Choosing the perfect domain name can be one of the hardest decisions you have to make when it comes to starting a business or creating a new website.
It may seem like all the good ones are taken. And, well, they pretty much are. This is the unfortunate reality for a couple reasons. First, there are just a LOT of websites and businesses out there! Second, domain “squatters” buy up domain names and “squat” on them, meaning they don’t do anything productive with the domain, they simply hold on to it, hoping to eventually sell it for big bucks to someone who has a legitimate use for it. With these two factors working against us, we have to weigh all the options before you select your domain name.
Where do I look for domain names?
Before you can decide on a domain name, you have to see what’s available. There are countless places you can search for and buy your domain name. We like to use hover.com. <– Get a $2 discount on your purchase with our affiliate link.
What should my domain be?
The best case scenario is to use your exact business name, such as landslidecreative.com. However, if your business name is especially long, you may want to do an abbreviated version. For example, our client Gros Executive Recruiters uses the domain name grosrecruiters.com.
If that’s not an option, can you add something to your domain name to make it more unique? For example, you could add a city or state abbreviation if you are a local business. You could add the word shop before your name if you are an online store. For example, womensboutiqueTN.com or shopwomensboutique.com.
Choose something logical that’s not too long, and matches your business name as closely as possible.
What extension should I chose?
Extensions are the letters that come after the dot. The original options included .com, .net, .org, .gov. New extensions are always becoming available. You may have seen domains with .me, .ly, or .tv extensions. The available options are continuing to grow, with more specific additions like .xyz, .tech, .coach.
As you may have guessed, your best option, at least for now, is a .com extension. It’s what people are most used to seeing, so it’s the easiest to remember. But, there’s a good chance your first .com choice is already taken.
The new extensions give you lots more options. For example, womensboutique.com may be taken, but womens.boutique might not be (yet). The catch with these new extensions is that they haven’t totally caught on yet. We’re starting to see bigger brands use them (like abc.xyz and thehungergames.movie) so they are only going to get more popular. However, right now, many people will not recognize them as domain names, and that could hurt your web traffic. If you have a younger, tech-savvy audience, you might be ready to go for it. If you have an older audience or one that is less tech-savvy, you’ll want to stick to a standard, familiar extension.
For example, we work with a nonprofit named Just Hope International with the domain justhopeinternational.org. That’s a long domain name to include in printed materials or to type on your phone, so for these uses, Just Hope uses a shortened domain, justho.pe.
In many cases, a good choice is to get a .com domain that works, but to also secure other new extension options for the future or specific uses. When those domains become more commonplace and recognizable, you can make the transition to using it as your primary domain. This also make sure you have control of those additional domains, so that another business can’t use it, creating confusion or competition.
How many domains should I register?
It’s often a good idea to purchase a few extra domains, such as:
- Common misspellings
If your name is hard to spell, consider buying common misspellings of your name.
- With and without an s
Sometimes it’s hard to hear an s at the end of name, so you might want to get your name with and without the s. For example, victoriassecret.com and victoriasecret.com take you to the same site.
- Additional extensions
Consider purchasing your domain name with additional extensions, especially if your domain is not a .com. Also, as we discussed, you may want to secure your domain with one of the new extensions for use in the future.
Try not to go overboard! The registrar (the company that sells domains) may try to get you to buy every possible extension and every variation of your domain. Just get the ones the make sense.
How much should I pay for a domain name?
The price of a domain name can vary dramatically. If you are buying it directly from a registrar — not from a squatter or reseller — the price is typically anywhere between $15 and $100 for one year. More desirable domains and extensions can be on the higher end.
You may find that your ideal domain name is being sold by a squatter or reseller, and the price is significantly higher, thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. This is when you have to make a tricky decision.
Is the perfect domain worth the investment?
Only you can answer this question, but there are a few things you should consider:
- How important is your website to your business? Essentially, is your website itself your business? If so, it might be worth it to spend more.
- How much money is this domain going to make you? How long will it take you to break even on the purchase?
- Can you change your business name? If you are still in the planning stages, it may be worth considering.
- Can you find a similar domain name? Of course you’d like to have your perfect domain, but could something similar get the job done without hurting your business?
How long should I register it for?
If you plan to be using your domain for years to come, go ahead and register it for as many years as you can, probably five or ten. Search engines like to see domain names that are registered well into the future, as this indicates you plan to stick around.
If you’re unsure how long you will use your domain, start with a year or two. You can always extend the term later. (Just don’t let your registration lapse!)
When and where should I register a domain?
If you’ve decided on your domain name, BUY IT! NOW!
They’re flying off the shelves, so as soon as you are reasonably certain what domain name you’d like to use, buy it!
There are lots of places to register your domain. We like hover.com. <– Get a $2 discount on your purchase with our affiliate link.
Put it all together
To recap, let’s review the best practices for choosing a domain name:
- Use your business name or something close to it.
- Keep it as short as possible.
- Use a .com domain name if possible, but consider new extensions.
- Determine how much a premium domain is worth to your business.
- Register your domain for as long as is reasonable.
- Stop waiting and buy it now!