This article is part of a larger series on Small Business Websites.
The best domain names are short, memorable, on-brand, and can even boost your rankings in online search. To choose a domain name, first try using your business name. If that isn’t possible, create a list of alternatives, incorporate keywords, choose the right domain extension, research the domain’s history, and finally, register your domain.
1. Start With Your Brand Name
Your domain name should reflect your brand, and vice versa. For maximum brand recognition and URL retention, see if your brand name is available for purchase. Your brand differentiates you from competitors, and including your unique brand name in your domain can help you stand out.
If your ideal domain name is already taken, head over to the domain itself and see if there are any links to purchase it or contact forms to reach out to the owner. If not, conduct a WHOIS search to find contact information you can use to reach out with an offer.
2. Create a List of Alternative Domain Names
Unless you have an extremely unique business name, the chances of the domain name being available are slim. Before you begin your search, come up with a list of at least five to 10 other ideal domain names you can use. Adding words like “The” or “My” or “Your” can make all the difference—as evidenced by domains like TheKnot.com.
3. Add Keywords That Describe Your Brand
Using relevant keywords in your domain name not only increases brand retention, but can also boost its standing with search engines. Keywords tell both human visitors and search engines what your site is about, so choose keywords that describe your brand, such as FlyAsiana.com.
If you get stuck, try using keyword research tools to help you choose a domain name for a business. Choosing a search engine optimization (SEO)-friendly domain name can improve your site’s ranking on search engines, which, in turn, increases traffic. For more tips for choosing a domain name, read our guide on insightful domain name ideas for business websites.
4. Choose the Right Extension
Your domain name doesn’t stop with the root domain. Part of learning how to choose a domain name is choosing the right domain extension. This makes your entire domain name look more credible, and it can also give a little hint of the industry your business is in. For example, .com stands for “commercial,” and is applicable for almost every type of business—making it the most popular (and competitive) domain extension.
Here is more information about different types of domain extensions and who they are best for:
- Commercial entities: Commercial entities in any industry often use the .com extension. This is the most credible, memorable, and widely used, so try this first before looking at other extensions (unless your business falls into a specific category, such as those below). Others commonly used for general business purposes are .website and .biz.
- Business websites: U.S.-based businesses using .inc domains signal to the site visitor that the organization is an incorporated entity.
- Web and technology: .net stands for network, and was originally used for businesses in the tech industry. Now, it’s becoming more popular with businesses from other industries that can’t purchase a .com extension. See whether to use .com or .net for your business. Today, many tech companies are opting for the .io extension, even though it was originally intended as a country-specific designation.
- Organizations and nonprofits: Charities and organizations often use a .org extension, so deciding between .com vs .org is easy, as using .org implies that your business is a nonprofit.
- Government entities: Local, state, and federal governmental websites usually adopt the .gov extension.
- Law firms and legal services: Law firms and legal service businesses, such as paralegals, could opt to use the .legal domain extension.
- Shopping platforms: The .store domain is suitable for ecommerce, retail brands, and online stores.
- Agencies and consultants: An .agency extension is ideal for business services such as staffing, marketing, or accounting, as well as business consultants.
- Nation-based services: You can also use a location-based extension, like .us or .ca, for the U.S. and Canada, respectively. Pick a local domain extension if you want to focus on strengthening your local presence in a specific country.
- Other popular extensions: Aside from the popular extensions above, there are choices like .edu for educational institutions. A .me domain can be used as a personalized web address for portfolio or resume sites. Meanwhile, a .club domain is suitable for subscription sites, social clubs, membership sites, and online communities. Your choice will ultimately come down to the industry your business is in.
5. Research Its History
Before registering a domain name, check if it has been used previously by another entity. Make sure you research the history of your preferred domain name before purchasing it. A quick search on backlink checkers like Semrush or SimilarWeb will give you some information on the domain’s history.
If it has been used previously, check if there are any pre-existing backlinks to the domain. Getting quality backlinks through link building increases the authority of your site. Backlinks from spam-filled or low-trust sites might drag your website down.
