What is a domain name?
The domain name is a URL registered to a specific person or business. For instance, google.com is registered to Google and no one else can use google.com but Google.
When should I look for domain names?
In an ideal world, the search for the perfect domain name should happen before you’ve named your business. Otherwise you’ll have to phenagle a domain name around what has already been registered, potentially losing site visitors in the process.
For instance, if I am starting a landscaping company and I want to name it Quality Landscaping, I wouldn’t be able to register qualitylandscaping.com or qualitylandscaping.net because those domains are already taken. I’d have to get creative to come up with a domain name that is both easy to remember and won’t be mistaken for another business.
What should I look for when choosing a domain name?
Entrepreneur’s Jane Porter details the do’s and don’ts of registering a domain name:
- Include keywords in the domain name if possible
Google loves sites that seem the most relevant, and what can be more relevant than a domain name that includes the search keywords? Say I’m looking for a dentist in Hickory. A site that has those keywords in the domain name will look especially juicy to Google. If you can’t make it work, don’t worry. You can always use URL strings to get in those keywords (like mysite.com/hickory-dentist).
- Treat the domain name as property
Porter describes how one business didn’t register itself as the domain owner, and it took years and lots of cash to get the rights back to a domain that originally cost $15. Treat your domain name registration as you would a deed to your business office.
- Remember to renew your domain registration
The only thing worse than a squatter sitting on a perfect domain name is having someone buy your domain name out from under you because you forgot to renew the registration. Most registrations are for 1 year periods, and cost less than $20 to renew with ICANN, the official internet gatekeeper for domain names. However if you forget to renew that domain name anyone can take it. That can mean big trouble if you have an established website that you no longer control.
This happened to a business just before they became a Cube Creative client. They weren’t able to renew their domain name before it expired and folks from China got it. They recreated the client’s old website on their own servers so it would look as if nothing had changed. It is a very underhanded way to spread viruses or phish for financial information from customers who have no idea the business was no longer in control of the site.
- Check out other extensions beyond .com
It is getting increasingly harder to find good domain names on the traditional .com extension, and there are quite a few other extensions that can serve you well. Running a non-profit? Using a .org extension may be the way to go. Name.Kitchen has a great page full of naming tools to help you get started.
With any good “do” list, there is also a few things to avoid:
- Don’t use dashes, abbreviations or numbers
Say I started Quality Landscaping and I registered quality-landscaping.com, knowing qualitylandscaping.com was not available. I do a great job and a customer refers me to their neighbor: “Hey man, check out Quality Landscaping dot com. They are great.” Did that customer include the hyphen? Probably not. Did you just lose a potential customer? Yep.
- Don’t overlook the domain’s history
Dirty domains can be business suicide online. Google blacklists domains if they are heinous offenders, and if that domain goes back out on the market it is very hard to convince search engines that it can be trusted. You’ll also want to look up potential trademarking issues. Check who.is to see what has been registered.
- Don’t forget to look at similar domains
Copycat sites or sites with very similar domain names can also pose a problem. One Cube Creative client owns Simply Luminaries. They registered simplyluminarias.com. But what happens if I go to simplyluminaries.com? Don’t do it. It bounces to a junk domain that has absolutely no relation to the legitimate business.
If you can register the domains that will identify your business, do it and do it early. Otherwise you’re in for potentially years of headache and costs trying to reclaim your business identity online. Having trouble navigating the domain registration waters? Cube Creative Design is here to help! We can consult on domain names to consider and what to do if your ideal domain is already taken.