Buying a domain for your business is a big deal. I feel like I put as much time and thought into finding the right domain for my new beard care business as I did thinking of a name for my daughter. Well, maybe not quite that much, but certainly more effort than it would’ve taken to register the first not-quite-perfect-but-available domain name that popped into my mind.
Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of entrepreneurs do. And it’s a big mistake.
Your domain name is your business’s unique identifier on the web, so it’s super-important that it makes the right impression. If you avoid these five domain naming mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to making that happen.
1. Don’t fart (or, avoid an embarrassing mishap).
Seriously, it never goes over like you think it will. I have a friend named Frank who makes some amazing sculptures using liquid metal. He signs all of his artwork with a single letter “F.” When he started his website for F Art Gallery, he called me up for some help registering a domain.
I didn’t think anything of it, until I went online to see if the domain that exactly matched the name of his business was available. As I typed out Frank’s choice domain name, I burst into tears with laughter. I couldn’t even talk on the phone while I caught my breath. The gallery’s domain sounded great when written with the appropriate spaces — but not when typed into a web browser. Sure, fartgallery.com was memorable. But I doubted it was the kind of memory Frank wanted to leave with potential customers.
So when you think about your website address, think about it as a sequence of words and letters in a sequence, rather than as separate words. You’ll save yourself some embarrassing looks when people see your new domain on a business card or email address.
2. Don’t show off (or, try too hard to be clever).
The point of doing business online is to make it easy for people to find your website and take whatever action you want them to take — check out your products and services, call you for estimates, buy your widgets, whatever.
If you want people to easily find you, don’t make it hard for them to remember your website address by choosing a domain name that takes liberties with language simply for the sake of being clever.
Say you’re selling orange-flavored water and you decide to name your business Karrot. (Most) carrots are orange. They’re all spelled with a “c.” You think it’s a witty name and are stoked to snag karrotwater.global as your domain name. Bad move. If people hear your business name and want to check you out online, they’re likely to search for carrotwater.global. That will do you no good.
Also consider the international spelling of words. If you use a word like “colour” and your business is primarily doing business in the U.S., expect to lose potential customers typing your domain with the American spelling of “color.” Clever is cute, but using a clever spelling of a domain makes it harder to market your business online. That leads us to our next don’t.
3. Don’t stunt your growth (or, name yourself into a corner).
In the example above, you’ve effectively chosen a name that makes it seem like you sell carrot-flavored water. Yum. What’s more, you’ve named yourself into a corner if you decide to branch out into other flavors. When choosing a domain name, it pays to think ahead.
I was looking to include “Arizona” in the domain for my new business because I live here. The problem is that because I want customers from all over the world, I had to respect that not everyone loves or cares about where I’m located. If you are a brick-and-mortar business and you service a specific region, jump in the geo-domain with both feet. It’s the best thing you can do for a great search engine ranking. On the other hand, if you are an online business with a global market, be as generic with your domain name as possible.
The same is true with the products and services you offer. Avoid GenericCarWash.com if you also provide tune-ups and tire rotations. You’ll make a killing on car wash customers, but you’ll miss out on those lucrative add-on services your potential customers don’t know you offer. Consider GenericAutoCare.com instead. Give yourself room to grow.
4. Don’t be antisocial (or, pick a domain that’s not available on social media).
I was convinced I had the perfect domain name for my startup beard care business. I’d done my research and knew it was available. Then I went over to Facebook to create my first Facebook Business Page — and when I typed in the business name, Facebook told me it was already taken. How could that be? I re-checked and my preferred .com domain was definitely not registered by someone else. Back to Facebook …. Ah, the business with my chosen name was operating in Australia, and had registered the domain name with the .com.au extension.
Sure, I could have purchased the .com version like I had planned, but that might set me up for trademark issues down the road. Not to mention the confusion it might cause when marketing my business on social media. Back to the domain naming drawing board.
My best advice is to check social media before settling on your new domain.
You’ll avoid both potential trademark issues and lost sales. It’s just not worth the risk of potential customers turning up a competitor’s site when they type in your too-similar domain.
5. Don’t sell yourself cheap (or, avoid premium domains).
I know an entrepreneur who went looking for his business domain and it was already taken, but for sale on the domain aftermarket. The .com version was listed for $2,500 — a price this entrepreneur considered too high to shell out for the ideal domain name. He decided to go with the .net version because it was available at a normal price.
Within a few years the business exploded; their product was everywhere. This happy entrepreneur then decided to invest in the .com version of the business’s domain name. Here’s the catch: A heck of a lot of people had been typing .com instead of .net when searching for the business’s website. The company’s marketing content might’ve clearly stated the correct website address, but .com has been around for so long that it’s the default domain extension for many web users.
The result? The impressive number of “hits” to the parked web page attached to the premium .com domain had spiked its price to $15,000.
A simple decision to save money turned into a $15k mistake. So, if you know you want a domain for your business and it’s available as a premium domain, save up and invest in the perfect domain at the beginning. You can save yourself money in the long run.
Good domain sense
I’ve seen these five common domain naming mistakes repeated over and over again during the time I’ve spent helping small business owners register domains. But I’ve also watched plenty of entrepreneurs with great ideas do them justice by taking the time to pick just the right domains. Here’s how, in a nutshell:
- Write out your domain. You want to make sure people will read it the way you intend it to be read.
- Make it easy to spell and remember.
- Ensure nobody else is using your business/preferred domain name on social media.
- Think ahead to pick a name that will grow with your business.
- Invest in a premium domain name if it’s the perfect domain for your business.
Oh, and don’t feel like you’re limited to one domain. There are a lot of good reasons to register more than one domain for your business. It’s easy to point secondary domains — like domains that account for common misspellings of your domain, or that feature geographic- or industry-specific domain extensions — to your primary site. With these basic domain naming tenets in mind, you’ll be well on your way to picking a domain name for your business that smells just right.