In the business environment of 2023, a domain name is more than just a website address. It’s a critical aspect of your online branding, marketing, and communication strategy. Choosing the right domain name for your business or brand is a crucial step towards establishing a strong online presence. But with so many factors to consider, from relevance to availability to trademark infringement, it can be challenging to know where to start.
In this post, I hope to guide you through the process of choosing your domain name, providing my insights from many years of experience. Best practice should always guide you, and we’ll look at some practical tips to help you make an informed decision. Whether you’re launching a new website, rebranding an existing one, or simply looking to improve your online presence, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and resources you need to choose a domain name that sets you up for success.
What is a Domain Name
A domain name is a unique set of characters that identifies a website on the internet. It’s the web address that people use to access a particular website. Domain names consist of two components: the name itself and the top-level domain (TLD) extension.
In the domain name “www.your business.com,” “example” is the name of the website, while “.com” is the TLD extension. The extension typically indicates the type of organization the website belongs to; .com, for a business website or .edu for education. They can also be country-specific; co.uk for the United Kingdom or .cn for China.
What is DNS & How does it Work ?
DNS or Domain Name System, is used to translate human-readable domain names, like “yourbusiness.com“, into machine-readable IP addresses, like 203.0.113.1, which are needed for computers to communicate with each other over the internet.
When you type a domain name into your web browser, your computer sends a DNS query to a DNS server, which is responsible for translating the domain name into an IP address. The DNS server checks its database to see if it already has the IP address for that domain name. If it does, it returns the IP address to your computer, which can then connect to the website.
If the DNS server does not have the IP address for the domain name, it will forward the request to another DNS server. This process continues until the IP address for the domain name is found and returned to your computer. All this happens in a fraction of a second.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Domain Name
In addition to providing a unique identifier for a website, domain names can also play a critical role in branding and marketing. A well-chosen domain name can make it easier for people to remember and access your website, while a poorly chosen domain name can hinder your online visibility and credibility. Therefore, it’s essential to choose a domain name that is relevant, memorable, and reflects your brand or business. Here are just some factors to consider…
Relevance to your brand or business
A brandable domain is an integral part of your brand identity. It’s the name that customers will associate with your business, and it’s the name that will appear on all your marketing materials, business cards, and email addresses. Choosing a domain name that aligns with your brand values, and is memorable and easy to spell, can help establish your brand in the minds of your customers.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engines, Google specifically, use a variety of factors to determine where to rank websites in the search results. The domain name is one of those factors. A domain name that includes relevant keywords and phrases doesn’t really help improve rankings but it’s more important that it doesn’t appear spammy or overly optimized. The most important factors today are that your business is recognisable via the name and that it’s short and simple…
Length and simplicity
A short and simple domain name is important because it’s easier for people to remember, type into a web browser, and recognize for branding purposes. A memorable domain name can result in more repeat visitors and recommendations to others. A simple domain name is easier to type correctly, reducing the risk of lost traffic and potential customers. A short and easy-to-understand domain name may also have SEO benefits, as search engines prioritize relevant domain names that are easy for users to understand.
Easy to pronounce and spell
A domain name that is easy to pronounce and spell is important because it makes it easier for people to remember and share with others. Difficult pronunciation or spelling can lead to confusion, lost traffic, and potential customers, or damage to your brand’s reputation. In addition, a domain name that is easy to spell can also reduce the risk of typos and increase the likelihood of people reaching your website without issue.
Avoiding trademark infringement
Choosing a domain name that infringes on someone else’s trademark or intellectual property can lead to legal trouble down the line. It’s important to do your research and ensure that the domain name you choose is not already in use by another business, and does not infringe on any trademarks or copyrights.
Is your business local or international
Let’s focus on whether to choose .ie (Ireland) or .com (international). If you are small local business providing products and/or services to customers in your town or county, then choose .ie. If you are a business selling internationally, or plan to sell internationally, then choose .com. There will different considerations for different sectors, for example; if you provide services to tourists, mostly from aboard, then again, .com is the right choice. We’ll cover the more exotic domain extensions later in this post.
Avoiding hyphens and numbers
Hyphens and numbers should be avoided in domain names because they make it harder for people to remember and type the domain name correctly. This can result in lost traffic and potential customers. A domain name that is easy to remember and type is critical for building brand recognition, reaching your target audience, and growing your online presence.
Checking for domain name availability
You can check if a domain name is available by using a domain name registrar’s website, SiteGround and Hosting Ireland for example, or a domain name search tool. In addition to domain name registrar’s websites, there are also search tools available online, such as WHOIS and ICANN. These tools can provide more detailed information about a domain name, such as current ownership and registration status.
Domain Name Best Practice
Use keywords ?
