These days a domain name is online real estate. It’s where your brand lives and conducts business.
It’s where you drive potential customers to buy and it’s where you build your expertise and authority.
So, it should come as no shock that picking a domain name is an important decision.
Choose incorrectly and you could be stuck with a bad name that will take time and effort to change.
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.
1. Am I Restricted to Buying the Same Domain Name as My Registered Business Name?
In short, no. Quick and easy, right? Not so fast, there are a few things to consider when picking your domain name when it comes to matching your registered business name. In an ideal world, you’d like your brands to be similar. So, if you’re registered business name is High Street Plumbing, Ltd., you wouldn’t want to pick a domain name of tomsplumbing.com.
But you can consider options like:
Even if they aren’t exactly the same name as your registered business, it still gives your customers a related name that is quite similar to search for online.
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2. Which Domain Extension Is the Best One?
You can never go wrong with a .com domain extension. Wherever possible, try to get a domain name that both keeps your business brand consistent and also has a .com extension.
Depending on where you live, you can also consider other extensions as well. For example, if your brand is based out of the UK, it never hurts having both your localized domain extension (in this case .co.uk) as well as a .com.
So, to use the above example the following are both great options:
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 non-profit, try for a .org. If you want to try out some of the newer domain extensions, that’s certainly something you can you do if it fits your business. You can find a full list of currently available domain extensions here.
3. Does My Choice of Domain Affect SEO?
In general, your choice of domain name does matter for SEO, but probably not quite as much as you think. Brian Dean shared an in-depth post highlighting the 200+ factors Google takes into account for ranking.
You can see that having target keywords in your domain name matters, but not nearly as much as it used to. Now, having a high-quality site matters much more. Don’t worry too much about this, there are a number of ways to promote your site via SEO effectively if you don’t have a specific keyword as your business name or in the domain.
What you can consider, especially if you’re a local business, is putting your location in the domain name. Or, you could use your domain name to highlight your keyword (since it doesn’t have to be the same name as your registered business).
4. Should Hyphens and Numbers Be Used in Domain Names?
In the vast majority of cases, you want to avoid using hyphens and numbers in domain names. Remember, one of the biggest keys to success for your domain name is you want your customers to easily remember your business name, and be able to type it out quickly.
5. Copyright and Trademarks Issues With Domain Names
You always want to be 100 percent sure that you’re not registering a domain name that has already been trademarked by someone else. If there is a business called London Plumbers trademarked and in use, even if they haven’t registered their own domain name, it would be a very bad idea for High Street Plumbers to use that domain.
The same goes with any domain names you might be buying for niche sites. Say you’re planning on doing reviews of a certain brand’s golf clubs, you should never buy a domain name that is “xyzbrandgolfclubreviews.com” without their express permission. It can just get you into all sorts of trouble, that frankly isn’t worth the effort! When in doubt, seek out legal advice before you make any moves.
6. Should I Worry About Domain Squatting or Cyber-Squatting?
One of the bigger annoyances out there when it comes to buying domain names is dealing with cyber squatters (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.
Frustrating, right? You can avoid this at the start by securing those top level domains (like .com, .net, or localized like .co.uk) all at once when you are first looking to secure your brand’s domain name.
7. Configuring Your Domain Names With Your Website
Now that you’ve bought all those domain extensions, what are you supposed to do with them? Put them to use. First, configure your domain names with your web hosting service. This will give your brand a site that is up and running, plus you’ll be able to use a company email address to make everything professional.
Using the example, the main domain name is highstreetplumbing.com. But since you’ve bought highstreetplumbing.co.uk and highstreetplumbing.net you have the option of domain parking these sites.
That means that if a customer is looking for High Street Plumbing and happens to type in highstreetplumbing.co.uk instead of .com they won’t simply be hit with a blank or error page, they will automatically be re-directed to the main website, highstreetplumbing.com.
This will help ensure you can both avoid anyone else grabbing your domains, but also make it easy for customers to find you across a number of sites.
8. Domain Misspelling Alternatives
This is another area where trying to be a bit too clever can end up getting you in trouble. Remember, when it comes to having a name that customers can easily remember, type, and visit you want to play by the old mantra of “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, that could be a huge segment of your audience. In general, your best bet is to avoid really complex sounding (or spelled) domain names.
9. Domain Name Length?
While you might love to see highstreetplumbingbestlondonplumbers.com as a possible domain name (and yes a length like that is allowed), the general rule of thumb when it comes to names is the shorter, the better.
In fact, there have been a couple of studies done in the last few years that analyzed the top sites online and both found that the ideal length of a domain name is just eight characters. While for some brands that may be hard to achieve, keep that in mind while you’re thinking about domain names.
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10. Domain Privacy?
Privacy is a big concern, and your domain name should not be left out of the equation. In fact, anyone can perform a whois search and, if the domain name does not have whois privacy enacted, all sorts of information like home addresses, email addresses, names, and even phone numbers can be displayed for anyone to see.
That doesn’t sound so great. And it isn’t, because no one wants all that information floating around out there. Some people will 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 those top level sites like .com, .net., .org, and local sites like .co.uk.
11. Domain Name Expiry
Domain name registration typically lasts from one to ten years. If you have bought the name only for one year, be sure to note the expiration date and renew the name before then. Any good service provider will start sending out notices of pending expiration months in advance, so pay attention when you see them!
Exactly what happens after a domain expires varies by country, some will 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 served basis so there is no guarantee that you will get your domain. The bottom line is to keep an eye on your domains and set them to auto-renew if possible. There you have it, hopefully, by now all of your main questions about domain names have been answered and you can make a great choice for your brand moving forward.