Knowing how to choose a domain name is a very important skill when setting up a new website, or even when bringing your existing business online.

Much thought should be put into choosing that domain name because a good name will attract more attention to your website, resulting in increased awareness and probable profits. On a business level, registering domain names protects your product name, trademarks and copyrights.

What is a domain name?

How to choose a domain name

If you want to bring your business online, you know that you need a registered domain name. In most cases, a website will run off of one domain name (larger sites may operate using a few different domains).  If you want a website, you need a domain name.

A domain name is simply your internet address that helps people find you, in the same way your home address indicates where you live. Your domain name is where you live on the internet. Also similar to owning numerous physical properties, you can register as many domain names as you want.

When web servers and search engines look at a website, they use what is called an IP address (internet protocol address) for the site.  For example, a server will see a site as residing at http://123.45.5658.   That would be VERY HARD for a human to remember, eh?

Because of that, domain names were created so as to make a “human friendly” version of these numeric addresses.  So us humans can use a domain name like www.aimaz.com instead of http://123.45.5658.  For those of you who want the real details, I recommend visiting Wikipedia for more.

Registering domain names has become a top priority for internet businesses. It is an economical way to present your company’s name and product information to potential customers. Choosing the best domain name for you requires following a few guidelines, in order to get the best results.

How to Choose A Domain Name

I have been developing websites for small to medium business since 2001. I have guided hundreds of clients through the process of choosing the right domain name. Ultimately, the decision is the clients, or the website owners.  But below is a short list of some of the most common questions I have answered regarding choosing a domain name:

Should I register a .com domain?  .net, .info?

I highly recommend registering a .com domain.  Domains ending in .com (also called an “extension”) are the gold standard.  I consider .net a distant second, and would only register a .net domain for my website if the domain name was perfect and the .com was not available.  But before you register a .net or any extension besides .com, do an internet search and see what websites show up under those other extensions.  Is it a competitor? Is it a spammy site?  If yes to either, you probably want to pass on that domain and find another.

Personally, I would avoid lower-end extensions like .biz, .info, .me, .co, etc.   It’s ok, and it’s recommended, to register domains with these extensions to protect your .com domain.  But not necessary.  For instance, if you own the domain www.foodhutaz.com and this is the domain you use for your website, you may want to also register foodhutaz.net, foodhutaz.org, etc.   Just keep those domains in your account for safe keeping.

How many words should my domain name be?

Keep it short; one to three words if possible.

My domain name should match my business name, right?

Should represent your business, but not necessarily be the name of your business. You DO NOT have to get a domain name that matches your business name.  For instance, if your business is called Mcdougal, Gerowitz, and  Schmidt Attorneys at Law, you DO NOT want a domain name of www.McdougalGerowitzSchmidtAttorneysatLaw.com.  That would be a train wreck.   You might try PhoenixLaw.com (if you’re in Phoenix AZ), or MGSLaw.com.  Both of these options are very brandable.

What do you mean by “Brandable”?

By a brandable domain, I mean a domain name that is easy to remember and easy to read.  Catchy, quirky, yet professional.  Google.com, Yahoo.com, Facebook.com are all examples of brandable domains.  I personally prefer a brandable domain over a boring and cumbersome business name domain, or lengthy keyword domain.

The other part of having a brandable domain is that you have to consider a website as an asset.  If you get traffic to your site, and make money from your site, then you have a valuable asset.  If you were ever to sell your online business, a brandable domain can transfer to the new owner much easier than a business name domain.   For instance, using the example previously stated, if you sold your law practice to another company, they can use the domain PhoenixLaw.com and the website would remain valuable.

If your website had the URL www.McdougalGerowitzSchmidtAttorneysatLaw.com, the buyer probably wouldn’t want to use that and would change domains.  Changing the domain name on a site would upset the search engine results and decrease traffic and profitability – thus decreasing the value of the asset.  And ultimately would greatly reduce the money you would make in a sale.

If I have a trademark, should I register that domain?

Absolutely.  If you have a trademarked term, business name, etc. you should absolutely register that domain name.  You do not have to use it for your website, but you should register it and own it simply for trademark protection.  Your domain name and website represent you and your company. It is important to register your name in order to protect any product trademarks, product names, or copyrights. Until a domain name is registered, it is not protected and belongs to no one. Domain names are given to the first company that pays for the registration.

Someone, anyone, can register that domain name and use it against you.   You might have a case for Trademark law to make someone surrender the domain to you, or to simply stop using it.  But if the person is located overseas, they do not fall under US Trademark law.  There are other means to obtain that domain, but it would be expensive and time consuming. It’s much easier to simply pay the $10 to $20 per year to keep and hold the domain.

Should I consider using a keyword in my domain name?

Absolutely.  But it’s not key.  As most of the good keyword rich domains are taken, finding that perfect keyword domain can be difficult.  Unless you have a large bankroll, you will never get domains like computers.com, toyotacars.com, or even chicagopizza.com.   But it’s certainly worth a shot!   Your placement in search engine results has more to do with the quality of your website and content within, than it does the domain.

Treat Your Domain Name Like Your Phone Number

Keep in mind, a domain name is typed into the web browser address bar after “www”. This takes you directly to the web site with that registered name. You want to be easily recognized and found, in order to get the most production out of your website. Your domain name also appears in your email address after the @ sign, so it is easy for customers to get in touch with you for questions or to place orders for your product.

Treat your domain name like your phone number.  It can be just as important to include a domain name on marketing materials as it is your phone.  Be sure to include your domain name on business cards, advertisements and other marketing literature, as you would include fax and telephone numbers.

General Costs and Terms

Typically, a domain name is registered for one year, and may be renewed after payment, or automatically renewed. This is determined by the initial contract signed with the registrar. The registered e-mail service and web site is documented with the internet so you can be found. A friendly, uncomplicated name will produce better results. Once registered, you have the flexibility to move your email services and website to a different registration company without changing your domain name.

There are some costs required for setting up a registered domain. A number of companies are available for this registration. These range from inexpensive to a considerable price for the same service. In general, a .com or .net domain name will cost approximately $12 per year.  Cheaper domain extensions are out there such as .info and .biz.  However, internet marketers believe that because these are so inexpensive, these extensions are easier to use to build “spam” sites, and as a result websites with these extensions do not fare well in search engines.

Where Should I Register a Domain Name?

Go Daddy has a reputation for being the world’s leader in domain name registrations, while offering the great pricing.  However, you can register your domain at any one of a number of reputable domain registrars.

BestWordPress Recommended Top 5 Domain Registrars

We want to mention that even though many of these companies offer domain registration AND WEB HOSTING, you do NOT have to use one company for both.  You can register your domain name at a domain registrar and then host the website at another company.  Matter of fact, I recommend doing this because it’s easier to move things around should you need to.  If your domain name is registered with your hosting company, and you decide to change hosting companies (which happens) then you will have to transfer your domain name too.  This is inconvenient.

With that said, the companies below are recommended for their domain services and not for their hosting.  For hosting, see our recommended web hosting companies.

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