When choosing a domain name for your business, there are a number of factors to consider. You can choose a name that relates to who you are, like your name or the name of your business. For example, apple.com clearly refers to the computer company, not the fruit. Or you can choose a name that describes what you do: Quickbooks.com is an example of a simple to use accounting software.
But companies can get into trouble by choosing a domain name too quickly, or not considering some key factors when they do so.
Here are a series of questions you should ask yourself before choosing your website name:
Is the name I want available?
This sounds like a simple question, but in many cases individuals or companies will purchase domain names they think may be desirable for one reason or another, and hold onto them even if they do not actually build a website. A simple Google search will not tell you what you need to know. You need to use an online domain name search tool to find out if your desired domain name is available, being sold by a third party, or is already in use by someone else.
Is the name I want similar to that of another business?
If your name is too similar to that of another business, customers could easily become confused, and visit their site instead of yours. Especially if the other business is your competition, this could end badly. Although you want to make sure your name says something about who you are, you also want it to be unique.
Can the name I want be taken the wrong way?
From abbreviations to what you name might spell or mean if it all runs together, you need to look closely at the name you choose. No one wants to be the acronym for the American Ski Society. Big Al’s Online might not really want to be represented by bigalsonline.com, or might get some traffic they really were not looking for.
Is the name I have chosen too long?
If the name you have chosen is too long it not only might be hard for users to enter into their browser, but it also might not look that great on business cards, posters, brochures, or other marketing materials. Of course, when shortening or abbreviating your name, see the point above. As a general rule, keep your domain name under 16 characters.
Is the name you have chosen hard to spell?
If the domain name you have chosen is either hard to spell or commonly misspelled, you may want to consider going with a different one. While an unusual spelling may help you rank #1 for your name in Google, it also makes you very difficult for potential customers to find. While being unique is important, having something that is easy to remember and spell is almost equally as important.
Are there dashes or other characters in the domain name?
Characters other than numbers or letters frustrate users. Often the reason businesses choose these names is because the name they want is taken. Take the example of Wallace, Idaho. The Chamber of Commerce is wallaceidahochamber.com, but there is another local site called wallace-id.com which often steals traffic from the main chamber site. The dash makes the name harder to type in and to find, and is less memorable than the Wallace Chamber of Commerce site is.
Discoverability is key, and numbers and symbols in your domain name make this much more difficult.
Are there potential trademark conflicts?
You might live in a town named Kellogg, since there are several around the country. This means that you must be careful with the name Kellogg and using the possessive, so that you don’t get in trouble with the cereal conglomerate. The same could be said for several other names. You may get away with it while your business is small, but should you grow significantly, you might have to change your name at any moment. The risk is not worth it, so avoid this problem from the beginning.
Choosing a domain name is a critical step in branding your business. Do your research, and ask yourself these key questions before you choose and purchase one, and you will make marketing and brand building much easier.