Domain names are a cleaner and more human-friendly version of IP addresses. However, nowadays they have become a necessity – whether you are marketing your business or just looking for personal branding options, having your website with a registered domain is a must. So how do you find a name that creatively conveys the core message behind the services you provide? And should you use a regional extension or stick to the reliable and omnipresent .com? Here are five golden rules for choosing an excellent domain name that is both compelling and descriptive.
#1 Match your brand name to your domain name
Branding and domain names go hand in hand – a snappy domain name can work wonders for establishing your business credibility and proving that you are a strong competitor. Also, matching your brand name to your domain name will significantly boost your online presence and make it easier for offline customers to find your website as well. Similarly, a weak domain name, which has nothing to do with your products or services, can hurt your marketing strategy. For instance, if a client remembers your brand name, types it in the browser and your website is not the first thing to pop-up, you can be sure that he will search for your competitor or another brand that is next on his list. So make sure that these two names coincide and try to also use the brand as the URL (i.e., the web address) to maximize the chances of your clients finding you without difficulty.
#2 Easy to type, pronounce and memorize
Getting down to the nitty-gritty, you need to come up with a name that is catchy, memorable and preferably outlines the gist of the services you provide. As such, stay away from hyphens, numbers, abbreviations or sequences of unrelated letters which make it difficult for customers to remember or spell out the name. Do not fall into the trap of believing that an inventive or clever name is all you need to drive traffic to your new website. It might work if you have mastered offline marketing, but your efforts will be in vain unless your site ranks high in search engine results.
So make sure you also do thorough keyword research and check for different names and extensions. You can use research tools such as NameMesh for this. These tools will help you find short and sweet names that are keyword-optimized, as well as verify their availability. NameMesh, in particular, uses over 20 generators combined with real-world intelligence and a comprehensive database of over 6 million words to come up with descriptive SEO names and pertinent alternatives in case your ideal choice is taken.
#3 Don’t dismiss alternative domain extensions
There are currently over 250 million registered domain names (at least half of which are .com sales). It should come as no surprise that almost every good name you can think of that has the ubiquitous .com suffix is most likely already taken. However, don’t get discouraged – a little creativity goes a long way! If you have found your dream domain name and it is unavailable, here are a few steps you can take to ensure that you are still able to use it for your business:
You can try to purchase the domain from the current owner. If you are convinced you want to keep the .com extension and you will not have it any other way, go to www.whois.com and look up the contact information. From there, you will be able to get in touch with the person who owns your desired domain and see if they are willing to sell it. Mind you; they will probably ask for a much higher fee.
You can include the actual extension into the domain name. Get creative and find a way to use a local or alternative extension as part of your brand and website name. A good example of this would be increasefoc.us or shoppingbon.us, using the ccTLD for the United States. This can also be done using subdomains.
You can use alternative extensions. If you are more lenient and your ideal name is available with a different extension other than .com, you can choose a less common suffix like .net or .org. However, whether or not this is advantageous for you mostly depends on what your business or organization provides. Let’s take a look at some of the other relevant extensions available:
• .org – this open TLD (top-level domain) was initially intended and primarily used by non-profit associations; however, it currently allows any entity or person to register, and it is now one of the most recognized and widely-used extensions after .com;
• .net – this accounts for 10% of total domains (second after .com) and is your best bet when it comes to high ranking, as it performs very well with SEO;
• .biz – this generic TLD is typically used by B2B companies to mark a
particular website as a business.
#4 Should you use regional domains?
What about extensions like .fr, .ru or .uk? Are those viable options? Well, depending on the nature of your business, they might be an excellent choice! Do you have a family-owned photography boutique, a small cookware store or a pizza delivery shop? If you are running a local business, then a regional domain would benefit you immensely and would be far more effective at bringing in new customers than an international signature. 94% of people believe supporting local business is important, and by using a regional domain, you are giving them exactly what they are looking for.
Make sure you exhaust all options involving regional extensions before moving on to a different name. For instance, if you have a business in Kingsbury selling furniture, you can opt for something like cheapsofas.london. Maybe you would like to expand in the future, and you want the name to have a more international feel to it, in which case you can choose the .global extension. Either way, there’s plenty of options available. However, if you own a large company or a big business, you should avoid regional domains, even if it means modifying your name or switching to a new one entirely.
#5 Beware of trademark infringement
Never purchase a domain before you have verified its past and looked into potential trademark conflicts. A domain name can be a trademark belonging to another company or business (even if it is registered as available!). If you happen to purchase it and use it for your website, you are faced with serious legal issues. You can have your domain taken away at any point through the UDRP (Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy) process, and that is if you are lucky! Otherwise, you can be sued and lose both your money and domain. You can use tools like Knowem or check the USPTO TESS trademark search (for the United States) to ensure that there are no trademark infringement concerns associated with your name.
It is also essential to protect your trademark if you have the finances for it. It is not unheard of for competition to steal traffic by registering your domain with different extensions, also known as cybersquatting. It would be wise to invest in other extensions as well. You will not be receiving additional traffic necessarily, but you can protect your brand by purchasing related TLDs and redirecting them to your main website.