It’s just a domain name, right?
You probably spent months planning, workshopping, and crafting that perfect name for your new online business. But when the intern asks what your domain name is going to be, you brush it away. They wonder why, and you explain that you’ll sort it out later when you launch your website.
That’s a recipe for failure.
If you build a great looking website, coupled with the right digital strategy, a bit of PR and throw some Google Ads at it, consumers will visit your site and buy your product, no matter what domain name you end up going with, right?
Well, not necessarily…
Your domain name can make or break your online brand, and in some instances, your offline awareness. This must be one decision that you shouldn’t take with kid gloves. There’s over 1 billion websites as of January 2020, and about 85% of them are active – so a lame domain name is one of the easiest ways to slip into the bottomless pit of invincibility.
Besides that, changing your domain name at a late is a massive pain in the butt. Going through the process of switching to a new name can hurt your online brand and your search rankings.
Before we discuss a framework or strategy for choosing the perfect domain name for your business, let’s try to understand why the right one is so essential to your business.
Why is it essential to get your domain name right?
1. It is critical to your SEO strategy.
Using the right keywords in your URL increases your ranking – Google’s crawlers can quickly index and define your online business accurately.
2. Your domain name is crucial to a memorable first impression of your online brand.
The URL of your website is one of the first things most visitors come across online. A great name not only reassures your audience that they can trust you, but it can also position you as the credible option. The wrong name can leave your audience confused and have them go the next competitor on Google.
It’s an essential element of your brand-building toolkit.
Owning the perfect domain name doesn’t just help with first impressions. Along with your business name and your shiny new logo, it is also a perfect branding opportunity you can’t afford to overlook. It helps you build brand awareness and recognition.
Now that you are clear on why your business needs to take a strategic approach to your domain name, how do you decide on one?
Choosing the right domain name for your brand.
At our branding agency in Brisbane, we keep in mind these ten essential factors when trying to brainstorm the perfect domain name for a client, and we think it’ll work for you too:
First, do your research.
The first thing you need to do when thinking of a domain name is research. Google is an excellent tool for competitor analysis, and if anyone has already used some of the initial ideas, you had written down already.
You should also run a trademark search; this should help confirm if any of your initial thoughts or something similar has been trademarked. Being a brand agency in Australia, The IP Australia website is a great tool. Here’s more information on trademarking your business name:
Another place to check for brand name availability are the following websites that allow you to search for both available domain names, but also for available social media handles – www.namecheckr.com & www.namechk.com – perfect for protecting your brand name online.
Pick the right domain name extension
In recent times, the number of domain name extensions have exploded – from the basic .com, and .net to extensions such as .apartments, .analytics, and even .army. Despite the variety, the .com extension is still the most popular and the best domain extension you can use for your online business name.
Internet users are creatures of habit, and most times, they will unconsciously type the .com at the end of a domain.
It has been a mainstay on the internet for the past couple of decades, so it should always be your first choice when deciding on a domain extension. If it isn’t available, you can explore others such as .org and .net.
A local domain name is just as important.
If you are an Australian business targeting Australian users, a .com.au and .net.au is extremely valuable for your online brand, and should be an essential purchase for your online brand.
If you can, claim as many extensions as you can. In setting up your online business, a domain name is a minimal expense. So we always recommend to our clients to secure your brand online by purchasing all the related extensions. The last thing you want is for a competitor to claim a similar domain name and steal your potential customers!
One last thing to note – the .com extension isn’t famous only because it has been around the longest. It also plays a significant role in domain authority and SEO rankings. Experts such GoDaddy claim that when building backlinks, a .com domain has more authority than a new or unknown extension.
Then throw in the fact that all smartphone keypads come with a .com button.
Short domains over long domains every time
The need to account for keywords in your name should not override the need for brevity. A short and memorable one is the winner every day and twice on Sunday. The maximum number of characters in a domain name is 63 characters, but that would be an utter disaster for your website and branding. Imagine fitting that on a business card!
