken thus still too general.
- RanchoBernardoPlumber.com: San Diego has of a lot of neighborhoods and I live in one called Rancho Bernardo. If the website is for a plumber that primarily served this neighborhood, this domain name might be a good fit. It really depends on the area, but it'd also get a boost when prospective customers searched for “plumber rancho bernardo” since those words (called keywords) are in the domain name.
So, the more specific we get with our domain name, the higher the chances that it is available.
We want a relevant domain name. For example, if we're a plumber, we should try to mention plumbing or plumber somewhere in the domain name to let customers (and search engines) know what we do. This also ties in with being specific because the more specific we are, the more relevant we are as well.
The only exception to this is typically reserved for large companies with irrelevant names, but massive, well-known brands (i.e. Google, Nike, etc.). As small businesses, we typically don't fall into this category.
It's important to be memorable, especially when trying to build a local brand. Besides, if the website address isn't memorable it makes it harder for customers to recommend the business by word of mouth.
Small businesses get much of their business through word of mouth, so we should make it as easy as possible for our customers to recommend it to others. A memorable domain name makes it easy to talk about.
So what does a memorable domain name look like?
- DonaldsPlumbingServicesLLC.com: The longer it is, the harder it is to remember.
- DonsPlumbing78312.com: Numbers, especially when they're random, make it hard to remember. The only exception might be if it's the area code you serve and it makes sense to use it.
- Dons-Plumbing-ServicesLLC: Now, where were those dashes again? And how many were there?
- DonsPlumbing.com: Uses the name of the company.
- RanchoBernardoPlumbing.com: Uses the service and the area served.
- 858Plumbing.com: Uses the area code of the area served and names the services offered.
When it comes to domain names, typically the shorter the better. Not only are they easier to remember, but they look better.
That said, this isn't a hard and fast rule, it's just something to consider. For example, DonsPlumbing.com is better than DonsPlumbingServices.com, but DPlmbg.com isn't better than DonsPlumbing.com.
When choosing between two domain names of similar quality, go for the shorter one. But don't let trying to make a domain name as short as possible overrule the other factors mentioned above.
Which domain extension should I use? .com, .net, .org, .biz, etc?
The .com domain is the best choice for a domain name because it is the most common. If you buy a .com, also try to scoop up the .net and .org versions if they're available (they're only $10/year) and redirect them to the website on the .com.
If you can't find an available .com, then .net and .org are runners-up. They're acceptable, but if I was using a .org or .net I'd worry about customers typing in .com by accident. It's not a massive concern or a deal breaker, but just something to consider.
I'd stay way from all the other extensions (such as .biz, .pro, .me, .info ). This is largely personal preference, but to me they seem cheap. It's also likely that most of your customers aren't familiar with them. As time passes they may become more acceptable.
Numbers & dashes (hyphens) in the domain name
If possible, avoid using numbers and dashes in the domain name. They're not inherently bad, but they're often used incorrectly, or in a way that decreases domain name quality. This often results in making a website less memorable and look less reputable.
So as a general rule I recommend staying away from dashes and numbers if possible. One popular exception is using the area code of the are you serve in the domain name as demonstrated in the Memorable section above.
Enable auto renewal on your domain name. You'd be surprised how many businesses lose their domain name because they forget to renew it.
Don't pay too much
Domain names cost around $10-20, with the typical range between $12 and $15. As of this writing, the company we use GoDaddy.com, charges around $12 per year.
Less common domain extensions like .tv, .info, .to, etc. often have different prices that are higher than the more common domain extensions. For example, some of these can cost over $99/year depending on the extension. If you're considering one of these other extensions take the additional cost into consideration, especially if the initial purchase price is different from the renewal price.
A couple of dollars difference isn't a big deal, but it's a peeve of mine to see certain companies charge 400% of the cost for domain names. This is typical with the free website builders who lure customers in with free websites, then make up the lost revenue by significantly marking up other products that customers need after they're locked in. To me it seems dishonest and it really bugs me, but it's the business model they use.
When you register a domain name, the information you use (name, phone number, email, address) is publicly listed as the owner of that domain. Most domain registrars (the companies that sell domains) offer domain privacy, which blocks this information from being publicly displayed.
If you're big on privacy, you can pay to have this information hidden, but it depends on your situation on whether it's worth it. Typically, as a business owner your company and contact information is already listed publicly on your website and elsewhere, so it may not matter.
Buying ‘for sale' domains
You may find that your ‘perfect' domain is available, but for sale in the secondary market. This is the case when the domain is available for any price above the registration fee. Some domains for sale don't even show a price, but ask you to ‘make an offer,' which is even more annoying.
99% of the time you should ignore domain names for sale and just find one that's available. Unless you're a large company and interested in building a brand, it's not worth the time and money it'll take to close the deal. The only exception might be if the domain is truly a perfect fit for your business and it's at a reasonable price based on your budget. $3,000 is typically as high as I'll go when buying a domain for a business. If the business is tiny or it's for a small project I may not go higher than $250–go with your gut.
Picking a domain name is hard because it seems like all the ‘good' domain names are taken. But since every business is unique, there plenty of relevant, specific domain names available that are a great match for your business.
All of the factors we've discussed should be considered when choosing your domain name. Based on your situation you may disregard some to focus on others, and that's fine. These factors will help you make the best choice from the available options.