Building your business website is a labour of love. It’s putting the business you’ve worked your butt off to build, out there in the World Wide Web to show the world who you are, what you do and why they should choose you!
Your domain name is how people are going to find you online. It’s your online moniker and the gateway to discover your business.
And, unlike boring IP addresses, you can actually infuse your branding and personality into your domain name, if you choose to do so.
So, let’s look a bit more closely at some tips and best practices when it comes to choosing your domain name.
It’s not easy naming your baby!
Make it unique.
I have seen so many domains that almost seem interchangeable, they’re so similar. Ensure you stand out. That’s not to say you should start to get too fancy. Stay away from attempts to add bits and pieces to your domain to make it ‘unique.’
Don’t try to get cute or clever with your spelling.
Don’t use “Projekt” with a “k” when what you really mean is “Project” with a c… unless your company name is actually spelled Projekt. Similarly, it’s better to not substitute numbers for letters, for example, don’t use “4” when what you mean is “For.”
And while we’re on the topic of trying to be cute, avoid hyphens. It’s easy to forget where the hyphens should be, plus while I’m not aware of any technical reason to not use them, from a user’s perspective (and whether a fair judgment or not), it impairs your credibility.
The reality is, the easier you make for people to figure out your domain name, even if they are just guessing and hoping it’s right, is key.
Memorability is important.
Try to keep your domain names as short as possible. I know this is harder than it used to be because it probably seems like every time you search on the availability of a domain, someone else has already scooped it up.
That said, short domain names are still easier to remember, easier to share, and have a smaller chance of resulting in typos, so try to keep it as simple as you can. If your domain name is long and complex, you risk customers mistyping or misspelling it.
Research the name.
Finally, whatever you do, do not forget to research the name first. Before you proceed with a domain registration, be sure that the name you’ve selected isn’t trademarked, copyrighted or being used by another company. It’s not worth the headache to find out after the fact.
In general, you want to choose a domain name that is easy to type, easy to remember, and easy to verbalize.
How to pick a domain registrar
Once you’ve nailed down what your domain name is going to be, it’s time to register it!
But how? Where? It feels like there are so many options to choose from.
There are some simple things you can do before you pick your registrar to make sure that you’re making the best choice for your business.
Make sure you understand the registration fee and the renewal fee.
Many providers will offer a cheap domain to get you to register it, but their renewal cost could be significantly higher. And, while you’re at it, check if the registrar charges an additional fee to let you transfer the domain.
Most domain registrars make it straight forward to transfer domain names (should you wish to do so in the future) without extra costs or hoops to jump through, but double check to be sure.
Make sure there is auto-renewal available.
You might not be thinking about it when you first sign up, but you should be thinking renewals as soon as you register. Ensure they have auto renewal features so you can set your domains to automatically renew so you never forget to renew them.
I’ve known more than a handful of business owners who’ve forgotten to renew their domain and suddenly their websites and email addresses ceased to function.
Make sure there is a grace period.
Finally, make sure your registrar has a grace period if for some reason your domain name doesn’t renew automatically (e.g. if your billing information on file fails).
I personally know one person whose domain renewal didn’t go through, and without a grace period available the domain got scooped up by someone else.
Let’s talk numbers
This should not be one of those things that cost you a fortune.
Don’t pay too much!
Heads up that you typically shouldn’t expect to spend more than $15 usd/year on a .com domain (unless it’s already been purchased and being made available through a domain broker or the domain’s current owner).
Make sure you don’t get upsold on add-on services that you don’t need. There is nothing worse than shelling out money when you really don’t need to.
The best way to avoid dealing with someone who is going to try to hose you is to find out as much as you can about who you’re dealing with. Ask around to see what the registrar’s reputation is like.
- What is the typical customer experience?
- Do they have solid customer support?
- Do they have multiple ways to contact them for support? (e.g. live chat, support tickets).
My personal recommendation (thank you for asking!), and who I use for my own domain registrations and renewals is Namecheap.
Make sure you are the primary contact.
When you register your domain, make absolutely sure that you register the domain in YOUR name and with YOUR contact information. Do NOT delegate this to a website designer or developer.
I witnessed a domain hostage situation go down with a fellow business owner whose developer had registered her domain for her and then when things went sour in their working relationship, the business owner had to fight to regain access to her own company’s established domain name.
It’s just a good rule of thumb to deal with a well-known company.
The little ones, in my extensive experience, can suck. So many times, we have dealt with not being able to update name servers or host records on these little-known companies some clients have been on.
Most of the big companies do it right, because they have to.
A note for Canadian business owners.
Do NOT get sucked in by domain registrars who send sneaky looking kraft envelopes that look official and governmental (with a red maple leaf on it) in an attempt to convince you to transfer your domain to them for a crazy annual registration amount. Yes, I receive them too.
They aren’t legitimate.
At the end of the day, as a small business owner, just be sure to do your due diligence using the guidelines I’ve outlined in this article, and you shouldn’t go wrong.