The ideal domain name — or URL — for your small business website is your company’s actual name with a “.com” suffix. But if that particular internet address is already taken — and it probably is — what are the next-best alternatives?
Here are a few strategies for choosing the right web domain name.
- Try a simple, memorable variation. Including your location is a good way to build a memorable domain name. For instance, if there’s already a NoshCafe.com, underscore your Washington ties by claiming NoshCafeDC.com.
- Use keywords. Another type of URL variation involves using keywords associated with your business in the domain name. For instance, the hair salon Head Games Salon uses the domain name Headgameshair.com as its online home. Including search-friendly keywords in your domain name may boost your rankings in some search engines (though they don’t play a role for Google results, according to Search Engine Journal) and can become the “obvious” destination for time-pressed searchers. Namedroppers.com can help you find available domains that include your keywords of choice.
- Keep it short. Research shows that the fewer characters in your domain name, the more popular your site will be. The Alexa top 50 sites average six characters per URL, while sites in the top 100,000 jump to an average length of 9.1 characters. The logic: The fewer characters visitors must remember to get to your site, the likelier they are to end up there.
- Get personal. If you run a one-woman show — and plan to keep it that way — you can boost your personal branding potential by using your full name as your domain name. If you need to include a middle initial to score the URL, add that initial to your email signature, business cards, and other professional correspondence for consistency.
- If necessary, choose an alternate domain suffix. If your top pick isn’t available as a “.com,” maybe it’s worth giving “.net” or “.biz” a spin. Or get creative and use a country domain name extension, a la Bit.ly, Last.fm, or Domai.nr. Many free web tools, such as 1and1.com, can help you discover which suffixes are available for your domain name of choice.
- Make an offer. If the domain name of your dreams is already taken, it may not be the end of the world. Take a look at the site. Does it represent a legitimate business? Is it a personal blog? Is it “parked,” with nothing on it at all? You may be able to buy the URL from its owner. In some cases, this may be as simple as checking Who.is for the domain owner’s contact details — and offering $50 for the domain. The price can go up significantly depending on the keywords involved (Pizza.com sold for $2.6 million), but in many cases, a domain owner is often willing to sell for less than you’d think. Your website is one of your most powerful marketing tools, so consider how much the branding is worth to you to determine how much you’re willing to pay.