Choosing the right domain name for your business website is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when starting a company. Your domain name is your online identity – it’s how customers find you and immediately understand what you do. With so many new businesses popping up every day, finding a domain name that’s memorable, brandable, and still available can be a challenge.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll walk through the key factors you need to consider when brainstorming and selecting the perfect domain name for your business. We’ll also provide tips to make sure your domain name positions you for success now and in the future as your company grows. Follow along and you’ll have the knowledge to pick a domain that represents your brand and drives customer interest.
Make It Memorable
The first key criteria for choosing a business domain name is that it’s memorable. Your domain should be easy for customers to remember and spell so they can locate your website again in the future.
Some strategies for creating a memorable domain name include:
- Using common words that are easy to remember. For example, shoes.com or books.com.
- Keeping it short. Shorter domains are easier to type out and remember.
- Using alliteration. Alliteration makes domains more unique and memorable, like Etsy.com.
- Adding rhymes or rhythms. A domain like Hootsuite.com has a catchy rhythm that makes it stick in your head.
- Using prefixes and suffixes. Starting or ending your domain with a prefix or suffix like ‘go’ or ‘ify’ can make it more memorable.
Your domain essentially functions like your business name. You want it to create brand recognition so people remember it after their first visit. An unmemorable jumble of words will just confuse customers.
Make It Brandable
In addition to being easy to remember, you want a domain name that supports your brand. Your domain should ideally reinforce your company name, products, or messaging.
Ways to make your domain more brandable include:
- Using your company name in the domain. For example, tesla.com or warbyparker.com.
- Describing your offering or specialty. Like coach.com for a coaching business or toys.com for a toy store.
- Evoking your brand identity or style. A hip clothing brand could use coolbrands.com.
- Containing relevant keywords. Include a core product or service keyword like loans.com for a lending company.
The domain name options that align closest to your brand name and identity will translate your business best online. Avoid unrelated, random words that dilute your brand message to customers.
Before falling in love with a domain name, you have to make sure it’s actually still available for registration. With over 300 million registered domains, many of the good .com options are likely taken.
Tools like Domainr allow you to enter keyword ideas and instantly check domain availability across all the popular extensions like .com, .net. .org, and more.
As soon as you find a domain name you like, check it right away. If it’s taken, don’t fret – just go back to the drawing board for more brainstorming rather than settling on a less ideal choice.
The key is moving fast – every day over 3,000 domains are registered. Once you find the perfect name, claim it before someone else does.
Consider Alternate Domain Extensions
While .com domains are most popular, they aren’t your only option if the perfect .com domain is unavailable. Here are some alternate domain extensions to consider:
- .net – The second most common extension. Still carries authority for users.
- .org – Works well for non-profit organizations or causes.
- .biz – Indicates you’re a business or commercial organization.
- .info – Common for information-focused websites and blogs.
- .co – Used widely among new startups and tech brands.
- .io – Popular for tech and software companies. The .io evokes “input/output”.
- .ai – Also a tech branding option to signify “artificial intelligence”.
- .ly – Simple, short suffix that works for many types of sites.
Look at competitors or industry leaders using these alternate extensions successfully. A domain like unbounce.com is widely known despite not using a .com. Don’t be afraid to break from .com if you find a great brandable fit.
Avoid Obvious Keywords
It can be tempting to include your industry or location right in the domain to score those obvious SEO benefits. But domains like chicagodentist.com and lawfirmseattle.com have a spammy feel and lack brand identity.
Keywords in your domain can still improve findability. But choose less obvious keywords that flow naturally, like windycitysmilesdental.com.
And don’t try to overstuff tons of keywords. Keep it to one or two max. Focus first on finding a name that fits your brand identity. SEO can be optimized in other ways.
Steer Clear of Hyphens
While hyphens were common in domains previously, it’s better to avoid them in modern web design. Hyphenated domains can hinder usability because hyphens must be typed out each time. Brands like PayPal and eBay have dropped hyphens to streamline their names.
If you want a multi-word domain name, consider these options:
- Combining words like YouTube.com
- Eliminating spacing like Craigslist.org
- Using a made-up word like Google.com
With a little creativity, you can incorporate multiple words seamlessly without confusing hyphens.
Be Internationally Versatile
Even if you don’t plan to expand globally right away, consider how your domain name would translate internationally. Avoid unintended negative meanings or references in other languages.
Do a quick check on your domain in other languages using Google Translate to catch any issues. And steer clear of trademarked terms or brands in foreign markets so you can enter those regions down the road.
