Choosing the right domain for your business is one of the most important decisions an entrepreneur or company founder will make. A website is often the only public face of any business that doesn’t also trade on the high street. As such, it needs to be easily found in a congested and mature online marketplace. It will be the first impression new customers get of the firm, and if that seems relatively unimportant, consider whether you’d click on an ecommerce hyperlink marked onepoundfishveryverycheap.com?
Domain names speak volumes about a company’s professionalism, its core market and its geographic reach. A domain like brightonbakery.co.uk is quite clear in its focus, identifying within twenty characters a centre of operations and a specialist industry. The antithesis of such clarity is seen in the Deep Web, where site addresses comprise lengthy strings of alphanumeric characters that are impossible to remember (and very difficult to type correctly!).
The cyberspace race
The World Wide Web has been around since 1991, and many of the best domains are now already in use. Obvious examples include B&Q’s acquisition of diy.com, while cars.com has been valued at an astonishing £619 million. Historic issues like cybersquatting (involving unscrupulous firms bulk-buying business-themed domains before reselling them at inflated fees) are less common nowadays, but choosing the right domain for a company is often complicated by rivals owning the obvious choices.
Fortunately, the body responsible for the sale and registration of domain names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been gradually addressing this since 2001. They’ve introduced over a thousand new top level domains, from mainstream options like .jobs and .travel to obscure TLDs including .bingo and .kosher. This means a company in possession of greatdomain.com might end up with a rival located at greatdomain.fun. This is particularly significant in the UK, where companies with a co.uk domain are exclusively able to buy the matching .uk domain until next year. After June 10th 2019, greatdomain.co.uk and greatdomain.uk could be owned by rival enterprises…
These are some of the ways you can choose the right domain for your business:
#1. Incorporate a geographic identifier into either the main domain or the TLD. A generic .com TLD is fine for international companies, but it won’t rank as highly in British search engine results as a domestic .uk suffix.
#2. Ensure your chosen name can easily be spelled. Numerous scenarios will arise where you have to dictate a website address down the phone or spell it out at a meeting. Every additional character or obscurely spelt word adds to the risk of people being unable to find your site. Also, try to avoid blending words together if they’re difficult to read in sequence. Successive letters are especially problematic, for example, stay away from character strings like samssandwichhut.
#3. Don’t try and plagiarise a successful competitor. You might think it’s a stroke of marketing genius to call a new ecommerce platform azamon, but the world’s leading online store probably won’t agree. In addition to potentially attracting cease-and-desist letters, mimicking a successful competitor implies amateurishness. Plus, people may misread azamon as amazon, and end up on your competitor’s site anyway.
#4. Finally, and perhaps controversially, it’s generally advisable to try and keep domain names as concise as possible. It’s been proven time and again how shorter domain names have greater recall later on. This might challenge one or two of the points above, but individuals have to make a judgment call about whether an abbreviated domain is better than one containing detailed brand or location data.