In the early days of website design and development, a Canadian teenager Mike Rowe set out to stake his claim in the internet world. Building his part-time website design business, Mike followed the steps most new business owners do — create a name, logo, and a suite of services.
The last part of Mike’s startup was to create a business website and choose a domain name. (Because what website designer worth their salt doesn’t have a website?)
As a business owner in the early years of the internet boom, Mike decided to register his website name as his full name, Mike Rowe, with the ending “soft”. With a simple click, his new business was up and running.
But the honeymoon was short-lived. A tech giant across the border soon opened litigation against Mike and his company.
The issue? Mike’s domain name was familiar to their own — Microsoft.com.
The legal battle between Microsoft and MikeRoweSoft captured the public’s attention — a modern-day David vs. Goliath that would have ramifications for how small businesses could engage in the digital arena.
The negative press toward Microsoft’s actions led to the company settling with Mike Rowe out of court with an agreement that would Mike redirect his domain name, but then reap few benefits.
The lawsuit between MikeRoweSoft and Microsoft illustrates that the need to choose a domain name for business websites wisely is critical. However, coming up with a creative name is only half the battle. It is also critical to ensure that the chosen name is not already in use.
Website owners need a strong domain name to help them stand out against the competition and get their message across. However, choosing a domain name can be challenging.
This article will dive into domain names and explore how you can choose a good domain name for your website.
What is a domain name?
Before we go over how to choose a good domain name, it’s essential to understand what a domain name is.
A domain name is an address used when you access a website online. These names look like “example-business.com.” Without a domain name, it would be impossible for anyone to find your business on the web.
To discover the domain name 101, read our article, “What Is a Domain Name?”
Before registering your domain, you need to understand additional domain-related terminology you may encounter, such as domain levels.
Domain names consist of a minimum of two levels, a top-level domain (TLD) and a second-level domain (SLD). The TLD is also called a domain extension (like .com), and the SLD is the part that comes right before the TLD (for example, your brand’s name). And there’s also a third-level domain that’s often called a sub-domain, as they sometimes refer to specific pages or sections of a website.
Let’s take our blog’s URL as an example:
As you can see from the illustration above, domain names are simply unique text identifiers that allow web browsers and internet servers to communicate and process website information. So, before we review how to choose a good website name, let’s dive into top-level domains.
How to choose a top-level domain (TLD) name?
While a big part of selecting a good website name is coming up with a creative domain, choosing the best top-level domain (TLD) can be just as important.
The most popular TLD in use is .com (indicates a “commercial” site) — with country-specific TLDs such as .ru (Russia) and .in (India) not far behind.
Other popular TLDs are:
- .org for non-profit organizations (However, in 2019, this restriction was removed, and businesses can now use it as well.)
- .gov for government entities.
- .net used to be one of the most popular; however, you are now seeing it less, perhaps because it stands for “network” and was primarily designed for the networking and email service providers.
While on average, domain names can cost between $9–15 per year, the more popular the TLD, like .com, the more expensive the domain will be. So an excellent way to save some of that upfront cost is to buy your domain for multiple years.
While some users may see TLDs as an abstract set of letters, you should view them as a way to understand what a website offers. They may also indirectly reflect a level of authority. For example, a website ending in .com often appears more credible than one ending in a random or less-popular extension.
Here are some examples of TLDs commonly used today:
● Government TLDs: .gov, .mil
● Business TLDs: .com, .net
● Non-Profit/Associations TLDs: .org
● Education TLDs: .edu
TLDs like .com, .org, and .net, which have existed for longer periods of time, have a high trust rate among web users. However, due to the history of these TLDs, they are more competitive.
As domain names have evolved, creativity in TLDs has increased. Today, bloggers, agencies, portfolio websites, and tech startups use newer TLDs to differentiate themselves in their market. These include:
You can see the complete list of currently-used TLDs online here if you want to get inspired.
Knowing which TLDs to use will go a long way in understanding how to choose a domain name that’s best for your small business website.
How can a domain name impact your search engine results?
Not only are domain names important for branding, but they can also impact your website’s success in search engines results. So, how to choose a domain name for a business that will drive traffic to your website?
A good website name and optimized website titles are essential factors in effective SEO. Choosing a domain name with keywords that represent your brand can impact your search engine results and help you gain more traffic to your site or targeted microsite.
When search engines crawl the web, they take note of the keywords included in a domain name. Therefore, when you include your domain name as part of your overall SEO strategy, you can drastically increase website traffic organically.
For example, say you own a “best outdoor gear” business and want to start an online store for camping equipment. A good domain name might be www.bestoutdoorgear.com or www.bestoutdoorgear.shop if you primarily sell products online.
So, a website domain name that succeeds in today’s competitive SEO landscape is:
- Easy to remember;
- Naturally searchable;
- Aligned with your business’s name and branding;
- Keyword-centric; and
- Representative of your company’s products or services.