Also make sure your domain is spelled correctly in US and UK English. Accents, alternate spellings, and adding extra letters can all affect search performance.
Secure a Matching .com
If for some reason you opt for an alternate domain extension like .net or .co, also purchase the matching .com version.
Even if you redirect it to your primary domain name, securing the .com prevents competitors from buying it. And it provides more brand control long term in case you ever want to use the .com down the line.
Owning the .com version signals you are the definitive brand, even if it’s not your active website domain currently.
Factor in Domain Hackability
A “domain hack” incorporates whole words combined into a single domain name, like expertea.com. This allows fitting more keywords while keeping it clean and brandable.
Hacks using words like “my”, “our”, “its”, “you”, and “we” work really well. Just be sure they flow together naturally and are easy to say as one word.
Having a hackable domain name opens more marketing options. You could use myguru.com along with supporting domains like yourguru.com or theirguru.com.
Don’t Obsess Over SEO
There’s no need to overload your domain name with SEO keywords. Search engines today place more weight on website content and less on actual domain names.
Focus first on finding a brandable name. Then optimize pages on your site for relevant keywords you want to rank for. Those on-page elements will be weighted more heavily.
If your domain name happens to contain a relevant word organically, that’s a bonus. But obsessively optimizing a domain itself for SEO is outdated thinking.
Make It Future Proof
While describing your current offerings, also consider how your domain name allows room to grow and evolve.
Avoid overly restrictive names like textbooks.com. What if you expand from just textbooks to other educational products?
Look for a name like boundless.com that supports your current niche but leaves flexibility for the future.
You don’t want to outgrow your domain name and have to go through the hassle of rebranding down the road. Pick something versatile now.
Trust Your Instincts
With so many technical factors to weigh, it helps to listen to your intuition too. The domains that immediately grab your attention or stir up inspiration have potential.
Start by brainstorming a wide list of candidates. Then revisit the list and look for ones that pop out as seeming like a natural fit.
There should be an intangible quality that feels right. Testing domains with target demographics can help reveal front runners.
Combine logical strategic thinking with that intuitive gut check for the best chance of domain success.
Make Sure It Works Across Uses
Test out your shortlist of domains across different usage scenarios:
- Spoken out loud – Does it sound natural in conversations?
- Typed in a web browser and email address – Is it easy and intuitive to enter?
- Displayed in ads or print – Does it stand out visually?
- Scaled down for mobile – Does it remain legible on small screens?
Ideally your domain will hold up across all key applications. As more users discover you through voice search, even voice compatibility will grow more important.
Examining domains in actual use can reveal usability issues before launch.
Perform a Google Search
Do a thorough search for your domain name on Google to uncover any red flags. Look through pages of results for factors like:
- Negative brand mentions
- Competing companies in other industries
- Unrelated content that could cause confusion
- Trademarks or legal conflicts
Ideally you want your brand to dominate results rather than irrelevant content that could undermine your domain authority. Consider using another domain name if competitors already rank high in search results.
Check Social Media Availability
Beyond the domain name itself, you want to secure matching social media handles. Search to see if your domain name is available on platforms like:
Claim and customize associated social media profiles to reinforce your brand. Just be aware of any existing accounts already using the name that could cause conflicts.
Pick a Domain Registrar
Once you select the perfect domain name, you need to purchase and register it. Domain registrars act as marketplaces to check availability and buy domains. Some top options include:
- GoDaddy – The world’s largest registrar with affordable pricing.
- Namecheap – Reliable registrar with low introductory pricing.
- Bluehost – Domains integrated directly with popular hosting service.
- Google Domains – Seamless domain management via Google account.
Look for registrars offering privacy protection and email forwarding to maximize value. And take advantage of any reduced first-year pricing promotions to save costs upfront.
Redirect Previous Domains
If your business was previously using a different domain name, don’t forget to set up redirects. A redirect automatically forwards visitors from your old domain to the new one.
Add redirects to any old domains, shortened URLs, or deprecated pages to prevent broken links. This helps preserve your site’s equity and ensures users land in the right place.
Simple 301 redirects pass along link authority to your updated domain name. Use them liberally during the transition to maintain a positive user experience.
Selecting the right domain name for a new business requires balancing many factors – from memorability and brandability to availability and future scalability. Take the time upfront to thoroughly evaluate all your domain name options. Moving forward with the perfect name will provide a boost as you launch and grow your company’s online presence.
With a strategic domain name in place, you can then shift focus to crafting targeted content, building authority, and leveraging search visibility. An ideal domain provides a running start down the path to becoming an industry leader.