Domain name registration is the process of reserving a domain name for use with a website or email. Choosing the right domain name is an important decision that can impact your brand and online presence. When registering a domain name, there are certain best practices you should follow – as well as mistakes you’ll want to avoid – in order to end up with an effective, memorable domain name. This comprehensive guide covers the dos and don’ts of domain name registration in detail.
The Importance of Domain Names
Your domain name is one of the first impressions your business makes online. It needs to be easy to remember, spell, and communicate what your website or brand is about. Domain names are also integral to marketing campaigns, email, and establishing brand identity.
Additionally, your domain name impacts your search engine optimization (SEO) and ability for customers to find you online. Keywords relevant to your business in the domain name can improve SEO. Meanwhile, overly complex or confusing domain names result in lost traffic from typos and mistypes.
With so much riding on your domain name, it’s essential to take the registration process seriously. Carefully consider these dos and don’ts when registering a domain name.
Do: Brainstorm Keyword-Rich Domain Names
One of the key goals when registering a domain name is to make it descriptive of your brand or website content. Incorporating relevant keywords right into the domain name helps visitors quickly understand the purpose of your site. It also helps search engines understand what your content is about and can lead to better rankings.
Ideally, your domain name should contain:
- Your brand name and/or name of your company
- Your industry, niche, or field
- Your location, if locally-focused business
- Key products, services, or brand descriptors
For example, a bakery called “Buttercream Bakery” located in Austin, TX could use:
Both contain the brand name, location, and descriptors relevant to the business. This makes it easy for local customers to find the site for baked goods in Austin.
When brainstorming domain names, be sure to consider keywords your target audience may use to find your website. Try to incorporate 1-2 high-value terms organically into the domain name.
Do: Keep it Short and Simple
In addition to packing your domain name with keywords, it’s also crucial to keep it short and simple. A concise domain name with 6-20 characters is ideal. Shorter names are easier for people to remember and type correctly. They are also easier to share verbally, include in marketing materials, and fit in ad copy or emails.
Avoid overstuffing your domain with multiple keywords or unnecessary words. Trim it down to the most essential, impactful terms. For example, “Petsmartsuppliesstore.com” is overly long. “Petsmart.com” is short, simple, and effective.
You also want a domain name that is simple to spell. Misspelled domains result in lost traffic and poorly branded assets like emails. Avoid unusual spellings, hyphens, numbers, and hard to type characters when possible.
Do: Make it Memorable
Your domain name should be unique and memorable. This further helps with brand recognition and makes it easier for customers to remember your URL.
Using common words that flow together is one of the best ways to make a domain memorable. Alliterative domains with the same starting letters like “Etsy.com” are also easy to remember.
You can also consider incorporating:
- Rhyming words – GreenBean.com
- Phrases – SeriouslyCheesy.com
- Businesses named after people or founders can use full names or initials – JessicasFlowers.com or KJConsulting.com
Avoid obscure references, inside jokes, or puns that people may not understand. While unique, they are harder to remember. Personal naming devices like these are better for product names or campaigns.
Do: Get the .com Version
The .com top-level domain remains the most popular and recognizable. When registering a domain name, your first choice should always be to obtain the .com version if it’s available.
Settling for alternatives like .biz, .info, .net or new domains like .tech should only be done if the .com is not available. The .com commands authority and is what people naturally expect and look for.
While you may see big brands using other extensions, this is usually only after the .com was unavailable and the brand name already has strong recognition. As a newer business, stick with .com when possible.
Do: Compare Domain Prices
Domain name registration costs vary amongst registrars like GoDaddy, Namecheap, Bluehost, etc. Prices range from about $10 – $25 per year typically.
It’s smart to compare domain prices across a few popular registrars when purchasing a new domain name. Also, look for promotional offers and coupons which can help lower the annual cost.
Many web hosting companies offer free domain registration when you buy hosting. While convenient, this locks you into that host and doesn’t let you freely transfer the domain later. It’s usually worth paying a small fee for domain independence and ownership.
