When setting up a new web site for a client, we often need to register a domain name (i.e. the address used for their web site and emails) on their behalf and one of the most common questions we are asked is “What domain name should I register?”
It is very important to choose the right domain name, as you may have to live with it for years and even decades. Your domain name should be memorable, easily conveyed verbally and meaningful. Here’s some brief guidelines to help you choose your ideal domain name.
1. Avoid using numbers and/or letters with ‘word’ equivalents
It may look smart to have www.homes4u.com and firstname.lastname@example.org but I can assure you that the hundredth time you have told someone your web address or email address and added ” …. and it’s the number ‘4’ not ‘F-O-R’ or ‘F-O-U-R’ and it’s the letter ‘U’ not ‘Y-O-U’ ….” you will regret not going for something simpler. If a number makes up your business name and you really must register a domain with a number, then register both the number version and its spelt version, so its doesn’t matter which one people use.
Of course, there’s an exception to every rule and www.phones4u.co.uk can get away with breaking both these guidelines but they have millions to spend on advertising to avoid consumer confusion – do you?
2. Avoid hyphens …. unless you really, really can’t.
If your business or organisation name is already taken, you may need to consider registering a hyphenated version. For the same reason as above, consider some lateral thinking to avoid having to register a domain with a hyphen. Say, if you business was called “Joe Bloggs Garage” and www.joesbloggsgarage.co.uk is already registered, consider www.joesbloggsni.com or www.joesbloggsuk.com or perhaps www.jbgarage.co.uk ?
3. .com or co.uk ?
Ideally, you should register the domain type for the geographic market in which your consumers or site users are based. If your clients and customers are U.K. based, the co.uk domain will be fine. If you target the USA or global markets, .com would be preferred. There are also some search engine benefits to owning a regional domain, where regional domains can benefit from listing in regional search engines, but this is only one factor in the whole set-up, hosting location and Search Engine Optimisation of your web site.
If you are fortunate that you have the choice, register both, for the following reasons;
(a) You can choose which one to use for your web site/emails
(b) Your web designer can set-up both to go to the same web site and redirect emails to your main email address, so you catch any typing errors where someone typed in the alternative version
(c) You prevent anyone from registering the one you didn’t register, thus protecting your brand, avoiding any confusion and eliminating the risk of a competitor grabbing web traffic destined for your site.
4. What about registering multiple extensions?
Budget permitting, it is always a good idea to protect your organisation by registering the main extensions, if they are still available. These include .org, .net, .org.uk, .info and .biz (plus .eu for European based organisations and .ie for Irish based organisations).
However, we would not recommend registering a .org or .org.uk domain if you are a commercial business and did not have either the .com or .co.uk equivalent to use as the primary web/email address. Similarly, there’s no point in registering .info and/or .biz to use as your primary web/email address as they just don’t have the online recognition or status desired – just compromise and register a .com or .co.uk, even if its not your first choice name.
5. What words should I use in the domain?
Here we can offer three suggestions ;
(a) Your organisation / business / brand name e.g. www.BigTomsGarage.co.uk
(b) A keyword name e.g. www.SparePartsForFordCars.com
(c) A ‘made-up’ word e.g. www.google.com, www.yahoo.com etc
First, ignore the last option (c) unless you have a huge budget to promote your web site otherwise it will never be found and no-one will ever visit it.
If being found in the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) is very important to you, then you may want to consider option (b) and choose a name that includes keywords that your target audience is likely use when they search. A great ranking on search engines involves more that having a ‘search friendly’ domain name, but it can help.
6. The long and the short of it ….
Domain names can be of any length up to 67 characters but that doesn’t mean you have to use them all! Shorter domain names are easier to remember, easier to type and far less susceptible to mistakes but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should always register a shorter name. It is much better to use www.UKCarSalesGroupDatabase.co.uk than www.ukcsgd.co.uk – you can see the potential for mistakes in the shorter, less memorable version.
Chooing a domain name often runs deeper than the brief guidelines above, so take care and give it some real thought before just plumping for the first name you think of and which you find is available.
At Red Rhino, we always guide clients when it comes to choosing a domain name and we always make counter-suggestions if they suggest a name which doesn’t following the guidelines above. If you have decided on your perfect domain name (or even if you haven’t!), why don’t you contact us for free advice? Even bounce your idea off your colleagues and friends to see what they think? Just remember, you may have a long time to regret the wrong choice!