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Step 1: Choose a Domain Name

Domain Names 19/08/2012

You’ve now decided you want to start your own website. The first step you must do is choose a domain name that perfectly suits your web project. It will be the “online address” of your site. By typing your “online address”, visitors will be able to access your website.

Your chosen name must be easy to remember. And, ideally, should give some idea of what your website is all about.

5 Tips in Choosing a Great Domain Name

You should choose a domain name that is unique. It should describe what you offer.  It must be simple, short and catchy to make it memorable. You must also avoid numbers and special characters – like a hyphen, if possible.

Additionally, it must not be confused for another brand. Copyright infringement is a no-no. Let me discuss this in more details below:

1. Choose the Perfect Brand Name

Branding  is powerful. It is your identity online or offline. Your website’s logo should display your brand name. It must also be consistent on all your website pages.

All things being equal, any website can become popular. However, good branding will make you stand out from the rest.

One great example of a brand is amazon. The word itself does not denote anything close to online shopping but it has become a popular online shopping brand: amazon.com.

If your brand name is “Zebra”, then you must buy the exact name like, zebra.com. When choosing a domain name, it must be an exact match followed by the “dot extension” (aka top level domain – more on this on my next tip). You may confuse some people if you’ve chosen a slightly different domain name like zebra123.com.

2. Select the Right Top Level Domain (TLD)?

Top-level domain (TLD) refers to the last part of a domain name. It is the extension of the name that you have selected immediately preceded by a dot sign.

TLDs”s are mainly classified into two categories:

  • Generic TLD’s – .com, .org and .net
  • Country-specific TLD’s – .uk, .us, .ca, .au and .eu

If your website is purely catering to a specific country, it may be beneficial to use a country specific TLD.  A good example is when your online business caters to UK based customers only. If  you sell and deliver flowers within the UK, it maybe good that you secure and use the .co.uk extension. Some people may prefer to buy flowers from a .co.uk website as it gives them the impression that it is a local shop.

3. Own the .com extension as well

Before anything else, I want to let you know that I’m a big supporter of .com, so I am somewhat bias. In my second tip, I cited the benefit of using the .co.uk tld. While the .co.uk tld is very common, there is still a percentage of users who may add the generic .com tld after your brand name. If you don’t own the .com version of your domain name, you risk losing those visitors. Once your site becomes popular, someone else might buy  .com version of your website. This will direct your potential visitors to their site.

Of course you can always take them to court for passing off, copyright infringement and so on. However, this will take time and will cost you money while still losing visitors in the process. That is why it may be wise for you to have the .com tld as well.

Some sites will buy a country specific tld where they are based but still opt to use the .com tld. What they do is 301 redirect it to the active domain name.

Here is a classic example:

While the first domain takes you exactly to that particular domain name, the .co.uk domain redirects you to the .com site. This is not actually uncommon.

3. Buy a Domain Name that Describes What You Offer

With so many purchased domain names, finding one that is still available can be difficult. It may help to pick a domain name with an added keyword before or after your brand name.

You basically use a “keyword” that tells what type of product or service you’re providing as part of your domain name. And then add a unique name before or after the keyword.

A good example to cite is if your business sells pizza. Use the “keyword” pizza in the domain name and then add the word mama immediately after – pizzamama.com. Alternatively, if your shop is called Luke’s Pizza, you can add the name lukes before the keyword – lukespizza.com. Make sure your domain name does not cause any confusion such as misspellings.

4. Pick the Shortest and Simplest Name Possible

Sure you have to keep a unique domain name. But it doesn’t always mean that you will try using highfalutin terms or the longest words in the dictionary to be different.

Additionally, avoid hyphens and numbers if possible. It is much harder to type domain names with numbers and special characters. Would you prefer web-design-peeps.com over webdesignpeeps.com. com? Of course not. The one without the hyphens is much eaiser to type. It also looks more natural.

5. Avoid Copyright Infringement

Avoid having domain names that sound like your competitors. Let’s say your direct competitor’s brand is apple. The website’s domain name is apple.com that sells computers, phone and other tech gadgets. You don’t want to call your domain name – apple123.com. Don’t open yourself to litigation. Domain name copyright infringement could potentially destroy your website or your company so make sure.

If you believe that you’re not using trademarked name, then you’re good to go. Bear in mind that for generic keywords, any added name before or after the keyword can be easily copied by competitors. This may potentially confuse visitors. Without strong branding strategies, it may direct your customers towards your competitors site. So be unique!

You’ve Now Chosen a Good Domain Name – What’s Next?

It is important to bear in mind that it is highly unlikely that your first choice is still available. Don’t be disappointed. It happened to me as well. You need to be creative when considering an alternative name. If a unique name comes into your head, it may be wise to secure it fairly soon. The race for having a unique domain name has become extremely tough.  The saying “don’t wait for tomorrow what you can do for today” still applies on choosing a domain name for your website.

You need to make a list of possible domain names for your website project. And then, find a good web hosting company where you can register your name and host your site.

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