So you have an idea for a business, and you know it’s a winner. But you need the perfect domain: something professional, memorable, succinct and effective. Your domain is your web address online, and an essential part of your online presence—you want it to further your marketing efforts, help you reach your audience and reflect the purpose of your company or cause.
Whether you come about your domain decision easily or undergo a more painstaking process, there are some common mistakes you should avoid.
1. Not giving your new domain the thought and consideration it deserves
What’s in a name? If chosen carefully, a powerful marketing tool. The right name will usually be easy to pronounce, and will give visitors a strong idea of your company’s brand, services and vibe. When choosing a name, you should always:
The most effective domain names are those that are not only memorable, but also generate a high number of web hits through organic search engine optimization. Optimizing your website for SEO isn’t as simple as “keyword stuffing” or filling your domain and your site content with highly searchable terms.
Since 2012, when Google updated their algorithm to weed out exact match domains from their results, keywords in domains have been treated differently. Previously a domain name such as CheapVacationsTropicalResortsAllInclusive.ca may have ranked well in search, thanks to its sheer volume of popular keywords. But Google stopped rewarding these (usually spammy) websites in order to provide users with more valuable search results. Business owners should be discerning when choosing a name—taking SEO into account is important, but including too many keywords can actually have a negative result.
Account for marketability
It’s worth keeping in mind that with strong branding, your domain name might not need keyword associations—after all, “Google”, upon creation, had no discernible meaning.
In fact, some of the most brandable domain names are the result of a fluke—Yahoo.com came to fruition after Jerry Yang and David Filo referred to themselves as “a couple of yahoos”. Other times, domains have more rationale, like when Hotmail founders Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith wanted to combine the word “mail” with “HTML”, the language used to create their product. Determine what makes the most sense for your business, but don't be afraid to get creative.
Search for relevant aftermarket domains
Many people struggle coming up with a domain that hasn’t been taken because they fail to look beyond the primary domain market (which features extensions available for immediate registration) to consider the secondary “aftermarket” of domains. These aftermarket domains are owned by domain name speculators (kind of like internet real estate investors) who are often willing to sell something snappy and succinct at an affordable price. With the range of new gTLD options, finding the perfect domain name may be much easier than you think.
2. Not picking the right Top Level Domain (TLD) extension
Your domain extension is, quite literally, an extension of your business name, so it should help to reflect your services. Much like .GOV is used to indicate government websites, your primary business domain should have an extension that’s relevant to your company. Companies based in certain countries may benefit from using a ccTLD (country code TLD). For example, if you primarily serve a Canadian market, a .CA extension can have advantages for SEO, geotargeting and brand positioning.
You can also use alternative domain extensions to address other areas of your business. For example, if you own a coffee shop that also sells merchandise, JoesCoffee.ca may be your primary domain, with JoesCoffee.store as your ecommerce site for branded apparel, mugs and coffee beans. Though it may feel like a subtle difference, your domain extensions can help you immediately connect with your audience, and play into brand trust and public perception.
3. Choosing the wrong registrar
When registering a domain, you want to choose a registrar that has your best interests in mind. After all, you’ll want to secure the rights to your domain, make sure that your website is secure and be clear on exactly how much it all costs. To avoid the hassle of moving your domain to a different registrar, it’s worth doing your research up front. When choosing a registrar, you should always:
Make sure it’s accredited
There are many sites to register domains but you’re best off choosing one that is accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN ensures safe, secure domain name registration and provides a set of rules for registrars to follow.
Consider the total cost of ownership
Many registrars will have contracts that specify the length of time that you are able to hold the domain: a year, five years, even ten. Each of these contracts will have fine print attached and in some cases, the monthly or annual fee increases after the first year of service.
Take the time to calculate how much your domain will cost in the long-term. Does the domain have high renewal fees or expensive add-on services? What’s the price difference between paying for a one-year registration and renewing at full price versus paying for three years upfront?
Know the full list of available services
If you are not totally web savvy, you’ll want a registrar that has responsive customer support services. You should also research to see which add-on services you can receive through your registrar—features like DNS management, transfers, email forwarding and domain security protection can be hugely valuable for businesses.
Investigate the registrar’s BBB standing
To feel even more confident in your choice, consult the The Better Business Bureau (BBB). You can research a registrar’s BBB standing and customer reviews to gain a sense of their track record and reputation. Choosing a registrar with integrity is important; the BBB can help to ensure that you are in good hands.
Choosing a domain may be tough, but by avoiding these mistakes you can help your company succeed online. Use a registrar you can trust and make a name for yourself with the right domain.
Webnames is Canada's original domain registrar and a one-stop convenience for the online needs of individuals, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and corporations. Check to see if your domain name is available today.
Photo: Shutterstock / Kite_rin