If your chosen name is associated with spammy websites, you can contact the site’s admin to remove the link. If that fails, you can disavow the link, telling Google you don’t want your site associated with these websites.
6. Register Your Domain
After choosing the best domain name for your business, make sure that your preferred domain is available. Checking domain availability will take only a few moments using domain name search tools such as Bluehost, Domain.com, Google Domains, and GoDaddy. To learn how to secure a domain name, follow these steps to register your domain name.
Do’s & Don’ts of How to Choose a Domain Name
- Do consider pronunciation: Before settling on a domain name, consider how it sounds when spoken out loud. Having a name that’s difficult to pronounce can hinder brand retention and word-of-mouth marketing.
- Do consider spelling: Aside from pronunciation, take into account spelling as well. An easily spelled domain name is easier to find. If you have the budget for it, you can even purchase your domain’s variations so they can all redirect to your main URL.
- Do keep it as short as possible: The longer the name is, the more chances your visitors will forget your domain or make a mistake. Try to keep your domain name within 15 characters or less for maximum retention.
- Don’t use words that can confuse people: Funny spellings or words that can be spelled in different ways (like “too” or “way”) might make it hard for customers to find your site.
- Don’t be too limiting: Choosing keywords that describe your brand is a good idea, but don’t be too specific. For example, if you’re starting a real estate agency in New Jersey, the name ApartmentsNJ may be applicable to you currently but won’t be ideal if you expand to houses.
- Don’t use hyphens: Hyphens make your domain name harder to remember, and the harder it is to remember, the more chances people will make mistakes while trying to find it.
- Don’t use acronyms: Unless people know your business by an acronym (e.g., AT&T for American Telephone and Telegraph Company), it’s best to stay clear of contractions. Potential visitors are unlikely to find your domain name if you use a shortened version of your business’ name.
- Don’t use any existing brand names or trademarks: Perform a trademark search before making your choice in order to avoid infringing on any other patents or trademarks. The unauthorized use of a trademark could lead to legal action and suspension of your website.
Why Choosing a Good Domain Name Matters
When starting a company, you will want to choose a memorable domain name for your website. The right domain name can help your business rank higher in search engine results and will be easier for people to remember. It’s also easier for customers to refer others to your website, and it’s the first impression site visitors have when they find your website online.
The web domain name you choose can also be used for your company’s email addresses, essentially providing free marketing for your company. Adding your domain name to email signatures, business cards, ads, newsletters, brochures, and other collateral can also be a great way to promote your brand offline.
Consider purchasing various closely related domain extensions, as well as misspelled versions. This prevents rivals from registering similar variations and ensures your customers are redirected to your website even if they accidentally type the wrong domain name.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I search for domain names?
The best domain name registrars all have domain name generators you can use to see if your desired domain name is available. If not, these generators will give you closely related ideas that might work. Learn more about what a domain name is and how to choose a domain name for a website.
Which domain type is best?
For many businesses, .com is the best choice, since it’s the most commonly used. However, competition is tough for .com domains, and other extensions provide memorable alternatives as well. Be careful about choosing domains for a specific region (like .au). Pick those extensions if you want to geotarget a particular country for ranking purposes on Google. For more ideas, check out our list of 10 domain name ideas for business websites.
How do I secure a domain name?
Once you’ve decided on your domain name, go to a domain registrar like Domain.com and purchase it, usually for around $12 to $15. Or, if you’re on a tight budget, there are ways to get a domain name for free. The best ways to do so include signing up for a hosting plan or an all-in-one site builder that gives you a free domain name, like Bluehost or Squarespace.
Increasing traffic to your website starts from having the right domain name. Don’t just register the first thing that comes to mind. Keep your domain name on-brand and memorable by ensuring that it’s easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and has the right domain extension for your industry. Finally, do a quick check of its history before heading to a registrar to purchase the domain. Don’t miss out on your ideal domain name and register it now through Domains.com.