In this past, using keywords relevant to your business (“plumbing” if you’re a plumber for example) was important, but less so today. Here is what John Mueller, Senior Search Analyst at Google has to say;
You don’t get a special bonus like that from having a keyword in your top-level domain… Just because a website has a keyword in its domain name doesn’t mean that it’s more relevant than others for that keyword. In short, you don’t need to put keywords in the domain name.
Make Your Domain Name memorable
What’s way more important than keywords is that your domain name is memorable and that it associated with your business. Apple doesn’t use the work “computer”, or “phone”, in their domain name, but their website is very much aligned with their brand.
Keep your domain name short
Here’s the stats; Any domain that is longer than 17 characters or more than 3 dictionary words is way too long. The “https://www.” is NOT included in this number, neither is the domain name extension .com, .net etc.
This about your own perception of a website when you land on the homepage. If it’s long, if it has numbers and hyphens, if it’s difficult to understand, you probably don’t trust the site or the business, and you are likely to click away.
Domain Extensions Explained
Choosing a Domain Extension
A domain extension, also known as a top-level domain (TLD), is the part of a domain name that comes after the final dot, .com for example. There are a variety of domain extensions including country-specific and industry-specific.
When choosing your domain extension for your website, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, you’ll want to think about your target audience and where they’re located. If you’re primarily targeting Ireland, a .ie domain extension is the right choice. On the other hand, if you’re targeting multiple countries or a global audience, .com is the way to go.
Secondly, you’ll want to consider the content of your website, and what your goals are. If you’re launching a website for a non-profit organization, a .org domain extension might be a good choice. If you’re creating a website for an educational institution, a .edu domain extension might be more appropriate. In the early days of the web .net was very popular, but today .com has overtaken it.
Once you have chosen your perfect domain it’s also prudent to register the other domain extensions too, for example; if you have registered “mybusiness.ie” you should also register “mybusiness.com“. This prevents somebody else from using this domain name for their website in the future. Both names should launch the same website, this is done with your registrar.
What is a sub-domain ?
A subdomain is part of a larger domain. It is created by adding a prefix to the front of an existing domain name, separated by a dot. For example, in the domain name “shop.example.com”, “shop” is the subdomain and “example.com” is the larger domain. Subdomains are often used to create separate sections of a website, an online store for example. You first need a domain name before you can create a sub-domain.
What about www. ?
The “www” in a domain name stands for world wide web, and traditionally indicated the presence of a website on the internet. However, in recent years, many websites have started to drop the “www” from their domain names, opting instead for a simpler URL format. In terms of functionality, there is no difference between a website that includes “www” in its domain name and one that doesn’t. It’s simply a matter of personal preference and branding.
How does my email work ?
Once you have your desired domain name registered, it’s time to create email addresses associated with that domain. For example, if your domain name is example.com, you could create email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To set up email for your domain, you’ll need to choose an email provider, Gmail for example, and configure your domain’s DNS settings to point to the provider’s mail servers. Once you’ve done this, you can start sending and receiving emails using your custom domain.
Using a Domain Name Generator
A domain name generator is a tool that helps users come up with unique and creative domain name ideas for their website or online business. It usually works by inputting keywords or phrases related to the user’s niche or industry and then generating a list of available domain names based on those keywords.
Some generators use algorithms to create new, random names that are catchy and easy to remember. A domain name generator can be helpful for users struggling to decide on the perfect domain name. They can provide inspiration and generate options that may not be thought of on their own.
Tips for buying Domain Names
Choose a name that is easy to remember and spell.
Make sure the name reflects your brand or business.
Check for trademarks and copyrights.
Consider buying multiple extensions.
Do your research !!
Where to Buy Your Domain Name
There are literally thousands of websites for domain registration in almost every country of the world, they are called domain registrars. Here at FutureProof Digital we only use two; SiteGround Web Hosting and Hosting Ireland. All of our web hosting is done with SiteGround, so that’s where we get our .com domain names. SiteGround do not register .ie domain names, so we use Hosting Ireland for that.
Domain Name Auction Sites
A domain name auction site is a platform where people can buy and sell registered domain names, not register a new domain. Domain name owners can list their domains for sale on these sites, and buyers can bid on the those they are interested in. These auction sites can be useful for both buyers as they provide a marketplace for domain names to be bought and sold. This is the place to go if you discover that your “perfect domain” is already registered, and you want to find out if it’s being sold privately. And remember, there’s no such thing as a free domain name.
Final thoughts on choosing a domain name
Choosing a new domain name is an important decision for any website owner. A good domain can help you build brand recognition, reach your target audience, and grow your online presence. When choosing a domain, it’s important to consider factors such as memorability, simplicity, and ease of pronunciation and spelling. Avoiding hyphens and numbers, choosing a short and simple name, and making sure it’s easy to pronounce and spell can all help make your domain name more memorable and effective. By following these guidelines and using domain name search tools, you can find the perfect domain for your website and set yourself up for success online.