How to Choose a Great Domain Name

Last week we talked about web hosting providers and the different flavors that web hosting comes in. This week, to finish up our series on all things website, we’ll tackle the topic of domain names. Many people underestimate the importance of putting thought into it, but it’s not a small detail!  Your domain name has a huge impact on how people and search engines see your site. Here are the basics of what you need to know.

What is a domain name?

A domain name, also referred to as a DNS (domain name system) is the system we use to assign an address to Internet hosts (aka web servers). They’re kind of like a street address in that they contain the information needed to reach a certain place. However, they are not the same thing as a URL. Domain names are part of the larger address that’s called a URL. URLs are different because they go into much more detail as they provide not only the domain name but the address of the specific page you’re looking for, folder name, machine name, etc.

Getting a domain name

It used to be that securing a domain name was super expensive and only large brands looking to protect themselves could afford to purchase them. Now, they’re everywhere and they’re not expensive to secure anymore. They cost only about $20 a year, and the price is regulated. Some unscrupulous registrars will charge extra, so shop around.

Since they’re not difficult or expensive to get, it would be hard to take a business or organization that doesn’t have an appropriate domain name seriously. Without a good domain name, you look like a hack who just slapped a website together in a big hurry without putting much thought into it. Choosing a good domain name can be overwhelming, but there are ways to simplify the process.

Help people remember you

First on the list is to create a domain name that is easy to recall. If people can remember what your domain name was, they can easily find you again!  If your company already has a name, be sure to tie your name into the domain name. In fact, if you’re just starting off, it’s a good idea to check the availability of domain names first, and then name your company accordingly.

Our website is www.gladworks.com. If you’re looking for us and all you know is the name of the company, that’s really easy to remember and find.

A good way to test if your name is memorable is to ask yourself if you could remember it if you heard it on the radio. If not, you need to keep thinking.

Help people type it in correctly

Try to avoid using alternative spellings and numbers as abbreviations for words (like using 2 instead of “to”) as much as you can in order to avoid confusion. Also, if you can, come up with an available name that doesn’t use special punctuation like dashes.

That said, with so many domain names already registered, sometimes your choices are limited. Many of the prized short(er) names have been taken, so you might have to compromise. If your brand name is taken, look to include one or more keywords, or consider adding a dash. Also, consider using a tool like whois to look up information on existing registrations. Part of that information will be when the domain name is set to expire. Registrants often lose track of their registrations and may not renew them, allowing you to scoop them up.

Top level names

The top level name is the “end” part of the domain name. In the vast majority of major websites it’s “.com”. In the beginnings of the web this was the ONLY top level domain name available to commercial business, hence the “com.”  Others were .mil for military, .edu for education, .org for non-profits, and so on. As time went on, the “rules” for who could register for what became more relaxed, and other top level domains or TLDs were added.

.com still remains supreme when it comes to recognizability and that isn’t going to change any time soon. However, the stigma associated with other TLDs has decreased a lot. When faced with a choice between a “hard to remember .com” or an “easy to remember branded .other TLD,” you’d be much better off with the latter.

Be flexible

As you can see, these “rules” for domain naming aren’t set in stone. Often the perfect name isn’t available, and won’t be for a very long time, so you’re going to have to compromise. After being in the business so many years, with an eye on both the technical and marketing sides, GLAD WORKS can help you navigate those compromises to make sure you’ve got a great domain name that works!

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