In our Starting an Online Business series we have already covered projecting a professional image by having a business domain name and how to determine your target audience. Now it’s time to tackle choosing a domain name for your online business.
Choosing a Business Domain Name
Choosing a business domain name can be one of the most important parts of owning an online business. Like a business name, you want something catchy, something that people will remember, something that draws clients to your website and something that is going to do well in the search engines. Once you have narrowed your choice down to a few, ask for some feed back from your friends and clients. Be open to new and different approaches to your business domain name and website theme as the “perfect name” may be already taken.
Each domain name is unique on the internet. www.webpagemistakes.ca, www.web-page-mistakes.ca, www.web-page-mistakes.com and www.webpagemistakes.com are all unique names on the internet. They can all be owned by the same person or by four different people. This is something to keep in mind when choosing a domain name.
Before we get into actually choosing a business domain name, we need an understanding of domain names.
Parts of a Business Domain Name
When you are registering a domain name you will be asked for two parts to create the domain name, the domain and the top level portion of the domain name.
Top Level Domain
The top level domain portion of your domain name is the last part of your domain name. For example google.com has a top level domain of .com. Web Page Mistakes (www.webpagemistakes.ca) uses a country top level domain.
The most common top level domains are:
- .com – intended for commercial use
- .net – intended for Internet Service Providers
- .org – intended for non commercial websites
- .edu – intended for educational institutes
There are also country specific top level domains. For example:
- .ca is for Canada
- .uk is for the United Kingdom
- .au is for Australia
Note: For country specific top level domains you will have to reside in that country.
For more information about top level domains visit the ICANN website’s Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) page.
June 26, 2008 Update
The Board of ICANN today approved a recommendation that could see a whole range of new names introduced to the Internet’s addressing system. …
…A final version of the implementation plan must be approved by the ICANN Board before the new process is launched. It is intended that the final version will be published in early 2009….
The domain portion of your business domain name is to the left of the top level domain portion of the domain name. E.g. webpagemistakes is the domain portion of www.webpagemistakes.ca.
Your domain selection can:
- be up to 60 to 61 characters long, depending on which top level domain your choose.
- only have letters, numbers and dashes within it.
You may have noticed web addresses that contain an additional part to the left of the domain portion of the domain name. This is called a subdomain. An example of a website using a subdomain would be http://finance.yahoo.com/. Here, Yahoo! has decided to keep all their finance information within a subdomain. If you have a large enough website or maybe a blog you could do the same thing.
A sub domain is not an additional domain name, it is like a sub section of your domain name.
Now that you have a better understanding of the parts of a domain name we can move onto actually deciding on the parts of your business domain name.
Choosing a Top Level Domain
As explained above there different top level domains to choose from.
The .com top level domain is what most websites use and what most people will type at the end of a website address out of habit. Because .com is widely used it maybe difficult to register what you feel is the prefect name for your online business.
A country specific top level can work for you or against you. On one hand a person could be looking for your service or product available in their country (the working for you part). On the other hand, a person doing a search could eliminate looking at your website when it shows in the results because they assume (maybe incorrectly) that you are only interested in dealing with clients locally (the working against you part). This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider country specific top level domains, just that you should be aware of the pros and cons when choosing a domain name.
If you are interested in some statics, check www.dailychanges.com to see what the situation is for different top level domains.
So, keep in mind a couple of options for the top level domain portion of your domain name, you may need them when you come to register your business domain name.
Choosing Your Business Domain
Choosing the domain portion of your business domain name is a little less limited than the top level domain portion.
Remember we had you do some research on your target audience? Well this is one of the areas where that research comes into play.
If you have a brand new business that you are starting this portion of choosing a domain name should be done as part of the overall business plan of your online business and be part of your marketing plan.
For an existing business, this is a bit harder task. There’s no gentle way to put this: Unless you have already done a ton of marketing or a well established business, people aren’t going to find your website by typing in your company name unless you already incorporate some keywords related to the focus of your business. An example would be using the initials of your company name. This may make perfect sense to you or your existing customers but it will be harder to harness in new customers from the internet.
Some points to keep in mind while selecting the domain portion of your business domain name:
- Your domain name and website name should be the same.
People may not notice the website address of your website when they find you through the search engine results. They are going to notice the website name, the website appearance and whether or not it was what they were looking for. They may even remember your website name when someone else is looking for something so that person is going to type the website name into the search engines.
- Avoid trademarked names.
At one time the fad was to snap up domain names that could end up in great profits if an up and coming business hadn’t already purchased their domain name. Now, companies with trademarked names and products will not pay the price to secure the domain names, they will just sue you for trademark infringement.
If you want to use an unusual name like some of the famous websites around then be prepared to invest time and money into marketing and working extra hard on search engine friendly content. In the beginning it will be harder to show up in the search engine results but if you have the time and budget, go for it!
An older established business that already has a good reputation and is well known but late getting on the net could build on their established reputation.
- Incorporating keywords and/or phrases your target audience will search for.
If you have done your targeted audience research you will know the type of keywords and phrases they will type into the search engines when looking for products or information. Incorporating these words and phrases into your domain name and website name will help them remember your website and your search engine results.
- Hyphenated domain name.
A hyphenated domain name can help your search engines results but isn’t people friendly. It will be hard for visitors to remember where to include the hyphens.
But, the only the hyphenated version of the domain name I want is available! Well, think of another name. The reason, your website is going to get confused with the “other” website. Someone who found your website and remembered the name but not the address is going to type in the website name to try and find you again. Depending how well you have worked on your search engine optimization, the “other” website just might be in the results before you and you are going to loose the traffic and sale.
A better tactic would be to decide on a domain name where you can purchase the hyphenated and non hyphenated versions of the domain name.
- Name easy to spell.
Choose a domain name that is easy to spell. Some buy the miss spelt versions of domain names to get those visitors. This could get costly for you if you were to do the same thing.
- British English vs American English spellings of words.
Depending on how you learnt to spell when learning English, you could be use to spelling in British English or American English. This can be confusing for people who have learnt English as a second language.
Something to consider is if the word(s) you have chosen for your business domain name have two spellings, British or American. Picking one or the other could potentially reduce your chances of showing in the search engine results for that word.
Use words spelt the same in British and American English to increase your search engine results.
Prepare for Business Domain Name Registration
When choosing a business domain name have a few different choices prepared in advance.
In our next article we will walk you through domain name registration. In preparation for this task you will need a prepared list of domain name choices. Once you begin the domain name registration process you may find that your first choice of a business domain name is taken. Having a prepared list of choices will save you time.
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