The first step to getting a business on the internet is to choose a domain name. It is important to choose the correct domain for business because it will ideally be used for as long as a company is operational.

Changing a business domain name:

  • Could be catastrophic for search results, if not redirected correctly.
  • Would mean changing offline marketing.
  • Would often mean changing your professional business email addresses and potentially losing contacts.
  • Google uses domain age in trust signals to help decide if the domain is used by a genuine company.

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What is a domain name?

A domain name is a website address. Other common terms you might hear are ‘web address’ and ‘URL’ (Universal Resource Locator). Although URL is more commonly used for specific pages.

How to choose a domain name for a business

When choosing a domain name, a business should first consider:

  • How easy it is to type.
  • How confusing it looks when it is written down, or whether it creates other words.
  • If it reflects the website or brand well.
  • How easy it is to remember.
  • If the business will trade internationally.

Where possible, strike a balance between a unique, brand-friendly domain name and a domain containing a keyword outlining the product or service.

The name that you use in your marketing should appear somewhere in your domain name when using offline advertising. This is likely to be the first thing people will type into their browsers.

Example:
There are two choices for Potters Wands in the UK:
potters.co.uk (which is very likely to have gone) or potterswands.co.uk.

The latter includes the company name and a keyword (wand in this case).

A keyword is a descriptive word that explains what your business does or sells.

Calling your company Potters is very different from calling it Potters Wands or Potters Magic. You should explain what the company does in a simple way.

Keywords in your domain name will play an important part in helping surfers finding your website.

A descriptive domain is for marketing reasons: if you use the domain name as a sign on your van/car, people can see that Potters sells wands without needing to include any additional writing.

Search engines used to pick up on words within the domain names, therefore the word ‘wands’ would effect search results. However this does not have so much strength now.

Should your domain name be short or long?

Try to keep the domain as short as possible, making sure you choose one that is meaningful.

Avoid names with more than 16 characters. Apart from the fact that people will not be able to remember such a long name, it will also be a chore to type it.

Long domain names are hard to fit on your car/van and confusing when you try to spell it out to people.

However, while shorter names may be easier to type, slightly longer domain names that include full words may be easier to remember.

Should you register a hyphenated domain name?

It used to be that search engines registered hyphens as spaces; therefore potterswands.co.uk would be seen as one word. But these days search engines will easily parse out the keywords within the address, especially if your site is SEO optimised.

If your domain includes more than one word, hyphenated names can be easier on the eye as people will be able distinguish the words in the URL more effectively. That said, the use of hyphens correlates highly with spammy behaviour, so do not use more than one hyphen in a domain name.

People are very used to typing ‘alloneword’ names and un-hyphenated names are easier to get across in verbal situations. Whether or not you use a hyphen, it’s generally better to stick to domain names containing only one or two words.

Write your domain name down on a piece of paper. Write it in a text editor (like Word or Apple Pages). Stare at it. Say it out loud. Spell it out.

These exercises will help you spot any possible glitches.

How to choose a domain name for a business

Country-specific domains versus .com domains

If your audience is based in the local community or you only deliver in your own country, it makes sense to use a country-specific domain, eg. .co.uk, .ca, .jp.

If your site could benefit from an international audience, go for a .com.

The “.org” extension actually describes a non-profit organisation.

A .net – is usually used for an internet-based company, while .uk.ltd may be used if you are a limited UK company.

Some settle for the “.com” extension, as this is the default people use on hearing a company name, and they would therefore type it into their browsers.  It was originally used for commercial companies, however businesses of any size or industry can are using .com extensions today.