One of the most important considerations when setting up a website is choosing the right domain name and extension. Get it wrong and your online business could be a non-starter. In this post, we’ll show you exactly what you need to do to choose the right domain name for your website.
Your domain name is an integral part of your company’s online identity, so you need to pick a name that gels with your brand. At the same time, with so much competition out there, it also has to be a domain that is very easy for you to market and for potential customers to find.
Here are our tips to help you choose the ideal domain:
Make it short and easy to type
Long domain names can be off-putting to searchers. In a world where people expect ultrafast internet, slowing the customer down by making them spend ages typing can make them go for a less troublesome competitor. Which is easier tomdickandharrysolicitors.co.uk or tdhlaw.co.uk?
The same is true for complicated domain names, especially those that contain frequently misspelled words e.g. necessarynextdayparcels.com or rythmnandblues.com. If people make mistakes when typing, they’ll eventually lose patience and go elsewhere.
Whilst businesses have always been told to avoid long and complicated domain names, the reason to do so is now more important than ever. As we have shifted our searching habits towards mobile devices with ever smaller keyboards, it’s easier than ever to make mistakes. So to help your customers out, make the domain short and easy.
Check for embarrassing double meanings
There are a lot of companies who have bought the domain name for their business without realising that when you take out the space between the words and remove any capital letters, it reads as something quite different: in many cases, inappropriately.
Although you might see the humorous side in these genuine web addresses, you wouldn’t want to commit the faux pas yourself. Here are some examples: Bitef Art Café – bitefartcafe.rs; IT Scrap – itscrap.com; and Pen Island Pens – penisland.net.
Indeed, sometimes, the result is exactly the opposite of how you want your company portrayed, as poor old Mole Station Nursery and Therapist Finder found out – molestationnursery.com and therapistfinder.com.
This can happen to big companies too, as Powergen Italia discovered: powergenitalia.it. Even Google fell foul when they created a search engine page for people on the Cook Islands – Google.co.ck!
So, whatever name you do choose, make sure it doesn’t leave your business looking red faced.
Use keywords in the name
Everyone knows that we need to use keywords on our web pages and posts in order to optimise them or search engines. It’s how search engines understand whether your content is relevant to someone’s search query.
Some SEO experts will also tell you that it can be a good idea to use keywords in your domain name too. Using them will help search engines discover your website’s relevance to a query at the highest (domain) level and will instantly help readers realise they have the address for the right type of business.
One of the biggest companies who have done this is B&Q whose domain name is diy.com. However, thousands of other companies do the same: computersdirect.co.uk, cutpricekitchens.co.uk, shoesforkids.co.uk, etc.
To make sure you are using the best keywords for your business, you need to do your research by checking out what search terms people are using to find your products or services. The best way to do this is to explore Google Trends and by using the Keyword Planner Tool on Google Adwords.
Whilst using keywords can help improve your search engine rank, you do need to remember that it can restrict your website to a particular niche. If you start a business selling handbags, e.g. hothandbags.co.uk and then diversify into other accessories, the original website name might no longer be fully relevant to your line of business.
Use your domain name to grab local business
Whilst keywords are useful for helping people understand what type of business you are, using the name of the area in which you operate can also help both search engines and customers find you when people are looking for a local business.
So, if Smiths Joiners works only in the Brighton area, then using the domain name smithsjoinersbrighton.co.uk might be more helpful than just smithsjoiners.co.uk. If you operate in London, you might also consider a .london domain extension, e.g. weddingcaterers.london
Don’t choose domain names with hyphens or numbers
Generally speaking, you should try to avoid both numbers and hyphens. For a start, they can be more of a burden to type – especially hyphens on a mobile phone, and this can put people off. Secondly, people presume there will be no hyphens, so if someone tells someone your domain name they are likely to search for it without. If they do put hyphens in, they may put them in the wrong places.
With numbers, again, there can be confusion whether you are cafenumber5.co.uk or cafenumberfive.co.uk.
Perhaps the only time you should use a hyphen is to prevent your domain name sounding inappropriate. e.g., pen-island.net.
Pick a memorable domain name
For increasing direct traffic to your website, you need a name that’s going to stick in people’s minds, comparethemeercat.com, for example, is one catchy name that most people will remember. Search engines and social media sites thrive on using memorable names: Google, Yahoo, Bing, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, the list goes on. Picking a catchy name that makes your business stand out from the crowd can be a great way to kick-start your website and make it become a fashionable one to visit.
Don’t get into hot water with other companies
Although it’s rare, there are occasions where people have got into hot water because the domain name they have chosen infringes another company’s registered name, trademark or copyright. So if you set up a chain of high street pasty shops, using the domain name betterthangreggs.com isn’t going to be acceptable. Google, for example, will take on any business with a domain name that is even remotely similar – moogle, gugell, etc.
Check carefully and do your research before you start – just as you would when choosing a name for your registered company.
Use an appropriate domain name extension
A domain extension is the group of letters that follow the dot at the end of a web address, e.g. .com, .net or .co.uk. It is vitally important that you choose the right one for your business as they can have a massive impact on how well your site ranks. For example, if you are a UK business, mainly trading in the UK, using a co.uk extension will help you rank better in the UK but might mean you don’t feature as highly elsewhere. If you trade throughout Europe, a .eu extension may be better overall but may affect your UK ranking.
You need to be aware of what the extensions mean in terms of designating your business to a particular geographical area or niche. .net, for example, is primarily for companies in the internet industry, .edu for educational establishments, and .org for non-business organisations.
With hundreds of domain extensions now available, there is bound to be an ideal extension for you, though at times you may be spoilt for choice and find choosing the right one not so easy.
Too many people have made the mistake of not giving domain names and extensions the consideration they need in order to give their website a better chance of ranking better, being remembered and being more user-friendly. Hopefully, these 8 tips will stop you making the same mistakes.