How to Pick a Domain Name (and other impossible tasks)
If I know you – and I do, dear big-idea-thinker – you have a dream about where your new business will take you. So much planning goes into the business plan (right?!?), the product and the riches that will undoubtably ensue.
You likely spent time at the kitchen table, thinking up a great name for your business. Something that no one has thought of before.
But wait…before you lock in your logo and all of your business cards with this new name (not to mention the t-shirts and coffee mugs)…stop and do a search for the matching domain name!
In the beginning…
In the beginning, there were only .com domain names (actually, the domain arpa was the first internet top-level domain, according to Wikipedia, but we’re not going back quite that far in this little history). The ‘.com’ part is called the top level domain (or TLD). You then choose the word that goes in front of the TLD to form your domain name (i.e. mybusiness.com). In the wild west of when domain names were first being settled, it was relatively easy to get your business initials as your domain name. Or if you had a short name, you could use your actual name (I’m looking at you, coke.com).
As businesses came online, .com names were snapped up and savvy businesses started looking for alternatives to .com.
In 2009, only 21 generic TLDs were available. There were also country-code TLDs (for example, the now popular ‘.ca’). Many of the TLDs spoke to the purpose of the organization that owned the domain – .edu (education), .gov (government), etc.
The organization that monitors TLDs decided to create additional TLDs and, in 2012, received 1,930 applications (wowzers!), proposing new TLDs. Not all were created, but we now have a vast array of TLDs from which to choose in comparison to the piddly few that were available in 2009.
The broad spectrum of TLDs available to you, dear domain-name-owner-wannabe, can be overwhelming. You are no longer limited to the ones that you see on a day-to-day basis, such as .com, .org, .ca, .net. You can now have .agency, .beer, .clinic…well, the list is quite extensive, so you can look them up on Wikipedia’s List of Internet Top Level Domains page.
We are now living in interesting times. Just like the explosion of .ca names in the early to mid-2010’s, businesses will now start showing up with something other than .com after their name. This new playing field creates the opportunity to choose a more description domain name or to claim one that is shorter than what would be available if you had to use .com.
So how do you pick?
My advice to clients is to always own their business name, if it is available, in both the .com and .ca versions, which are the most commonly used in Canada. Your customers will likely guess ‘yourbusinessname.com’ or ‘yourbusinessname.ca’ first, so they are the low-hanging fruit. By the way, I also recommend to clients that they own the name of any key business people in their organization as a domain name (more on this later). Those domain names are not always available.
A second option is to use a keyword phrase that describes your business. This can be especially effective if it is a catchy phrase. For example, deliciouscookiesforall.com is long, but memorable.
When choosing the name, keep in mind:
- that keywords in domain names are GREAT;
- you are going to have to use that puppy as an email address;
- that email address will likely have to fit on a business card;
- sometimes when you mix words together, they form unfortunate other words, so ALWAYS check. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Bored Panda’s ’30 Unintentionally Inappropriate Domain Names‘)
Domain names are relatively inexpensive to purchase, but have a big impact on your business. It is fine to own several and point them all at the same website. If you clicked on coke.com above, you might have noticed that it actually took you to coca-cola.com. The first domain name (which was very guessable) is redirected to the main website.
A cautionary tale
Once upon a time, a new client came to me with a problem. An employee had left their company in a huff and decided to buy a domain name that matched this client’s business name and set up a seedy little website. Yikes.
‘What can we do?’, they asked me.
Um…not much, unless you want to launch legal action. Yep. Legal action (assuming that your polite request to have the website taken down was not heeded).
This new client had registered several domain names, but not their exact business name, and now their customers were searching for them online and finding this other website.
In the end, they waited it out. The disgruntled employee did not renew the domain name and the client snapped it up as soon as it became available. Problem solved. True story, even though I started with ‘once upon a time’.
The take-away is to protect your business name, as well as any name that connects to the reputation of your business, by buying those domain names where possible.
Domain name strategies
Beyond protecting your business name and reputation, there are other strategies that can be used when purchasing domain names. You might want to register related names to stop someone else from registering and using it. You could choose to register common mis-spellings of your name. The key is to recognize where your risks and opportunities lie. Minimize risks and maximize opportunities.
If you need help brainstorming ideas or just knowing what is available, get in touch and we’ll talk. One of the services that I provide clients is domain name research. I will find out what’s available compared to your desired domain name and probably come up with a few ideas that you haven’t thought of yet.