Any business wanting to start a website will need to have a domain name – in other words, a unique name and description that encapsulates what your website is, and what it stands for.
Domain names are the key to web traffic: they are what drives traffic to your site, tells users what your business is about, and most importantly of all, distinguishes your website from everybody else’s. If all that sounds pretty daunting, then don’t panic. Creating a domain name needn’t be complicated or overly difficult: all it takes is a little bit of time and effort on your part, but I guarantee the results will be worth it.
So first things first: why do businesses need a domain name? The answer to that is simple really: that’s how internet browsers find you – without it, you’re business will float around in cyber space unnoticed. Aren’t all the best .com domain names already taken and bought up by the big boys or the speculators? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but generally speaking, yes they are. However, that isn’t so big a problem that it can’t be overcome. Once you’ve got your head around the fact that your business has to have a domain name, and this will involve some cost, then the rest is up to you and your imagination. You’ll have to purchase the domain name, host it and then pay the monthly hosting fees. Still worried? Then don’t be: there are still domain names out there that can help drive your business in the direction you’d like.
Now for the $64,000 dollar question – how do I choose a domain name? Well, if you’ve ever tried to search for the ‘perfect’ name, you’ll know there are hundreds, if not thousands out there, and choosing the perfect one can be a right palaver. But there are certain simple steps you can take to make the task just that little bit easier. It won’t always guarantee success, but it should certainly help.
Keep it short.
Simplicity and brevity are essential when picking the best domain name. Obviously many of the briefest and most popular short domain names have been snapped up already, but there are still others out there to choose from. Unless you’re prepared to shell out some serious money, then I’d forget the idea of using initials, unless of course, your business initials are extremely unusual. There isn’t really an optimum number of words to use in a domain name, but it’s probably best to limit yourself to 3 at the most. The longer the name, the more difficult it is to remember.
Make it memorable.
Domain names need to memorable if they are to be successful. You want the name to stick in the memory of browsers and for that name to be easy to pass on by word of mouth. Therefore, it’s probably best not to rely on ‘clever’ spellings or unusual abbreviations. Of course, abbreviations can work as sites like Flickr.com and Shu.com prove, but they’re not that easy to come by. They have proved to be a hit because the unusual spelling/ abbreviation are powerful and inventive enough to stick in the mind. Sometimes a play on words can be effective, but often the twisting of words can be counter-productive and almost too clever for its own good.
Use keywords if possible.
There’s a tendency to stuff keywords into domain names often for the sake of it: it’s almost as if the business thought to itself, right chuck as many in as possible and hope that one or two catch the users we’re after. Unfortunately this can backfire. The essence of a domain name is, as already explained, best kept short and simple. One firm came up with the idea of using the name BatteryStuff.com, and it proved to be successful. However, it had previously been known as 4Unique .com: needless to say, you can see why the company changed the name. The moral, if there is one, is to use keywords whenever possible and appropriate, but don’t use them indiscriminately. If there’s a choice between using them and creating a convoluted domain name, or not using them and choosing a brief but catchy name, then it’s probably advisable not to.
Once you’ve come up with your ‘ideal’ domain names, it’s worth considering purchasing the alternatives, like .net, .org or .biz etc. This might seem like an unnecessary expense, but it’s worth it. You should also consider purchasing domain names named after your products or brands, and explore the possibility of purchasing domain names that include common spelling mistakes and typos. The idea is to try to cover every angle. By using alternative domain names, you expand the possibilities of being found on the net and grabbing the business you’re after.
One point that should be clarified is what you do with these alternative domain names once you’ve purchased them. The answer is to use them to your advantage. Don’t let them sit there with error messages, like ‘not found’ – make sure these alternative domains are redirected to your own domain. The best way to do this is to pay for a permanent redirection, or 301, to your main domain, so you’ll know that all traffic will eventually find its way to the correct site.