Don’t: Use a Trademarked Term
It’s important to check that your desired domain name doesn’t contain any trademarked terms belonging to another business. This includes product names, brands, logos, slogans, and imagery. Even if the domain itself doesn’t exist, incorporating a trademarked property without permission could result in losing the domain later on.
You can perform a trademark search using the free USPTO TESS database. Also research competitors’ names, products, branding, and any trademarks within your industry niche. Stay far away from anything that is trademarked or could potentially cause confusion with an existing brand.
Cybersquatting – registering domains containing others’ trademarks with the intent to sell for profit – is illegal. Avoid trademark issues by brainstorming original names from the start.
Don’t: Rely Solely on One Domain
While you should secure the ideal .com domain for your website when possible, it’s smart to also register a few variations. Having backup options protects your brand identity in case your preferred domain expires or becomes unavailable down the road.
Related domain alternatives may include:
- .net version
- .org version
- Domain with hyphen (-mycompany-com)
- Domain without hyphens (mycompanycom)
- Misspellings like .co instead of .com
Ideally redirect these alternative domains to your primary website domain name. This prevents competitors from acquiring domains similar to yours. Owning additional versions also gives you more brand control online.
Don’t: Use Odd Characters or Numbers
In general, you should avoid using special characters, numbers, or hyphens in domain names when possible. Symbols like dashes and underscores are often used by spammers or low-quality sites. Numerals also introduce more chances for typos.
For example, these domains with hyphens and numbers are more confusing:
Stick with domain names containing just letters, preferably one word with a .com extension. This is the cleanest, most professional looking option.
Don’t: Overpay for Expiring Domains
Sometimes you may find an already registered domain name that is perfect for your site. However, avoid overpaying significantly to acquire an existing premium domain from its owner.
Unless the domain has exceptional existing authority and traffic, it’s smarter to simply register a new name. The high cost of premium domains outweighs the benefits of any existing equity in most cases. That money is better spent on marketing your brand.
Establishing authority with a new domain takes time but is very achievable with quality content and smart SEO practices. You own full rights to the new domain, without legal entanglements.
Do: Perform a Domain Availability Search
Prior to registering any domain name, you should perform an availability search using a domain registrar’s search tool. This will reveal if your desired domain is already taken.
Check availability across top-level domains like .com, .net, .org to uncover variants that are unregistered. You may be able to find a similar domain that’s even better than your original idea.
WHOIS domain lookups reveal registration ownership details, which is helpful for brand protection. However, the easiest option is simply searching on popular registrar sites.
Do: Select Auto-Renewal at Registration
When you register a domain name, be sure to select auto-renewal either annually or for multiple years. This protects you from the domain expiring.
Expired domains that aren’t renewed during the one month grace period enter “redemption” status. They may be purchased by other parties, so you risk losing the domain forever. Avoid this by enabling auto-renew.
For maximum security, register domains for 5-10 years at once if possible. This gives you full control for an extended period. Just be sure you’re fully committed before registering domains long-term.
Do: Point Your Domain to a Website
Once your domain is registered, you need to point it somewhere online. Typically this means connecting it to:
- Your website hosting and loading live website files to the domain
- A basic landing page announcing a coming soon website
- Redirect to an existing website or social profiles
Leaving a registered domain with no content or pointing it nowhere results in a “parked domain”. This domain parking page displays ads and is not good for establishing your brand. Point your domain somewhere relevant ASAP.
Do: Select Private Registration
When registering your domain name, you may see options for “private registration” or domain privacy protection. Selecting this keeps your personal contact information hidden from public view in the WHOIS directory.
Private registration helps protect against spam and identity theft risks. It’s just a few extra dollars per year and provides important privacy protection.
Without private registration, your name, address, phone, and email are exposed publicly with the domain listing. Take advantage of private options when possible.
Registering an effective domain name involves carefully balancing multiple factors: keywords, branding, simplicity, availability and more. While challenging, the investment is well worth it. Your domain name can make a strong first impression and impact your long-term marketing. Keep these dos and don’ts in mind as you brainstorm and register your business domains. With a thoughtful approach, you can secure the perfect domain that helps drive your online presence and traffic for years to come.