Entrepreneurs, need a domain name for your website but have tons of questions? How to search name availability, what to do if your domain name is unavailable, and how to properly buy and register (warning: there are a few pitfalls!)? Keep reading for sound business advice from a seasoned webmaster and fellow entrepreneur.
What Exactly is a Domain Name of a Website?
A domain name is alike to your address on the world wide web. Think of it as if someone wanted to visit your house they would use a map to find your street and house number – a domain name is the same type of thing in cyberspace.
See the illustration below which uses the analogy of a house address and land to explain the concept of your domain name as your street address, your digital website as the physical house, and the land it rests upon as your web hosting account.
When someone types in your domain name (mycompany.com) into their internet browser software or a search engine such as Google your website will appear.
A URL is basically the same as your full domain name’s home page. An URL example is www.yourcompany.com. However, an URL also can refer pages within your website such as www.yourcompany.com/shop etc.
URL’s are used to send people to specific websites via a hyperlink or clickable link. You can include URL in email messages, text messages, web pages, and social media.
NOTE: An IP address not a domain name. It is a set of 32 numbers, written as four numbers separated by periods which indicates is a computer’s internet address connection point to the worldwide web. An example is 127.0.0.1 Web host servers and some electronic devices use IP numbers for technical network configurations.
Domain Name Extensions Suffixes Explained
All domain names have letters after the point (period) which are called domain name extensions or suffixes. The most widely known domain extensions are .com, .net and org.
Originally the extensions were created to differentiate between websites that were for commercial purposes .COM and non profit .ORG, countries .CA for Canada, etc. Nowadays there are hundreds of extensions such as .NET, .INFO, .SITE, .ONLINE, .MOBI ETC..with more being created daily.
You can search for your company domain name here. Getting your domain name with a.COM extension is best, however, not essential. This domain search tool will instantly offer you good alternatives if the.COM is not available and taken.
Also here are my pro tips on what to do if your desired domain name.COM is not available.
FAQ: What is a TLD domain name and it is necessary?
TLD stands for top-level domain and means that the name is part of the highest level of the hierarchical domain name system of the internet and is officially registered with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which operates the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and is in charge of maintaining the DNS root zone. Think of them as the official governing party of domain names.
A subdomain such as www.mycompany.com/shop is a section within your domain name (think of them as departments) which is fine for your internal usage to direct customers to your eCommerce pages but not ideal for your main homepage.
How to Get a Domain Name: Register and Buy Properly
The first step in buying a great website domain name is to determine your desired name – which is not always as simple as it sounds – then to find out of your desired domain name is available.
Keep reading for my top tips on how to determine your best domain name and how to easily find out if it is available.
How to Pick the Right Domain Name for your Business
Choosing a domain name for your website to represent your business is a very important decision that will require a lot of thought and research.
The name that you pick will be your address on the World Wide Web for your company’s website and domain. As such you want to make sure that it is the best choice and these helpful tips will guide you to your perfect domain name.
Start your domain search here
1. Typing Ease – you want to pick a name that will be easy to type for your prospective customers to get to your website. Plain English, short words, and no tricky symbols nor weird punctuation is in order. It is OK to use numerals or hyphens in your domain name.
In fact, it can work very well because numbers make your name stand out and hyphens help to separate words and make your domain name easier to read and understand.
Example of how well number can work – check out My domain name!
www.Best4Businesses.com compared to www.Bestforbusinesses.com
Example of how well hyphens (dashes) can work on your domain name
www.Speedyautoshop.com versus www.Speedy-autoshop.com
2. Brevity is key – the shorter the better. A shorter name is easier to remember, easier to type and less likely to be misspelled or forgot. Experiment with meaningful (add value or clarity) abbreviations which are easily understood by your customers.
Example of how good abbreviations (such as location US) can work on your domain name
www.USBrandingBoss.com = Good
www.RtsBrandingBoss.com = Bad (what does RTS mean?)
3. Descriptive words – consider using words that will help the reader understand what your business offers. One of the best uses of this strategy is Johnson & Johnson who uses the domain name baby.com because many of their best selling products are sold for baby care.
Example of how descriptive words can work on your domain name
www.TacosUnlimited.com = Good for a Mexican restaurant or Taco cart (does not necessarily have to be the company actual name)
www.ILovePizza.com = for a Pizza parlor
www.ClothingthatFits.com= Fashion for petite size women
4. In your neighborhood – depending upon your type of business it can be useful to include either your city or state name in your domain name such as:
5. Easy to say – you want to be sure that your domain name is easy to be both say and understand when spoken out loud, such as when shared with customers on the telephone or in person. As such, it is best to avoid, tongue twisters and hard to pronounce words.
Example of how words that are difficult to say will not work well in your domain name
6. Be remembered – since there are millions of websites online it is helpful to have a catchy and memorable name. Once you have a few ideas of available domains, try them on your friends and business associates and see if it’s interesting and make sense to them.
