“How do I pick a domain name?”
I hear this a ton as I’m working clients who are just starting their business. Frankly, I’m glad they are thinking about it. Some people don’t think about their domain name at all, they pick the name they think of first and go with it.
When it comes to your domain name, you need to choose it wisely. In most cases, it’s the first thing someone sees as they are introduced to your business. It’s especially critical (we’ll talk about this more in a second) to keep it short and simple. If your business does great work, people are going to talk about you – and to do that, they need to be able to remember what your website was called.
With all that said, it’s equally important to not overcomplicate this process. Some people spend weeks or months trying to come up with the perfect domain name and never end up starting their business!
To help you find the perfect domain name for your business, there are some things you should keep in mind.
Keep Your Domain Name Short and Sweet
There’s really nothing worse than an unbelievably long domain name. People won’t be able to remember it, which in turn stops word of mouth traffic, which is critical to a business.
So, where’s the sweet spot?
A domain name with less than 10 characters is perfect, but if you must have something longer, don’t go any further than 15 characters. Beyond that, you are really stretching the limit and making it very difficult for someone to ever find you again.
Now, you may be thinking, “Pfff, 15 characters, there’s no way my domain name would be longer than that.”
In most cases, we start with the best intentions, but when we find a domain name we REALLY want and it’s taken, you may begin adding different words to the end of it to find something that is available. That’s when it can get out of control.
Keep Your Domain Name Memorable
In some cases, this can be tricky. If you’re starting a landscaping business, do you go with the keyword-friendly domain name or the memorable one?
There’s an argument to be had with both. If you’re starting a side hustle, where this won’t be your main focus, it’s just an extra way to make some cash. Then the keyword-friendly domain name may be the way to go.
Though, if you are looking to start something and take it to the next level, I’d highly recommend finding a domain name that’s more unique and easier to remember.
One major downside of the keyword-friendly domain name is that you run the risk of competitors using similar variations of your name. If your domain name is “landscapingtx.com” – you may have competitors occupying “landscapingtexas.com,” “landscapingservicestx.com,” and more.
This especially becomes a problem when customers accidentally find your competitors as they were looking for you.
This is why having something unique is important when starting a business to grow big. You never see massive landscaping companies with the name “landscapingtx.com” – people just can’t remember that and, in some cases, it doesn’t feel as authoritative as compared to a custom, unique, domain name.
To wrap that up, both domain name styles have their purpose, it comes down to what you’d like to do with your business in the future.
The Over-The-Phone Test
Because your domain name will be the thing people share the most with friends, family, and neighbors. You need to make sure people can spell it.
While CitiTurf.com and TruGreen.com are memorable, you run the risk of people mis-spelling them, because they used a funny way of spelling traditional words.
Now, these two companies have found a way to minimize or completely eliminate the risk of people not finding their website. They own both variations of their domain name.
- CitiTurf.com also owns CityTurf.com
- TruGreen.com also owns TrueGreen.com
As you are finding a domain name for your business, you need to keep this in mind. As you are testing to see if your domain is unique and memorable, call someone you know and tell them to go to your website.
How the Over-The-Phone test works:
- Call a friend or family member.
- Tell them the name of your website ONLY ONCE – Do not repeat it or spell it (Example: “Go to RocketThruster.com”).
- Are they able to find your website without any clarification?
- If they can, that domain name is one to seriously consider.
Get The Right Top Level Domain Name
What the heck is a “top level domain name?”
This simply refers to the name you find at the end of a domain name (.com, .org, .net, .pizza, .gov – and more).
While it’s incredibly important to get the name of your website correct, you need to really think about what top level domain to use.
Generally, you always want to find something available under .com. Everyone immediately searches for a website using the .com top level domain name.
No one jumps to the conclusion that you’re listed under .net or .org.
Based on this pie chart, you can very easily tell that .com wins without question.
What do you do if a domain name is taken under .com?
First thing, I’d continue brainstorming to find something else that would work under .com. Ultimately, having a .com domain name will make your life so much easier when it comes to sharing your business with others.
If you still cannot find a domain name you like that is available under .com. Then, you can begin to consider .net or .org.
But, by doing that you will need to find a way to ensure that people don’t go looking for your business on .com.
** Important note: If there is a very established competitor using the domain you want with .com, but .net or .org is still available for the taking. Don’t buy the domain with the intention of using it for your business.
One, chances are that business will have a trademark or LLC, which will make it difficult down the road when you are looking to nail yourself down as a true business (with a trademark or LLC to your name).
Second, if you are running any type of paid advertising to your .net domain name and are not absolutely clear that your business is under .net. People will go to .com and find your competitor.
Don’t pay for your competitor’s advertising.
What To Do When Someone is Reselling a Domain Name You Want
Right now, I’m actually working with a client on a situation just like this. He had found a domain name he really liked and someone was reselling it for a really expensive price.
So, in this situation, what do you do?
Well, there are some questions you need to ask yourself.
- Can I truly afford this price?
- If I spend this money, will I have enough to wholeheartedly invest in marketing/advertising? Not where you flinch every time you receive a bill on marketing spend.
- Am I confident I can make this money back in a relatively short period of time?
- Do I have any previous experience in the industry?
- Will I keep this business and continue to grow it for many years to come?
Frankly, if the answer is “no” to any of these, I’d highly recommend against this decision, especially if you don’t plan on keeping this business for a while.
Questions one, two, and five are deal-breakers. If this will greatly affect your bank account and hinder the amount you can spend on advertising and marketing. Then in no way should you purchase this domain name.
Having a decent marketing budget is WAY more important than having the “Perfect” domain name – especially when that domain name is several thousand dollars.
On the other hand, if you are confident that you can get this business off the ground and cover the cost of the domain name quickly – then it may be something to consider.
Although, it’s important to make sure this isn’t an emotional decision. Make sure that this domain name is truly worth the high price. Run it by your friends, family, and neighbors; get their opinions, see what they think.
Make sure it checks all of the boxes we talked about above. It’s short, memorable, and has a .com domain name.
If after that you still feel like it’s the one, then you should truly consider making the investment.
** Important note: Don’t worry too much if you can’t get the domain name now. You can always come back later and revisit this decision as your business grows. Though, just keep in mind that if you were to change the domain name of your business after you’ve gained some traction, be sure you do everything you can to minimize and confusion (Google and your customers).
Think of this as if you were to suddenly change your name in real life. No one would know your new name until you told them.
For Google, you’ll need to do a few things to ensure that it doesn’t hurt your search engine rankings. I won’t go into any detail in this article, but just know that if done incorrectly, this could damage your overall rankings.
For your customers, be sure you are totally upfront and clear that you are rebranding the business. Post on social media, inform your customers when you see them, do whatever you can to minimize any confusion.
Where To Buy Your Domain Name
I personally use Godaddy to buy and manage all my domain names, but there are a number of other websites as well.
Any one of these would be perfect. The main things you want to watch out for when making a decision on who to go with would be:
- Domain prices. Some domain name registrars may offer lower prices than others, so keep an eye out for deals on domain names.
- Add-on pricing. The cost of additional add-ons when purchasing a domain name (security, domain packages, etc.)
- User experience. How easy is it for you to purchase and register your domain name.
If you have any questions about registering a domain name, feel free to shoot me an email and I’d be more than happy to help.