How to Choose a Domain Name
Just as the title suggests, today's blog post is about how to choose a domain name. Now, we're not about to recommend which specific domains you should go out right now and register. However, the aim here is more of what to look for, some suggestions on choosing a domain name, and perhaps more importantly, why.
Much like our last post on How to Choose a Domain Registrar, this entry is also connected to Alley Kat Web Consulting's first blog post establishing a brand. We'll try not to be repetitive, so if you haven't read those, why don't you check those out first? In our review of how to choose a registrar, we introduced domain names, the general of what they are, and the importance of finding the registrar which you will be paying to support you.
Start With Being Memorable
Let's jump right into thinking of what domain to choose. What is a good domain name, a great name, a perfect name, even? It starts with being memorable, such as the best slogan, catchphrase, acronym, company, or person, when securing a domain name. What makes it great can be open to interpretation, but it needs to be memorable and top of mind for someone to retain what your website address is. Before you acquire your potentially next significant web presence, be sure to do your due diligence and check for branding and trademark searches. Are you infringing on a copyright? Is your established brand or product similar to someone else in your market locally, regionally, or nationally that could cause you trouble? Better review the research first!
What about Google when it comes to having a good presence, you may ask? Well, that is a great question and one we have heard and answered before. The thing is, Google is just one of many search engines in use today, and though the search algorithms are vast and ever-changing, they still compete with the oldest form of marketing — word of mouth. What we mean by this is, that it is better for someone new to hear your website address, your name, brand, or slogan and remember it than for them to visit a search engine in hopes of finding you. If someone doesn't remember your name, there is a lower chance that the potential new client can find you on the search engines because that depends on how the browsing party searches. That's a topic for another day.
The point is, that you want a domain name that someone can easily remember. The shorter the domain, the better, and this will help keep your website top of mind. For example, we have all heard of the Better Business Bureau, but remembering 'the BBB' makes it incredibly easy to know bbb.org. Not only is it short, but it is simple and easy to remember.
What About Extensions?
Now take a moment to think about domain name extensions. There are arguably five primary domain extensions to consider for any given reason, so let's review those now.
- .COM - Launched as 'commercial,' it was one of the first set of top-level domain names at the launch of the internet we know today. It is the most widely-used choice domain name extension we are familiar with for personal and professional domain names.
- .NET – Launched as 'network,' this extension slides into second as the most requested TLD rising to popularity, especially when the most common websites are already active .COM names.
- .ORG – Launched for organizations and originally was used for nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations, the .ORG names are a close third option for registrations. This extension serves a brand more as an additional name than being the first name choice, depending on the industry.
- .CO – Launched as an alternative, shorter version of the commercial .COM extension for companies and corporations. This extension is a country-code extension for Columbia. Unlike some other country-code extensions (ccTLDs), this name doesn't carry any local requirements or contacts in the country, so it makes it widely used.
- .BIZ – Launched as 'business,' the .BIZ TLD can be considered a fifth-place contender for choice domain extensions. Due to the lower requests for this extension, it's also typically seen as a lower cost to register and renew than the other four extensions.
As far as what extension to get for your domain name(s), it may be a place to start by reviewing the extensions listed here to see if your suggested brand is available first. There are other options in search rankings, which we can discuss in another topic for SEO, but for domain names, there are two main items.
- What words are in your domain, and how it relates to the website content
- What extension the domain name is, and how it relates to the website
For example, if a business is a travel agency with the name uniquetravel.com or a website address of unique.travel, these two would be very beneficial for the agency. However, it would not benefit either if the website content was about selling home-baked goods.
One thought about the use of gTLDs is that search engines favour established websites. The choice of finding a 'second best' domain extension could cause concern for similar business brands in two ways. For this example, if the .COM you wanted was registered, and .NET was available, then a new business owner could be competing with a more established, more commonly used extension due to the .COM favorability causing the top of mind to type in the .COM name and go to another website meaning the .net owner is losing out. This traffic change would be human error in assuming a .COM usage due to it being popular. On the flip side to this, by reviewing search engine results from a marketing perspective, the .NET owner could potentially use marketing options, including geographic targeting and SEO, to outshine the .COM and bury the other extension in the results. There are many options and variables to consider when launching a brand!
Another thing to consider that we at Alley Kat have seen is new web users adding the word 'the' at the front of their domain name. While it only makes the domain slightly longer, by dropping 'the' of the website address, the client would be navigating away from your business to the shorter version of the name. For example, 'thealleykatwc.com' instead of 'alleykatwc.com.' Review the various spelling options to see if you are stepping into someone else's territory or opening yourself up to traffic stealing by registering the wrong name first.
On the discussion of new domain extensions and their effect on search engine noticeability, Google's review in 2015 discussed new top-level domain names noting they will be treated in the same way as gTLDs – like .com, .net, and .org. This update is good news for some.
Alternatives to the above would be businesses located in certain countries as Google also favours country-code extensions for geographic targetting, for example, a Canadian business using a .CA domain, a Japanese business registering a .JP, or a British company using .CO.UK.
What Extension To Choose?
With so many extensions being available to choose from, what one should you pick? Well, that may also be open for debate.
