Domain names are essentially the street address of your digital business or storefront. It’s basically how search engines know where to go when someone types into their search bars. When starting your online business, or just expanding your business offerings online, it is important to choose a domain name that will accomplish your goal(s). There are many places across the web where you can purchase domain names such as GoDaddy, Google Domains, Domain, Name, and HostGator. There are also local options here in Iowa, such as 515Hosting and HostIowa where you can purchase domain names and store your websites data.
Pricing will depend on the extension you choose (e.g. .com, .co, .edu, .org, etc.), how long you plan on owning your domain, and potentially how popular the keywords are within your domain name itself. Keep in mind that it’s possible your ideal domain name has already been purchased, so you may have to get creative in finding different variations that will still be simple to understand and fit within your budget. Here are some things to consider when choosing a domain name:
Choose The Right Extension (.com, .org, .net)
Virtually half of all websites have the .com extension. Because of this, you should make it a priority to search for a domain name that has that extension available. If it is taken, you should consider a .net or .co extension. If this still doesn’t work, thinking of another domain name is probably your best bet. Try to avoid using uncommon extensions like .club, .space, or even .pizza.
Brandable Over Generic
Your domain name is just as important as the content on your website. It is one of the first things visitors will see when searching for answers online. Because of this, it’s important to find a domain that you can brand with your own identity. A brandable domain will stand out from your competition, whereas a generic one may contain keywords but will be unmemorable.
For example, what’s the difference between TopHotelPicks.com, GetAHotelRoomNow.com, or HotelRatesToday.net? Nothing, right? These domains are very generic and contain keywords that a lot of other sites out there will use. However, Hotels.com is simple to understand, type in, and can have an entire brand built behind a single word.
Short Is Better Than Long
Like in the Brandable Over Generic example above. A domain name that is longer will generally be harder to remember, and harder to brand. Hotels.com is able to sum up their entire business into a single word, and that is always a great thing. Something to remember, though, is that you will most likely have a hard time finding one word domains in 2022. This is because for the past 20 years, domain holders have purchased them either for their own company, or to resell at a future date.
If you come across this when looking to buy your domain, don’t worry, you have a few options to choose from. Your first option is to try and buy the domain from the owner, but this may only be possible if the owner isn’t actively using the domain for their own website. For example, you probably wouldn’t be able to buy Facebook.com as it's currently in use, and you probably couldn’t afford it (insert sad face here).
If you can’t buy the domain, try finding a different extension for the same name. This could be a .net, .co, etc. This is great, because you could get the domain name you are after, but could end up not working out as quickly as planned, as the domain name you originally wanted may already be ranked high in the search results. This could cause a headache for you, as you will have to spend a lot more time, energy, and money to get ranked higher over the same domain name but with a different extension.
If none of these options will work for you, you might be better off finding another domain entirely. This could be a different word, or even spelling of the same word (but not too complicated).
Make Sure It’s Easy To Type
If there are too many letters and too many words in your domain name, it may make a person think twice about the effort it will take to type into their search engine of choice. Though we may think that typing in a few letters isn’t that big of a deal, in terms of domain names, it is. So, try and keep things short and simple.
Make Sure It’s Easy To Pronounce
Just because your domain name is short and to the point, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. If someone can’t pronounce your domain name, or at least has to think about how to pronounce it, it will more than likely be hard to stick in their mind. This goes back to the brandability of your domain name.
Avoid Hyphens And Numbers
To further tie in the idea of a simple domain, another best practice would be to avoid using hyphens and numbers within your domain name. Not only does this extend the length of your domain name, it makes it more complicated to remember, and allows for more possible spelling mistakes.
Consider Using “Niche” Keywords That Reflect Your Website
If you do end up using words for your domain name that aren’t necessarily in your business name, then using niche keywords is probably the smartest move. Despite your efforts to maximize brandability of your domain name, sometimes when you’re searching online, finding a website that has a keyword related to your search means they “know what they are talking about”. Fun Fact: You can actually have multiple domain names pointed to your website at any given time. So, if you want to buy a Niche/Keyword domain to try and convince more people to visit your website, you can!
Think Long-Term Over Short-Term
Even though you can buy as many domains as you’d like, there still needs to be a main domain that will be your “home” forever. The longer your domain is around, the better it ends up ranking in the search results. If you constantly change your main domain name, it could end up hurting you in the long run as you would essentially be “starting over” every time you do it. So, with this in mind, find a domain name you like, and stick with it.
Check If It’s Not Trademarked Or Already Used
To best build your brand, it’s typically a good idea to have the same name across the web and on social media. Make sure your domain isn’t currently trademarked by another company, as that could cause issues down the road. Keep in mind that the trademark could potentially be an individual service or product by a company with a different name. This makes this process tricky to confirm if your domain name is trademarked or not. However, more than likely if someone has gone to the trouble of getting a trademark, they probably already own the domain name for it. So, if you come across an available domain name, you most likely will be fine to purchase it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have questions about purchasing domain names? You should consider checking out our Resource Navigator. It houses the contact information of 400 of our most helpful partners from across the state who provide free to low-cost assistance to Iowa entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Q: How much does it cost to buy a website domain name?
A: The price of your domain name depends on a few factors, such as keywords included in the name, the length of the name, the extension at the end of the name, and the provider you purchase the domain from. Prices can range anywhere from a few dollars to a few thousand.
Q: Do I really need a domain name for my website?
A: For a better user experience, yes. When you build a website either by scratch or on a drag and drop style builder, your website will have a generic domain assigned to it that is oftentimes lengthy and hard to remember. When you connect your own domain name to your website, it both simplifies what people have to type into the search bar, as well as adds more professionalism to your business in general.
Q: Is it worth it to try and buy the domain I want that is already owned by someone else?
A: This is completely up to you and depends entirely on your budget, when you need the domain by, and if you believe the domain is completely necessary to conduct a profitable business.