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Choosing The Right Domain Name For Your Small Business

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about setting up a website for your small business. After all, unless you’re primarily serving a community of technophobes, it’s more or less a guarantee that your target demographic uses the Internet. If you don’t have a website, you’re potentially missing out on a whole lot of prospective customers (and a whole lot of revenue).

Of course, simply having a website isn’t enough if no one’s able to find it.  For that reason, it’s absolutely vital you ensure your site is properly optimized for both search and browsing. The selection of your domain name may well be the most important choice you’ll ever make online.

See, much the same as your brand name is your business’s identity in the offline world, your domain name is your identity on the Internet. Choose one that’s ill-fitting or inappropriate, and your traffic will suffer along with your online reputation. If you go with the right one and market it effectively, though?

Your brand could well become known across the net.

So how does one go about selecting an effective domain name? How can one tell whether a particular domain name will work? Most importantly, how can one avoid selecting a dud?

Let’s talk about that.

Follow The KISS Principle

The first (and probably most valuable) piece of advice I have for you can be summed up with a single acronym: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Make sure your domain name is as short and easy to type as you can possible make it.  While you’re at it, avoid slang, numbers, hyphens, and basically anything other than full words like the plague.

They’ll make your domain name tougher to type, and even more difficult to remember. Speaking of which…

Make It Memorable

Here’s the thing about the Internet – there are millions of websites out there. Anyone with even a little bit of technical knowhow can cobble together a functional landing page in a matter of minutes and host it in about as much time. What that means is that unless your domain name is in some way memorable, it’s very likely to get lost in the noise. Given that most of the simplest domain names are taken, that’s a pretty tall order.

So…how exactly can you make it more memorable, given how saturated the web is?

There are a few ways, but the most valuable tip I’ve seen (courtesy of Shopify) is to invent your own word or phrase. If you aren’t quite sure what I mean, just look at some of the most popular websites on the Internet. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Reddit…what do they all have in common?

They’ve all tweaked, combined, or modified the language to invent an online identity that’s completely unique; what’s more, all these phrases are in some way related to their core brand. Some of them  have combined two words or phrases (Facebook), others are a play on words (Reddit), and still others have created their own name (Instagram). Do the same for your business, and you’ll be doing just fine.

Know Your Keywords

Of course, creating a memorable domain name is a lot easier when you know the specific keywords that people will use to search for your business online. Consider the industry you’re in, the audience you serve, the products you offer, and the area you operate out of. All of this information can offer you valuable insight – both for selecting your site’s domain and for optimizing it after the fact.

Keep The Law In Mind

Now, no matter how unique you think your domain name may be, it’s worthwhile to do at least a cursory search to be certain you aren’t stepping on anyone’s trademark. I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough – trademark law is a huge, horrifying mess, and you don’t want your business embroiled in a trademark dispute, especially if you’re just starting out. Do your research – if you don’t, you’ll regret it.

Choose The Right Extension

Once you’ve worked out the basics of your domain, you’ll need to choose an extension. While I’d generally advise trying to go for “.com,” there’s also something to be said for choosing one that’s localized to your region (.ca, .uk; et-cetera). Again, consider who you’re primarily going to be serving – since it’s a safe bet that the extension you choose will impact how and where your business shows up in the search results.

Consider Purchasing Variations To Shut Down Squatters

Once you’ve registered your domain name, there’s one final piece of advice I can give you. See, the Internet is rife with a type of opportunist called a domain squatter. These people, on seeing a relatively popular website, will snatch up every single variation of the domain name that they can, including common typos. At that point, they’ll either hold the whole list ransom, or redirect customers to a spam page. If you’ve a bit of extra cash after registering your domain name, it might be worthwhile doing a some research into common typos or variants that might pop up, and registering those before the squatters can get to them.

What’s In A Name?

Your website’s domain name may well be its most important feature. It’s the sum total of your business’s online identity, the point through which your entire customer base will connect with you over the web. If you choose the wrong one, your online brand is going to be muddled, confusing or – worse – completely invisible.

In short…when choosing a domain name for your small business, you’d better choose wisely. There’s more on the line here than website traffic, after all.

Image credit: Rock1997

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Andrew Horton

Andrew Horton

Andrew Horton is Digital Media Producer for ServerMania.