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Business Domain Names: Everything You Need to Know

Max Freedman
Max Freedman

Your choice of a domain name is important. Here's how to make sure you choose the right domain name for your business.

A business domain name is like online real estate. It's where your brand conducts business, drives potential customers to buy your products and services, and builds your expertise and authority.

That's why it's so important to choose the right business domain name. Here, you'll learn the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about domain names. The answers should help guide you through making the right choice for your next domain name.

What is a business domain name?

A business domain name is the web address of your business website; it's what you type into your web browser to reach a website. Instead of entering the address of your physical address, you enter the domain name to access your business website.

A domain name stands in for an IP address, which is an unwieldy, hard-to-memorize string of digits unique to a website. A business domain name includes both the portion that's unique to your business and the extension (or suffix), such as .com, .net or .org. These suffixes are known as top-level domains (TLDs).

How do you get a business domain name?

To get a business domain name, you must first decide the right domain name for your business and then purchase it from a domain name registrar. You can often purchase a domain from your web hosting company, as oftentimes, a website builder technology doubles as a domain name registrar. In fact, the initial domain-registration process and website hosting steps often take place simultaneously when you start your business website. In other words, many companies through which you can register your domain double as web hosting companies.

Do you have to buy the same domain name as your registered business name?

In short, no. However, there are a few things to consider. Ideally, your domain name should be similar to your business name. So, if your registered business name is High Street Plumbing Ltd., you wouldn't want to pick the domain name tomsplumbing.com.

Keep your business brand – or personal brand, if you're self-employed – consistent across all of your content, platforms and marketing items when choosing a domain name. Make sure your domain name is consistent with the branding you use for your business on social media as well.

In the case of High Street Plumbing, these would be a couple of domain names to consider:

  • highstreetplumbing 
  • highstreetplumbers

Even if the domain name isn't exactly the same as your registered business name, it still gives your customers something similar to search for online.

Which domain extension is the best?

You can never go wrong with a .com domain extension. Try to get a domain name that keeps your business brand consistent and also has a .com extension.

Depending on where you live, other extensions also might be good options. For example, if your business is based out of the United Kingdom, it never hurts to have your localized domain extension – in this case, .co.uk – in addition to a .com.

So, using the above example, here are two great options:

  • highstreetplumbing.com
  • highstreetplumbing.co.uk

If you can't find a .com available for the domain name you want, your next best option is to choose a .net. If your business is a nonprofit, try for an .org. These are the three most prominent TLD choices. If it fits your business, you could also try out some of the newer domain extensions. You can find the full list of currently available domain extensions here.

Does your choice of domain affect SEO?

Your choice of domain name does matter for search engine optimization (SEO), but probably not as much as you think.

Having target keywords in your domain name matters, but not nearly as much as it used to. It's much more important to have a high-quality website, and your website builder can help you with that. Don't worry too much about how the domain name will affect SEO, as there are many other ways to improve SEO.

Should you use hyphens and numbers in domain names?

In the vast majority of cases, you should avoid using hyphens and numbers in domain names. Some of the biggest goals for your domain name are for customers to remember it easily and be able to type it out quickly.

What should you know about copyright and trademark issues with domain names?

You always want to be 100% sure that you're not registering a domain name that has already been trademarked by someone else. 

The same goes for any domain names you might buy for niche sites. For example, if you're planning to write reviews of a certain brand's golf clubs, you should never buy a domain name that is xyzbrandgolfclubreviews.com without express permission from that brand. When in doubt, seek legal advice.

Should you worry about domain squatting or cybersquatting?

One of the bigger annoyances about buying domain names is dealing with cybersquatters, also known as domain squatters. These are people who purchase domain names of popular brands, people or trademarked brands and "sit" on them, hoping to sell the name back to the rightful owner for a profit.

You can avoid this by securing those top-level domains (such as .com, .net or a localized TLD, like .co.uk) all at once when you are first looking to secure your business's domain name.

How do you configure your domain name with your website?

Now that you've bought all of those domain extensions, what are you supposed to do with them? First, configure your domain names with your web hosting service. This will launch your website and allow you to use a company email address to make everything professional.

Using the same High Street Plumbing example, let's say the main domain name is highstreetplumbing.com. But because you've bought highstreetplumbing.co.uk and highstreetplumbing.net, you have the option of domain parking these sites, which means tying them all to your business website's IP address. 

That means that, if a customer is looking for High Street Plumbing and happens to type in highstreetplumbing.co.uk instead of highstreetplumbing.com, they won't get an error page. Instead, they will automatically be redirected to the main website, highstreetplumbing.com.

Domain parking helps to prevent others from taking your domain name and makes it easy for customers to find your business online.

Should you consider domain misspelling alternatives?

This is another area where trying to be too clever can end up getting you in trouble. Again, you want your domain name to be easy to remember and type, and the best way to ensure that is to keep it simple.

If you try to capitalize on a misspelling in a domain name, you're likely going to miss out on the people who are actually spelling it correctly, and that could be a huge segment of your audience. In general, your best bet is to avoid complex or misspelled domain names.

What is the best domain name length?

While you might love to see highstreetplumbingbestlondonplumbers.com as a possible domain name, the reality is that, the shorter, the better, according to gaebler.com.

In fact, a couple of studies in the past few years have found that the ideal length of a domain name is just eight characters. 

What privacy concerns should you be aware of with domain names?

Don't neglect privacy concerns when choosing your domain name. Anyone can perform a whois search, and if the domain name does not have whois privacy enacted, all sorts of information – including home addresses, email addresses, names and phone numbers – can be displayed for anyone to see.

Some people try to get around that by registering their sites under fake names. But that can end up being against the terms of service, and the site can be shut down. Avoid that by registering for whois privacy for your domain names, especially for popular TLDs, such as .com, .net. and .org.

Additionally, if you need to ensure that your website maintains customer privacy for online purchases and credit card transactions, you may want to secure an SSL certificate for your domain name. An SSL certificate binds a domain name to a host name while keeping data secure between servers.

How long does a domain name registration last?

Domain name registration typically lasts from one to 10 years. Be sure to note the expiration date and renew the name before then. Any good service provider will start sending notices of pending expiration months in advance, so pay attention.

Exactly what happens after a domain name expires varies by country. Some include a grace period, but be sure to check before you buy. With some registries, there is a penalty if you go past the expiry date, and it can get quite expensive once you get into what is known as the redemption period.

If you pass this point, the domain can be made available on a first-come-first-serve basis, so there is no guarantee that you will get your domain name back. The bottom line is to keep an eye on your domain expiration dates and set them to auto-renew if possible. 

Tips for choosing a domain name

In addition to the above points, keep the following tips in mind when choosing a domain name:

  • Make your domain name easy to type.
  • Include keywords related to your business.
  • Target a local audience if possible and applicable.
  • Choose something catchy and memorable that stays on brand.
  • Avoid trademarks or similar domain names.
  • Buy your domain name as soon as you decide on it.

If you still struggle to come up with a domain name after reading these tips, you can use a domain-name generator. However, even the best domain-name generators can't make up for the most important considerations in distinguishing your business on the internet: remaining authentic to your brand, products and services while making it easy for your customers to find your website.

Max Freedman
Max Freedman,
business.com Writer
Max Freedman is a freelance writer who covers best business practices for business.com and culture for publications including The A.V. Club, MTV, Paste, FLOOD, and Bandcamp. He lives in Philly and doesn't miss his native New York.