In a previous post on choosing a name for your business Doug provided 6 great tips for naming your business. As a companion piece I wanted to provide some tips on securing a domain name, aka URL or web address.
Business domain names come under a multitude of categories. Real words like Amazon, compounds like Facebook, mispellings such as Flickr (there’s a great rundown on naming categories at the nameinspector). Choosing a domain name to represent your business online takes time and insight, but it’s worth the investment to avoid settling on a domain name that that no-one can spell or remember.
Choose the right keywords.
If you’re looking to find a descriptive name based on a familiar B2C service offering e.g. mortgage advisor / tool rental, then the chances of obtaining a single common term as a domain name are good as finding a capable husband in a TV ad so you’re going to have to mix and match terms.
List the common keywords for your category of business. Listing the terms your customers use, rather than more appropriate industry terms will make your domain easier to find. If still you’re itching to explain the difference between concrete and cement then you can educate customers once they arrive at your website.
Once you’ve got your terms, play with combinations. The results will get you off to a great start, and these names can be great supporting domains for your brand, but are unlikely to provide a the distinctiveness that comes with a great business and domain name. For that you need to…
To stand out you should look at options that convey the personality or USP your business. This step will be informed by the previous one, but often requires an external perspective and customer insight. An agency or branding consultant can provide this, and suggest business and domain names that are more distinctive and compelling than just a combination of words. It’s the reason HomeDepot.ca isn’t HomeRenovationStore.ca, and ConnectHearing.ca isn’t HearingTreatmentAndDevices.ca
Make it easy to remember
When you’ve got a draft list from the previous steps, read them out loud, ideally to someone who hasn’t been part of your initial selection. Can they repeat each one without correction or asking you to repeat it? If a potential customer mentions your company in a conversation or sees the name on the side of a truck they’re not going to have the luxury of a clickable link or hard-copy reference. Recall is vital for word-of-mouth referral.
Keeping it short will help here with the added bonus of being easier to implement in marketing materials.
Check company registers
Does a similar name exist, or has the same name been registered in another countries top level domain? Even if you consider your chosen domain to be noticeably different to an existing one, if it’s likely to cause confusion in the mind of the consumer, you could be on shaky legal ground. Check company and business registration listings in your country and get legal advice if you’re still not sure.
Make it easy to spell
If someone can’t spell your business name, they may not find you online. Relying on spellcheckers or Google’s Did you mean… suggestions are a lot more risky than simply choosing an easier keyword combination.
If you have to choose a domain name with potential spelling difficulties then…
Predict spelling mistakes
In Doug’s post on choosing a name for your business he profiled two sole-proprieter businesses named after their strongest assets… the people themselves. Both have names that can be easily misspelled.
In this instance list the obvious misspellings. You’ll probably know some of these already from years of receiving mail. One of my tricks to find misspellings is to type a proposed domain names as quickly as possible ten times. You’ll find common miss-keys this way. If you can touch-type then ask someone with less advanced typing skills to do this for you.
If your business name incorporates numbers, then add versions with the numbers spelled out to your list.
Decide on your market
If you’re market is local or national then it’s a no-brainer to register your country specific top level domain such as .ca .us .uk, but you should also register the .com if available, especially if you ship a product abroad or offer an international service. A .com domain name carries its own weight in brand value and awareness so add it to your stable of names.
From a usability stand-point many web users are unaware that country specific suffixes exist and assume that all websites end in .com so why exclude them? Plus it’s worth noting that Firefox and IE have built in shortcuts that add www. and .com to a term entered into the address bar.
Once you have a chosen name, add the misspellings, miss-keyed and alternative domain names then register them all, yes all of them. Is the minimal cost of a years domain registration worth losing leads for? You can easily re-direct them to a chosen central domain name that is the location for your website.
Register each domain name for more than a year. This demonstrates commitment to your customers that you’re serious about your venture. Admittedly, the majority of customers aren’t going to see how long you register the domain name for, but it is freely available information. A long registration suggests credibility, with the added bonus of giving you a little more search juice in the eyes of Google.