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You’re starting to create your website, and it’s time to choose a domain name. It’s kind of like buying commercial real estate, only on the Web. Are you accidentally purchasing a property in the middle of nowhere? Here are some of the top tips and trends to keep in mind when you need to buy a domain for your online business.You’re starting to create your website, and it’s time to choose a domain name. It’s kind of like buying commercial real estate, only on the Web. Are you accidentally purchasing a property in the middle of nowhere? Here are some of the top tips and trends to keep in mind when you need to buy a domain for your online business.

Buy a Domain with Your Name in it

Online marketers tell us that branding is one of the most important factors in choosing a domain. Branded domains come with a natural affirmation to the user that, yes; they’re in the right place, it’s not a knock off. If you’re an established brick-and-mortar setup breaking into the online market, buying a branded domain is beneficial because it’s likely the first thing your existing customers will query in a search engine when looking for your new website.

For example, if the name of your breakfast restaurant is called Fiery Eggs, stick with that and just get fieryeggs.com. It’s simple, short, and easy to remember. (All jokes aside, that’s currently available if someone out there is in the market to open an awesome omelet shop.)

What to Do When Your Brand’s Name Isn’t Available

It’s a bummer, really; you’ve thought of this snappy, easy-to-remember brand name, but you weren’t the first. Someone beat you to it and already bought the branded domain. This isn’t unheard of and many short domain names like these are not available. When the branded domain is unavailable choose a domain name that’s a logical, related variant.

In this case, perhaps you can find a location-based option, like fieryeggsnyc.com. This would work well as it also informs the customer where the restaurant is: New York City.

Another option is to consider buying an exact-match domain.  An exact-match domain (EMD) refers to one that is an exact match for the search query the webmaster wants to rank well for. It has very important keywords packed into it.

For instance, if you’re Fiery Eggs, a Mexican Breakfast Bistro, the EMD may be something like mexicanbreakfastrestaurant.com. This is done in the hopes of ranking higher in Google search queries for the words “Mexican breakfast restaurant.”

But, there’s a lot of debate about the merits of this. Does search engine optimization (SEO) outweigh the overwhelming and surprising power that is brand recognition? It depends on the niche, and it’s hard to say. The current trend is that Google has found EMDs to be less and less important.

When Choosing a Domain Name Make Sure:

  • It’s easy to pronounce: Try singing it in a jingle or just saying it out loud. If you’re getting tongue-tied or forgetting it, your customers likely will too.
  • It’s easy to type: While there’s a lot of conversation about whether or not hyphens are directly penalized by Google, the simple truth is that hyphens and numbers are just annoying for visitors to type.
  • It’s as short as possible: There’s a rule in psychology that human beings are very good at remembering a sequence that’s made of seven characters plus or minus two. You don’t have to match that exactly, but it still should be short.
  • It doesn’t infringe on someone else’s trademark or copyright: Double- and triple-check that no one has the rights to words in the domain name you want. This is tied to what’s referred to as domain squatting.
  • It’s logical and intuitive: When someone goes home after visiting your store, they should be able to find you online almost instantly.
  • It matches the keyword intent: Don’t accidentally buy a domain that has a double meaning or references a less than reputable industry (i.e. drugs, porn, or politics).
  • It matches your social media accounts: Snag the Twitter and Facebook accounts for your brand before you make the decision to purchase.

Let’s Take it From the Top: Top-Level Domains

Simply put, a top-level domain (TLD) is the last few letters at the end of your domain, after the dot. So in the fieryeggs.com domain, .com is the top-level domain.

For a very long time, the only TLDs available were .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, and .mil, with .com as the only TLD that really, actually mattered for businesses. But then a huge organization called ICANN made it a little more complicated. The gTLD (generic top level domain) expansion in 2012 resulted in a huge list of gTLDs to pick from.

The most common practice for someone buying a new domain is to purchase the .com version along with a bundle of the often-cheaper gTLDs that match it, like .info or .net. You’ll want to ensure that you own any industry-relevant options.

For instance, if you’re buying a domain for a Fiery Eggs Mexican Breakfast Bistro, you’ll want the .com, .restaurant, and .menu versions. Buying them together will sometimes result in a bundled, lower price. Buying these complimentary domains also prevents others from domain-squatting. (That .info domain is cheap now, but it could cost thousands in the long run if someone squats there and you have to buy it after the fact.)

How to Find Available Domains

Check with a domain registrar. A couple of the most popular domain registration sites are GoDaddy.com and HostGator.com. They’ll be able to tell you about the availability and how much it costs.

A branded URL bundled together other important TLDs and a longer registration time of two or three years will often cost a few hundred dollars or less. There is a range; older or exact-match domains can cost millions.