One of the most important choices you can make for your business website is what domain name to use. Your domain name is the web address that people will type into their browsers to get to your website, such as EarthLink.com or EarthLinkBusiness.com. Domain names also appear in search engine results and can have an affect on your SEO (search engine optimization). Your domain name also represents your company and can enhance (or detract from) your company’s branding.
While it’s easy to get a domain name, it can be a challenge to find a great domain name that works for your business and is not already taken. But it’s worth taking the time to do it right.
When you sign up for any EarthLink Web Hosting or Ecommerce Hosting, the first step will be to either find an available domain name or transfer one you already own (you get 1 year of free domain name registration when you choose an EarthLink website hosting service).
Here are some tips to help you choose the best domain name for your website:
• .Com Domain Names Are Still Best: There are many new top-level domains (TLDs) available now, extensions like .com, .net, .biz, and .info. But it’s still best to try to find a domain name for your website ending in .com. Domain names ending in .com get more traffic because most web browsers will default to a .com site if you type in a word without an extension, and most people will assume your business website is a dot com. If they guess and go to the .com for your company and your website isn’t there, you may have lost a customer. Dot coms are also trusted most by consumers and are considered to be advantageous for SEO. For all these reasons, most experts advise that if your desired domain name isn’t available in a .com, you’re better off choosing a different domain. There are, of course, many exceptions. If you are a non-profit, having a .org domain is fine (though also owning the .com is best). Certain types of sites are more “creative” with domains. For example, URL shortening service OWLY has a two-letter domain with a .ly TLD: ow.ly. Many makers of instant messaging (IM) software have domains with the .im TLD, such as trillian.im, and many online video/TV sites use the .tv extension to brand the site as a TV destination.
• Buy Multiple TLDs and Other Domain Variations: If possible, it’s best to buy the .net, .biz, .org and other top-level domain variations of your domain name. That prevents other businesses from purchasing them and creating confusion for your customers or site visitors. And it makes it more likely that another site could out-rank your site for your domain name. Also try to buy any likely misspelling of your domain (e.g., weight.com and wieght.com) as well as the plural or singular of your domain (e.g., weights.com). When you buy any of these domain name variations, make sure you redirect them to your primary domain name. It’s bad for SEO to have multiple versions of your website accessible to search engines. EarthLink Web Hosting customers can redirect domains in the Manage Domain section of their Control Center.
• Add Keywords to Your Business Name: If you have a well-established business and you can’t get a .com domain with your exact business name, try adding SEO-related keywords (the kinds of keywords people use to search for your products) or other modifiers to your business name and see if that’s available. So, if Sullivan.com wasn’t available (it isn’t) for my fictional Sullivan snack business, I could try SullivanSnacks.com, MySullivanSnacks.com, SullivanSnackFoods.com, SullivanSnacking.com, SullivanSnackCompany.com, theSullivanCo.com, YummySullivanSnacks.com, etc. If you are primarily a local company, try local modifiers for the area you serve, such as SullivanSnacksLA.com (since I’m in Los Angeles). This can also help you in local SEO, driving higher local search rankings.
• Don’t Count on Hyphens: They were popular for a time when search engines didn’t recognize multiple keywords in domain names without hyphens, but now most experts recommend you don’t rely on domain names with hyphens (especially multiple hypens). So, if YummySullivanSnacks.com is not available, you probably shouldn’t buy Yummy-Sullivan-Snacks.com (if you can buy both, do that and redirect Yummy-Sullivan-Snacks.com). Hyphenated domain names can look spammy to search engines, and consumers often forget to type the hyhens in, resulting in lost traffic for you and more traffic for your non-hyphenated competitor. If you are lucky enough to get your core business name as your domain name, you may also wish to purchase additional hyphenated keyword variations and redirect them to your main site for SEO benefit.
• Shorter Domains Are Better: I know most of the scenarios above resulted in longer domain names, but a short domain name is usually considered best if you can get it. An easy-to-remember and easy-to-type domain name can be an advantage for your business website. It’s also easier to include in a 140-character Twitter post.
• Format Longer Domain Names: If you do end up with a longer domain name, make sure you format it for easier readability in your marketing: it’s the same domain name, but sullivansnackfoods.com is much harder to read than SullivanSnackFoods.com, and uppercase and lowercase letters don’t matter in Web browsers for domain names.
• Be Careful with Numbers & Difficult Spellings: Many experts caution using numbers since consumers who hear your domain name won’t know whether to spell them out or use numerals. Of course, 57signals.com has been successful despite that advice, and Motel 6 is using Motel6.com. Unusual spelling is sometimes a branding strategy – think Flickr.com instead of Flicker.com – but you may lose website traffic from customers who can’t remember how your name is spelled (unless you buy the likely spelling variations as well).
• Domain Name Before Company Name: If you are going to start a business that relies entirely or largely on the Internet, you may want to hold off on naming your company until after you have researched the domain names available. It would be a shame to lock yourself into a business name that doesn’t have a good domain name for your website. Taking the time to find a company name with a relatively short, memorable and meaningful domain name with an available .com extension can help you reap long term website traffic and profits.
• Register Your Name Now: Even if you’re not ready to launch a website, you should start searching for available domain names now because good names are snapped up every day. If you find one that you think might work for you, you can register a domain name with EarthLink and we’ll keep it reserved for you until you are ready to use it with your website. Remember, you can always change your mind and register another domain name in the future.