UPDATE: This post on choosing a domain name was first published on 7 May 2018 and updated on 29 June 2021.
The domain name of a business is also often known as a web address. It's the sequence starting with "www" and ending in .com or another extension that helps people quickly find the business's website.
Choosing a domain name requires careful consideration, as it is often the first thing people see.
Below are eight tips for selecting a great custom domain name that will serve you for years to come.
8 tips on choosing a domain name for any business
Domain names are a special kind of marketing tool. For one thing, they’re often spoken, so they need to be quickly understood and easy-to-type. Read on for more surefire tips.
1. Keep it simple
The first rule of choosing a domain name is to keep it simple. If your domain name has an unusual spelling or is difficult to type, chances are people will stuff it up. So ditch the slang (i.e. using “u” instead of “you”) or words with confusing spellings — xpress instead of express, for example.
If you have to explain how to spell your domain, then it’s too complicated.
You want to make it easy for visitors to find your online business, not hard. You also don’t want potential visitors to mistype your domain and end up on a completely different website.
2. Shorter is better
The fewer characters your domain name has, the easier it will be to type, say and share. There’s also less risk of losing visitors who might mistype or misspell it.
Short domains are easier to remember. They also allow more of the URL to show up in search listings, not to mention look better on business cards and other offline media advertising materials.
It’s best to aim for six to 14 characters to the left of the dot. However, you should know that the domain you want might already be taken — especially if you want a .com domain name.
The most widely recognized extension in the world, .com has been around for decades. And in that time, many of the shortest and most memorable domain names have already been claimed. Don’t worry though, because you have options (more on this later).
Fortunately for me, the matching .com and .com.au domain names were available for my business name, Words by Birds, when I did a domain name search. But if you can’t find something short, make it brandable, i.e. MeetWordsByBirds.com.
3. Add keywords if possible
Using keywords that describe your business and the products or services you offer makes it pretty obvious what you’re all about.
For example, if you run a custom birthday cake business, you might want to register a domain name with the words “custom” and “cakes” in it, depending on your business name (or even in addition to your business name).
Including keywords that people might enter when searching for your product or service will help improve your search engine ranking, but also remove any confusion for potential customers around what you do.
4. Mention your location
If you offer a localised product or service that’s specific to your area — for example, auto repair or dry cleaning — consider including your city in your domain name to make it easier for locals to find you.
For example, the domain name for the Byron Baby Shop is ByronBabyShop.com.au, which makes the shop’s location immediately obvious.
If your business happens to be in Melbourne or Sydney, you could use the .melbourne or .sydney domain extensions to tell people looking for your services they’ve come to the right place. These extensions haven’t been around as long as .com or .com.au, so there are more good, brandable domain names to choose from.
Whether you add your location before or after the dot, there’s no doubt at all where customers will be able to find you geographically. They’ll know at a glance they’re dealing with someone based nearby, as opposed to in another country.
See if your name is available now
5. Avoid numbers and hyphens
Numbers and hyphens can easily cause confusion. Imagine if your online business address was 1stPerthRealEstate.com.au? People who heard your domain spoken wouldn’t immediately know if you’re using a number or whether “first” is spelled out.
Likewise, if you had a hyphen in there — FirstPerth-RealEstate.com.au — customers would likely forget the hyphen and mistype your URL. Or they’d remember the hyphen, but put it in the wrong place. Either way, the result is the same — another potential customer lost.
So stay away from numbers and hyphens and only stick to letters.
6. Make it unforgettable
With so many millions of businesses online, there’s a lot of competition out there. So having a catchy and memorable domain name is essential. An easy-to-remember custom domain name will encourage word-of-mouth advertising and help spread your brand faster. Having a great website won’t matter if no one can remember your domain name and actually find you!
Once you’ve come up with a domain name, share it with close friends and colleagues to make sure it makes sense to others.
If you can’t get your domain name down to one memorable word, you might want to think about joining two words together. For example, retailer Gorman’s URL is GormanShop.com.au.
7. Consider all your options
The internet’s been around for decades, but there’s still a strong bias towards choosing a .com extension. So if you can, try and register a .com or .com.au address. This will help boost your branding and ensure your URL is memorable, since this is the extension the world thinks of first.
But if the .com domain name you want isn’t available, don’t fret! There’s a bevy of new interest- and industry-specific domain extensions available, such as .live, .online and .news. Here are some other popular extensions and how they’re often used:
- .co: an abbreviation for company, commerce and community.
- .info: used for informational sites.
- .net: often claimed by technical, internet infrastructure sites and ISPs.
- .org: widely used by non-commercial organizations and nonprofits.
- .biz: business or commercial use, like eCommerce sites.
- .me: a perfect choice for blogs, resumes or personal sites.
If you want to buy a .com.au or .net.au web address, you will need to satisfy one of the categories listed here.
8. Safeguard your brand
To protect your brand, think about registering your domain with various domain extensions as well as misspelled versions of your domain name. For example, I’ve registered both WordsByBirds.com and WordsByBirds.com.au for my own business.
This prevents sneaky competitors from registering different versions and then using them to pull traffic away from your website. Registering related domain names ensures visitors who are searching for your business don’t inadvertently end up on a competitor’s website.
Any misspelled domain names you register can be forwarded to your primary web address; visitors will never know they typed it incorrectly.
Now do a quick check
Once you’ve found the perfect custom domain name(s) for your online business, it’s easy to get excited and want to register it right away. But before you do, it’s important to check that the name isn’t trademarked or copyrighted by another company.
IP Australia makes checking trademarks quick.
Trademark owners could attempt to sue you if your domain is similar to their trademark — even if you legitimately own the domain and use it for business purposes. So it’s best to avoid a legal mess later on that could cost you a fortune, as well as having to give up your domain!
Also, check that the name you want is available on social media sites. Before registering the domain name for my business, I checked Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to make sure Words By Birds wasn’t already taken. For brand-building, it’s ideal to have the same name across your website and social platforms. Sites like Nameche_k and Namecheckr make this part easy.
Lastly, check that the domain name won’t be easily confused with another company name, as this will impact your brandability. If you have any concerns about the legalities around choosing a domain name, it’s best to seek legal advice.
Then move quickly
Domain names sell quickly, so once you’ve found the one you want, register it as soon as possible. Even if you don’t want to use it right away, you can always park it until you’re ready to launch your website.
Name your online business now
Your domain name is a visual representation of your brand. It must be easy to type, memorable, short and unique.
If you’re having trouble finding an available name you like, try using a domain name generator.
Take your time and do it right and your domain name will be a proud representation of your business for years to come.