The Internet has transformed the way small business owners get things done. The revolutionary changes in advertising, e-commerce, and instant communication have transformed business. Whatever business you’re doing online, it starts with a domain name—your unique online address. It identifies you and your business, attracts customers, and is the first impression visitors has of your business. With millions of websites competing for attention, pick a domain name with care.
Picking the right domain
Many of the "best" domain names are taken. You won't find any three-letter domain names available. For example, ABC.com and Go.com are owned by a television network. Enter your last name as a URL and someone probably owns it. Selecting a good domain name means paying attention to the following characteristics:
- Memorable. Choose a name that resonates with visitors and will bring them back.
- Distinct. Pick something that stands apart from the crowd; not confusing or conflicting with similar names or businesses.
- Informative. Have a name that helps visitors understand what you do or sell.
- Short. You don’t want a name that will be difficult to remember or type.
- Intuitive. Ideally, your name should be one that people would logically assume to be the domain name of your website if searching for it online.
Many people use Google to find websites of interest, while others just type in a URL with the hope they'll reach the right site. Consider www.ford.com, or www.suzuki.com. These companies had the foresight to grab their corporate names before someone else did. Here are some things to consider:
- Get multiple domain names. They aren't expensive. You can use them for sites with uniquely different content to help with search engine rankings; “park” them, in order to keep them from being registered by competitors; or you can use them as marketing domains and redirect them to your primary website.
- Get your own name. In addition to your business name, see if you can get your own name if you want it to be associated with your business.
- Get extensions. Always buy at least three main extensions. It doesn't cost much and prevents others from competing for site visitors by using your company name. At a minimum, get domain_name.com, .org, and .net. Consider other extensions, such as .info, .us, .tv, and .mobi (a recent addition aimed at people who surf from their cell phones). There are also country-specific extensions, such as .ca (Canada); however, some country-specific extensions may require your business to have a physical address in the country.
- Get multiple spellings. People who type in URLs often misspell them; therefore, it is often advantageous to register misspellings of your domain name and permanently redirect them to your primary domain.
- Consider multiple sites. The opportunity to have differential pricing is a powerful online marketing tool. Multiple sites can offer identical table fans at different price points, from a single physical address. Multiple sites can hinder search engine optimization efforts, so be sure to weigh the work effort to maintain two sites against the benefits.
- A talented local artist wanted to use the Internet as an alternative outlet to sell her paintings of trains, primarily older locomotives. She purchased four domain names: trainsbycrane.com, and StacyCrane.com, .net, and .org. The domain name registrar offered a deal for purchasing multiple domain names, so the cost was less than it would have been 10 years ago to purchase a single name.
- The Internet service provider hosting the content doesn't charge anything extra to point multiple domain names to the same site. Because it seemed unlikely that there would be another artist with the same name specializing in train paintings, she didn't purchase trainsbycrane.net or .org. But because her name is relatively common, she did grab all three primary extensions for her name.
- Remember, domain names can be bought and sold. If the name you want is already registered but not in use, it may be for sale. To research domain names and test ideas, go to an organization that registers domain names, such as register.com or www.arin.net--the American Registry for Internet Numbers.