7. Is it available? – Do your due diligence check the name that you desire is not otherwise legally bound to another firm by trademarks or copyrights. This will be sure to be a hassle and one you are best to avoid. .
8. Extensions are important – the three letters after the period – or dot – are called extensions. Different extensions indicate the types of businesses or organizations website is attached to that domain name.
While everybody seems to think that all domains have to end in .com that is just not so. Other common extensions are .net and .info. The use of .org at the end of the web address is generally used for nonprofit organizations and institutions.
Every day it seems there are more and more domain extensions available. While they are interesting they can harm your ability to get proper search engine rankings and their best avoided.
Domain Name Extensions – Listed in order of Preference for Business Purposes
- .US (IF US BASED)
- .IO (FOR APPS)
- .STORE (FOR ECOMMERCE)
- .BLOG (FOR BLOGS)
9. Brand building – when you have decided on your domain name it is recommended that you purchase closely related domain names prevent competitors from buying those names for their own websites.
An example would be a company whose name ends in an S – you purchase the domain name both with and without an S at the end.
To protect your domain name cheaply – purchase the other domain extensions. Example: Your domain name is www.BakerySweet.com – I reccomend that you also register these domain names:
- BakerySweets.com (the S is added)
- Bakery Sweet.net
- Bakery Sweet.org
10. Don’t delay – when you have chosen your domain name register it immediately. These days domain names go very quickly and once gone you will not be able to purchase them again.
For the relatively inexpensive price of domain registration (with this promotion it is FREE!), it’s worthwhile any domains were considering using for your website.
How to Find Out if Domain Name is Available – Search
Now that you have lots of good ideas for your domain name you need to search to find out if that domain name is available.
PRO TIP: Why YOU Must Buy Your Domain Name (Not Your Web Designer)
When you purchase your domain name be 100% certain that YOU, not your webmaster or web designer is the official owner of that important asset your website name.
Even if you have asked the webmaster to register your domain you do not have full ownership or control unless you purchase your domain directly.
SO many of my clients allow their web designer to register their domain name thinking that it does not matter. BUT it does! The internet authority considers the contact who registered the name as the rightful owner.
This is extremely problematic because in a year when it is time to renew this domain and the email reminder is sent to your webmaster who forgets to renew you could lose your domain name and entire website!
This has happened to many of my clients and so I want to strongly urge you to be sure that as a business owner you use your email address as the registration for all contact fields. Also use an email address that you will keep over many years, such as your personal email address, so that you get all renewal notifications about your domain name.
Your website domain name is a major asset of your business and needs to be protected accordingly.
What to do if your Domain Name is Taken or Not Available
These days it is not uncommon to find that your first choice of the desired domain name is not available and already taken by another company.
No worries! There are many ways to get a great domain name if your first choice is not available.
Here are my suggestions on what to do if you find your domain name is not available in order of my priority recommendation and lowest cost first.
- Modify domain name – Add small words or abbreviations such as geographic cities, states or countries.
- Add a hyphen – Add a dash or hyphen between words. This is very common these days and can actually be a plus because it allows for better readability of your company name.
- Consider alternative domain extensions – The domain extension is the three letters that appear after the period such as.com,. net and .org. Today there are thousands of domain extensions available.
- Buy a domain name from the current owner – You can purchase that domain from the other party. However, I don’t usually recommend this course of action for most startup companies.
It can be expensive and that startup capital can be better spent on other marketing activities with a higher return on investment.
If you want to explore buying a domain from someone I recommend you first read this article from the domain experts at GoDaddy.
Again I caution entrepreneurs not to spend a lot of money on a domain name thinking that it will ensure their success. It won’t. A strong business is more than simply a good domain name.
Unsafe To Build Your Website on Social Media or Free Blogging Sites
It is unwise to build your company website or blog on a platform that you do not wholly-own such as social media pages or blogging sites such as Medium or WordPress.com. This is because they could change their policies and site design at any moment and you could lose your entire digital website with no recourse.
Which WordPress is Which? Self-hosted., .com or .org?
It can get confusing among the various forms of WordPress software available.
Without going into all the unnecessary technical details, business websites should be built on SELF HOSTED versions of WordPress. This setup offers you the maximum power, flexibility, design options, and cost savings. The other versions are limited in options and often cost more for web hosting and maintenance.
How Much Does it Cost to Buy ? How to Get a Free Domain Name
Luckily buying a domain name for your company will be amongst the cheapest startup expenses you will have to pay! In fact, you can often get a free domain when you sign up for website hosting.
PRO TIP: Buy Your Domain Name Separately from Your Website Builder
If you plan to use a website builder such as Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly or eCommerce software such as Shopify, I highly recommend that you FIRST buy your domain name from a reputable domain registrar.
All of these companies are well-made systems however they have quirky systems and rules regarding moving your website domain. So if you launch your site on Wix and buy your domain name on Wix and then want to move your site to WordPress it can be at best a hassle and at worst impossible.
This is crucial for your future business growth because if you decide to switch software website builders you may not be able to do so if your domain is attached to a specific website builder.
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