Bigger is not always better, so we advise that you keep it between 6 – 15 characters. The longer it is, the harder it is for visitors or your customers to remember.
However, if every short domain name isn’t available – don’t panic. You can pick a relatively long name as long as you follow these basic rules:
- It should be easy to remember.
- It must be easy to call out – this helps when your customers need to share it with a friend.
- It should be spelled with minimal fuss.
Don’t make it excessively lengthy though, very long domains can look like spam. They are also not mobile-friendly. When typing it out on the tiny keypad of most mobile phones, they are more likely to misspell your name or miss out on a letter.
A misspelled domain name = less customers = less $$$.
Ensure the name is easy to spell and pronounce
This is a no-brainer whether you end up going with a long or short domain name. You and your visitors must be able to share it without stumbling over your words. It should also be easy to share in writing.
If you use your email address with the domain name – as most are used – then it has to be spellable. One should be able to write it out just by listening to you or any other person call the domain name out.
Still uneasy of the spelling, think about your favourite websites or the most popular websites on the internet – CNN, Google, Instagram, BBC! What do they all have in common?
You can easily spell them once someone calls it out for you.
Stay away from numbers and hyphens
Stick to the letters as much as you can. Do you think Facebook would have been memorable if Mark Zuckerberg inserted a hyphen between Face and Book?
Nope, nope and nope. Numbers and hyphens make it harder to pronounce or memorise domain names. And humans have an unusual habit of discarding things they find difficult to remember. The punchier the domain name, the more memorable it is for your users. Unless a number is part of your brand or business name, ditch it.
Ensure it’s brandable and unique
Your domain name is a FREE opportunity to take a unique position in the minds of your prospects. An opportunity that you shouldn’t waste. Unique and creative ones always guarantee you more brand recognition than generic domains. A great example is “Amazon.com“. Imagine when starting, Jeff Bezos had decided to launch with “BestBooksOnline.com”
Even if you have to use keywords in your domain name, ensure you spin it in a way that is catchy, memorable and on-brand. Picking a brandable name allows you also to stand out from the competition and builds your brand credibility.
Here are some tips on finding a brandable and unique domain name:
- Create catchy, new words. The word “Google” didn’t exist until September 1998.
- Use a thesaurus to search for synonyms that fit your brand position or values.
- Explore domain name generators. These online tools can scramble together a unique name from your keywords, synonyms of your brand positioning, and any other initial ideas. Some great generators out there are Wordoid and DomainHole.
Use keywords that reflect your industry
The right keywords can play a critical role in the success of your domain and online presence.
Using keywords in your domain names signals to search engines what search queries your website answers. When combined with well-written content and optimised user experience, your website can rank higher on Google’s search engine results.
Fact: it can be tough to find a perfect domain name with your target keywords.
If you do find one, don’t stuff your name with keywords. Google will likely penalise you with lower rankings, and your name will also look and sound generic. It’s good practice to use the keywords at the start of the name.
Always think long-term
In the excitement of launching your new online business or start-up website, it’s easy to get carried away when picking a domain name, but strive to approach this from a long-term view. While you might be providing one or a couple of services, you might expand into the full suite of services shortly. So, bake that flexibility into your domain name right from the start.
For example, you might only be providing content writing services, so you pick a name like “BestWritingServices.com“. If you ever decide to start offering a full suite of content marketing services such as content audit, content strategy, and outreach, the name you chose earlier severely limits your brand.
At Soak, we believe you should consider this when planning your brand. Here’s 5 questions you need to ask when developing your brand strategy.
Not only that, changing a domain name can be an arduous and expensive process. You not only have to deal with a drastic drop in SEO rankings, but you’ll need to spend money on registration and informing your users about the name change.