As we covered earlier, the .COM extension is the first pick to look at, but that doesn't mean you should only settle for a .COM name. The biggest problem using .COM names come from many registrants choosing them for just that — meaning the majority of favoured, easy-to-remember addresses are unavailable.
Realistically, one could consider cycling through the other four noted extensions in the last section, but the suggestion would be to make sure the brand you want to portray is available.
Alternatively, the next best option would be to research enough to know the owner of the .COM won't be a problem before committing to a secondary-choice extension like a .NET or .CO. For example, how long has the .com been registered? If the name is more than a few years old and parked, it is likely for sale. Having the name you want available opens up a couple of doors which we'll follow up with later on, but then opens another question right now. Is this the right brand for you?
Having a unique brand name increases the likeliness that no one may have used it before, but it also makes it a bit trickier to market since you need to target that niche wording for visitors to find you. On the plus side to this may, there will also be less competition with that brand or term.
The up and downs side to domain names is it's a large domain market online, including expanding brands and aftermarket sales. Even if a registrant isn't using the domain name for their business, they may be parking the name to sell it. But wait, that's a good thing, yes? Well, not necessarily, especially if that person is a cybersquatter. The market, as we noted, is growing, but this also means there is a need for choice. What this means to the average consumer is you need careful thinking about what your brand is. More specific to the topic, what is written in front of the domain extension before you buy and then keep it registered.
Keeping a name registered should be easy, right? Well, every case is different, but there are several factors to consider, like the following:
- How long did you register the domain? You can register most gTLDs up to 10 years, but some extensions like a .CO can limit you to 5 years. Where will you be at that time?
- If you registered on a credit card, who handles the card within your company? When does your credit card expire? More importantly, does your card expire before the domain name renews?
- Did you turn on auto-renew or safe renew? It is a backup plan, but it only helps if the credit card is still valid.
- Does your registrar of choice offer protection services, like DEP – domain expiration protection in case your credit card does expire?
- If safe renew is off, are you getting email reminders of expiry dates? Is someone within your organization paying attention to those emails and checking the spam and junk folders?
- Did you set a calendar reminder in advance of renewal?
- Who registered the domain name, and do you have access to the registrar account yourself? Companies often tend to share ownership and duties of domain names, but consider this when registering a domain name with an employee or tech person as the registrant for when they are no longer under your employ.
Despite what some may think, it is not the registrar's responsibility to ensure you renew your domain name. The registrar is required to email reminder notices and may, on occasion, call you, but that's it. Taking action to renew the domain is like any other subscription service. You have a renewal date, and paying it on time is the account holders' responsibility, else the domain name may expire or enter redemption before returning to the market. You don't want this.
Another thing to consider is if you register a domain, how long can you do it? Are you confident that you will stick with the address that you chose to invest hundreds of dollars in to secure the name properly without risk? Are you aware of the consequences of failed renewals, such as expiration charges or redemption? Some registrars can charge 2-3 times the registration cost of a domain for a redemption cost to redeem the name back from the registry. In perspective, this can start at 60-200 US dollars or more!
The last item we'll review on the topic of domains is Premium Domains. What is a premium domain? These select names are typically short, memorable domain names that already have associated traffic going to them. Numerous providers sell aftermarket names at premium prices, such as HugeDomains or BuyDomains, but are they worth it? Well, if you're in the market for a solid primary domain at a higher price tag, it could be. As we covered, finding a name that is memorable and rolls of the tongue could be worth it if the price is right.
However, some premium domain names can be a bit overkill. Some memorable domain names that fetched a high price in the last 15 years include Voice.com for $30 million, 360.com for $17 million, and Fund.com for 12 million dollars! Now, this is a skewed result as these are very high-end domains. The average premium domain to most consumers can range in cost between $100 to $2000, but this depends on the terms used and the industry market.
If you are in the market for a new domain, or your first domain, Do Your Research! Check your brand, learn about branding and trademarks, check social media, and ensure there are no infringing trademarks or copyrights you would disturb by registering your domain. Next, see if the names you would consider are available. Now think about backup options or secondary extensions, consider these, and take a moment to write them out somewhere on paper. Review your possible names and find out if they're available and if there is a .COM among them, and if so, does it have an established website? If the name is available to register, is it at a premium cost?
Next, map out your purchasing options. Which registrar will you choose? Try starting your venture by reading our blog about how to Choose a Registrar. Once you know what type of provider you'll register with, you can review other factors, such as your budgeting strategy. When it's time to review your planning, are you still confident in your brand? Are you self-assured enough to secure the domain for multiple years without concern for infringing on someone else, or enough that when you register, you'll keep it active and maintain the name?
Determining a new brand or changing your brand, researching your trademark rights, and finding your providers can be a lot to take in at once. Like all business ventures, there are many perspectives to think of but don't fret. Let Alley Kat Web Consulting make it easier for you to make that new step. Equipped with years of market knowledge and experience, our professionals harness many strategies to help transition new and old businesses where they need to go. Including branding and rebranding solutions, Alley Kat Web Consulting will discuss your requirements and compare your existing or intended brand within the industry. Don't let yourself fall short on your new website launch, and be prepared. Contact Alley Kat Web Consulting today for a consultation, and let us help you become the next big thing.