7 tips on how to choose a great domain name for your business website
Now that you know how important it is to choose a good domain name, it’s time to create one. These are the essential tips we recommend you follow:
1. Make it short and simple
A shorter domain name is typically easier for customers to remember and find. Remember the basics of branding: a great name needs to be simple and recognizable.
2. Ensure it’s easy to type
Like tip #1, good domain names should be easy to type out. Think of the websites you often visit and how typing their URL has become part of your muscle memory. A great website name should be easy to spell and quickly typed into a desktop or mobile device browser.
3. Make it easy to pronounce
Not only should your domain name be short and easy to type, but it should also be easy to pronounce. Both online and offline, word of mouth is key to growing a business. If potential customers can’t pronounce your small business website name or it’s difficult to say out loud, then consider changing it.
4. Avoid numbers or hyphens
When choosing a domain name, it’s best to avoid using numbers or hyphens. Since these are more difficult for people to remember and type, they can often conflict with your brand and make it cumbersome for customers and search engines.
5. Name for the long-term
Choosing and registering a domain name is a bit like naming a child. You want to be as happy with the name a year (or even ten years) from now as you do on the day of registration. Therefore, it’s essential to be creative (but not too creative as it should still be easy to remember and type out).
6. Inspire creativity with domain name generators
Choosing a website name can feel overwhelming, but thankfully there are tools to simplify the process. Domain name generators allow you to input your desired business or product and create a list of names that match what you’re looking for. A few examples of this are:
These sites can help you brainstorm and develop a list of potential domain names that work well with your brand.
7. Ensure your choice isn’t already trademarked or in use
Before you pull the trigger on a domain name, be sure to check if it’s already trademarked. To check the availability of a domain, you can search for your desired domain name by using domain registrars such as Domains.com, Google Domains, and others. Here’s what you need to do: put your potential business name in the search box and view the results, including extensions. You will see the list of available domain names with their prices.
But what if your preferred domain name is already taken? Then you can use WHOIS lookup tool to find its owner and try to buy out the name. If your favorite domain name’s holder doesn’t want to sell it, you can buy the duplicate domain name with another extension. For example, if www.bestoutdoorgear.com is unavailable, you can choose www.bestoutdoorgear.business. However, you should consider that there can be some confusion about how Google should rank the pages. This mainly refers to the country-code top-level domains like .ca or .uk. For example, if your audience is located in the UK and people are searching from Great Britain, then your website will be ranked higher than the duplicate one. At the same time, users are more familiar with .com , .org, and .net domains, which help create customers’ trust and credibility. Therefore, applying and following the right SEO strategies is crucial to eliminate possible confusion.
You can impact your SEO and search ranking by creating:
- Branding domains: domains that represent your business.
- Keyword domains: domains that contain keywords about your company.
As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to launch your brand-new website only to have an established business beat you to the punch and hit you with a lawsuit.
How to choose a domain name if you already have a brand
Creating a domain name isn’t just for new businesses. If you want to level up your company or product, a new domain name may be just what you need to refresh your brand.
If you already have an established brand, choosing a domain name follows many of the steps above — with some added tips:
● Research your potential new domain name and TLD to ensure it’s not already in use. Even a simple Google search can go a long way, and it’s free. If no results come up for that site name, the choice for domain and TLD is all yours.
● Consider how this new domain name will impact your brand’s reputation and recognition. If something similar exists, will visitors get confused by landing on your website?
● Ensure you migrate all necessary content, images, and other files to your new domain (if applicable).
● Be prepared for growing pains as customers adjust. People will likely make the switch without too many problems, but it never hurts to be proactive.
How to order and buy a domain name
Once you’ve landed on a domain name, it’s time to buy and connect it properly. Domain registrars such as Google Domains, Domains.com, or NameCheap can help you identify the availability of your desired domain and facilitate the purchase and transfer with ease.
However, one of the best ways to buy and register a domain name is during your website development process.
Business and personal website builders like Boxmode allow users to easily create a free domain name using their extensions (like boxmode.io) until they are ready to land on a final version. If you know the domain you want to purchase and use, Boxmode will allow you to instantly buy and set it up.
Check Boxmode website building tools
Gain a competitive edge with a great domain name
With so many websites out there, it’s essential to take your time and choose a great domain name that people can’t help but remember. However, selecting the right one can feel overwhelming, especially when you come across brand names you envisioned that are already taken.
Be sure to check whether the domain name is available by inputting it into a search engine or website builder before you purchase or set your heart on something.
With long-term planning in mind, focus on finding something creative that sets you apart from the competition without going too far. At the same time, implementing the right SEO strategies and increasing your brand awareness are two keys to developing trustworthy relationships with your audience. You want a memorable name that people can relate to, one that stays true to your brand and potential customers’ expectations.