Stay away from double-lettered word combinations
You must stay away from using domain names such as Presssetup.com when deciding on a domain name. Users, including yourself (the owner of the domain), can easily misspell these name combinations. You don’t want to do all the work of promoting your online business and lose potential revenue due to typos.
Avoiding these sorts of naming combinations also makes your name more memorable and easy to type.
Avoid words that can easily be confused
Always pick domain name combinations that are easily understood, and doesn’t leave your visitors second-guessing the meaning. You also need to ensure the words don’t change meaning when combined.
For example, “IT Scrap” could quickly become “itscrap.com” or “Go Tahoe North” becomes “gotahoenorth.com”.
Now that you have a framework for picking the perfect domain name, where can you buy one?
Where are the best places to buy a domain name?
Purchasing a domain name is like buying real estate, there are lots of name registrars, but you wouldn’t trust them all now would you? You can categorise them into two types:
1. Web hosting services coupled with domain registration
Most of the web hosting companies offer you domain registration when you purchase a hosting account with them. For newbies, this can be a great way to get a secure name. One great example of a service provider that we use is www.ventraip.com.au. It is one of the best and reliable web hosting services in Australia.
2. Pure domain name registrars
Full-service domain name registrars are businesses that manage the reservation of your name. They also handle the assignment of IP addresses for your chosen domain name. GoDaddy is the biggest name registrar in the world. They manage a comprehensive database of over 60 million names.
WARNING: You need to act fast
Every day, hundreds of new domain names are acquired and registered by businesses all over the world. Once you find a name that suits your brand strategy, it would be wise to act fast and purchase it instantly.
Domain names are the gems of the internet – akin to the Californian gold rush. Millions of individuals and business owners are tirelessly searching for brandable and unique names that they can acquire before it gets snapped up by someone else.
There are also the domain name hunters who buy domain names to resell in the future at exorbitant rates.
If you don’t move fast, you might have to either buy it from someone else at a higher rate or grudgingly look for another domain extension. Domain names are more or less cheap, so even if you aren’t ready to set up your online brand, purchase it. If you decide to use another name later, allow it to expire.
What do you do if the .com or .com.au extension has been taken?
As mentioned earlier, it’s possible that when you finally decide on your perfect domain name, the .com or .com.au extension has been purchased by someone else. It’s okay to feel bad – everyone does when this happens to them.
But no need to cry over spilled milk!
You can try to add a suffix or prefix to the name. Expanding the title this way allows you to try again for your preferred domain extension. You can also try the following tactics:
- Insert the target audience or location you’ll be operating from – “contentconvertAus.com”.
- Use an acronym – “contentconvertAus.com” becomes “CCAUS.com“.
You can also explore negotiating with the owner of the domain extension and see if they are open to selling at the right price. However, if it’s an existing website, this might be a futile journey. So it would be best you explore the options above or another domain extension.
The critical point to note here is you need to ensure that you aren’t fighting to acquire a domain name that is being used by a more prominent brand or a website that has high domain authority. If this happens, you could lose traffic to your more significant competitor because of the similar names.
Final thoughts on getting that perfect domain name for your brand
If this is your first online business or startup, this might seem like a lot of work – but it’s easy to get the hang of what you need to do. You are also probably asking why you need to put in this amount of work to acquire a name. It is not “just a domain name.”
It is crucial in how successful your new brand and business can be, especially if you operate in a hyper-competitive niche market. A well-thought domain name can also do wonders for your organic traffic strategy and brand awareness.
To summarise, you need to do proper research on your niche, pick the perfect name that’s a brand fit, unique and memorable. Once you do this and don’t use hyphens, numbers, or double-lettered words that can combine into other meanings and confuse your audience, you are already stepping ahead of your competition.
If the .com or .com.au extension is available, excellent. If not, you can get creative with your prefixes and suffixes.
Still need help?
At Soak Creative, we’re always helping clients find memorable and unique domain names as part of branding, naming or re-branding our clients’ businesses. Get in touch if you need some advice.