When it comes to picking a domain name for a business website, there are a number of criteria that can be used to measure candidates. Picking an appropriate domain name is important as the domain name is central to a company’s online identity. A deliberate and well thought out domain name can have lasting benefits for a business such as building a positive brand and generating repeat traffic. Once a domain name is registered, a business is immediately invested in that domain name since it will exist in web links that drive search engine rankings, directories that drive web traffic, included on business cards, signage and other promotional materials. This article provides the top five criteria to be applied when selecting and registering a strategic domain name for a business website.
The first criteria, which can also be viewed as a prerequisite, is to find a domain name that is available. Since domain names unambiguously identify a business online much like a phone number does offline, domain names must be unique. Many of the shorter, more desirable domain names are already in use and have a great deal of worth. These include Insurance.com, Business.com, Cooking.com and Diet.com There are lots of free tools provided by domain name registrants and web hosting companies to determine if the desired domain name is available and to suggest variations when the desired domain is already taken. It is also good practice for companies to search the online US trademark database to ensure that a potential domain name is not a registered trademark for some other business. Believe it or not, there are known instances where businesses had to surrender domain names they registered which were later discovered to violate trademarks of other companies, even though the trademark owners had not previously registered the domain name.
The second domain name selection criteria is to find a name that is related to the business name, the brand or industry. If the business has an established brand identity, then the choice of domain name should be the brand name, if available. Some of the largest ecommerce sites fall into this category, namely Amazon.com, ebay.com and craigslist.org. Their domain names are their brand names which were established over the years. However, if a business is new and does not yet have an established, widely-recognized brand identity, the domain name selected can benefit if related to the business focus. Examples of this kind of domain name include PRWeb.com, EzineArticles.com and emarketer.com, though it is unclear to the author whether these currently well-established brands were built before or after their domain names were registered. Either way, a prospective visitor can look at these domain names and get an idea of the business focus of the registered owner. Having a domain name aligned with business focus can also assist with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and increase visitors referred to the business website from search engines.
The third domain name selection criteria is based on the old adage, “less is more.” In other words, it is best to select a domain name that is as short as possible while taking into account the other selection criteria. Many suggest that ten characters or less is ideal. This can be quite a challenge with so many domain names already registered and in use over the last decade and a half. To make matters worse, many investors registered domain names for the sole purpose of markuping them and reselling them prior to their use. This practice, known as domain name parking, is based on speculation of high demand and motivated buyers for certain domain names. That said, there are still plenty of available domain names that are ten characters or less for those willing to be creative. Having a short domain name benefits the website address by reducing the number of misspellings, making it easier to remember and able to fit on business cards, stationery and signage.
The fourth domain name selection criteria is to register.com suffixes whenever possible. Most Internet users assume that commercial entities will have domain names that end in.com as opposed to.net,.biz,.tv,.us,.info, etc. Many looking for the website of a well-known company or brand will add “www.” to the company or brand name, then append “.com” to the end in attempts to navigate directly to the website of interest. Some businesses will select a popular brand or company name as their domain name “root” but register it with one a non-.com suffix since the.com domain name is already registered by the brand owner. While this approach may yield “free” traffic, conversion rates of visitors to customers will be very low as these visitors will usually abandon the website feeling misled. The same principle applies to selecting a domain name using a misspelled brand or company name.
The fifth and final domain name selection criteria is what I call “The 3Rs” – easy to Recite, Recognize and Recall. Random strings of numbers and letters make good system passwords, but horrible domain names. They are difficult to remember and nearly impossible to guess. This applies to acronyms that represent unknown brands. This is especially relevant when providing a website address to radio audiences or presentation listeners. A good domain name will enable advertisers and presenters to recite a website address to potential clients and customers who will hear and recognize the website address, then recall that address next time they are online. Domain names with word components that can be spelled in multiple ways such as “ad”, “add”, “two”, “to”, “too” should be avoided as listeners will be prone to misspell the website address when attempting to reach the business online.
Carefully selecting and registering a strategic domain name is an important step in launching an online business identity. Businesses will benefit from selecting wisely as domain names, once registered, will quickly find their way into countless materials, partner links and search engine indices that become expensive to update if changes are required. Applying these top five domain name selection criteria will enhance online identity, increase website traffic and make it easier for customers and prospects to connect with your business.
Rick Noel is an experienced Internet consultant with over a decade of Internet, marketing and sales experience with General Electric, Bellcore, Telcordia and Burst Media.