The 12 Step Guide to Choosing Your Business’s Domain Name

Georgia McIntyre

Georgia McIntyre

Finance Writer at Fundera
Georgia McIntyre is the resident Finance Writer at Fundera. She specializes in all things small business finance, from lending to accounting. Questions for Georgia? Comment below!
Georgia McIntyre

Choosing your small business’s name is an important moment for any entrepreneur. Your business’s name defines you and your brand—and it will stick with you for a while.

Just as your business’s name is your identity among your customers, your community, and your market, your business domain name is your identity online.

It’s how people browsing the web will find you and promote your business.

So, how do you pick the perfect business domain name? With nearly 8,400 domain names being picked every day, how can you stand out?

We’re here to walk you through the 12 things you need to consider when choosing your business domain name.

Choosing a Business’s Domain Name: Keep These 12 Things in Mind

If you’ve never started a business and chosen a business domain name before, you have a few unknowns ahead of you.

You might be tempted to dive right in and choose any business domain name that comes to you first. But whether you’re registering a domain name for your brand-new business or taking a business online, choosing the right business domain name takes thought and consideration.

There’s a variety of different ways that your domain name affects how your business does—from your brand authority, presence in the search engines, online marketing efforts, and traffic to your website.

Put simply, it’s an important step to making your business succeed.

Here are the 12 things to think through when choosing your business domain name.

1. Keep it catchy

Choosing a top-notch business domain name is a balancing act.

You want it to be memorable.

Something that a potential customer could fully internalize, remember, and pass along in an email, text, on the phone, or even in a conversation.

Research done by McKinsey & Company shows that word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchase decisions—so you want to make sure that people can remember your business’s domain name to the point where they can pass it along to a friend.

Choosing your business domain name is a great branding exercise—this is your time to get creative and smart with how you tie your brand to your business domain name.

2. Keep it simple

But on the other hand, your business domain name should be simple.

Long abbreviations, double meanings, numbers, hyphenated words … they’re busy and distracting.

When you’re brainstorming your business domain name, think about how hard the name is to spell, and type it into Google or a browser. If your potential customers get caught up trying to work through your domain name, you’ll lose a significant portion of your traffic.

3. Keep it short

Along those same lines, keep your business domain name short.

Even if the best business domain name you have in the works meets all your requirements—it’s catchy, simple, to the point but a little long, you’re better off having a shorter business domain name.

Say you run a deli and want to build a website to facilitate online ordering.

Sure, “bensslidersandsubsshack.com” might be original, descriptive, and—with a little alliteration—catchy, but users could get lost and overwhelmed when they’re trying to get to the site, or too lazy to type out the link to share with others.

In this case, “bensdeli.com” might do the trick.

The internet is all about getting the answers and results you want—fast. If your business domain name is lengthy, wordy, and slows them down, your business and online presence will suffer from it.

4. Make it pronounceable

If close to half the amount of purchasing decisions depend on word-of-mouth marketing, then you better hope that people can pronounce your business domain name to share it with others.

When you’re brainstorming business domain names, do a quick check to see if you can literally say it out loud. Ask a friend or colleague to read your business domain name and say it back to you.

If they fumble on the words, take a long time to internalize it or completely mispronounce it all together, maybe it’s better to scrap that name.

And in another sure-fire way to make sure your business domain name is as clear as possible—reverse this test. Say it out loud to a friend, and ask them to write it down on a piece of paper.

Did they get it right? That’s a good sign that the business domain name is easy to understand and totally clear when you hear it said out loud.

5. Make it obvious

Having a memorable business domain name is great—and if the stars align and your business domain name is both catchy and clear, then good for you!

But when it doubt, go with obvious.

You want your business domain name to be intuitive and digestible. Having a subtle and clever name might not fully register with your visitors, and you could lose the opportunity to grab their attention and convey what you do.

If your visitor can click on your website domain name and intuitively understand what kind of page they’ll land on and what business you run, then that’s a big positive for your business domain name.

6. Identify the goal of your website and business

If you’ve kept those 5 tips in mind while crafting your business domain name, you’re well on your way to owning a stellar domain name for your brand.

But as you’re working through the linguistics of your business domain name, always check back into the goals of your website and business to make sure you’re staying on track.

It’s easy to get lost in fun, catchy, to-the-point business domain names and stray too far from a domain name that actually identifies your business and conveys your business’s goals.

But if you want to be found online, you should make sure that your business domain name makes sense with what your service and business is.

7. Choose your extension.

Today, you can get business domain names with all kinds of extensions.

With .com, .net, .biz, .org, .brand, .me, and many, many more, you have a big decision to make in choosing your domain name’s extension.

There are hundreds of what’s called “gTLDs”—generic top level domains.

If you’re not sure what some of the most popular ones are used for—or even mean, for that matter, here’s a list of the gTLDs you can consider:

  • .com stands for “commercial,” and is used for general commercial purposes
  • .info stands for “information,” and is used for websites of any informational use
  • .net stands for “NETwork,” and is used for more technical, infrastructural sites
  • .org stands for “organization,” and is used for non-commercial organizations and non-profits
  • .biz stands for “business,” and is meant to be used for general business purposes
  • .me can be used for blogs, résumés, or personal sites
  • .brand can be almost anything—”.lawyer,” “.food,” “.pasta,” “.tips”—and it can share exactly what your business does

Obviously, .com is the most popular choice for a domain extension—unless you’re working or starting a business in the tech world. It’s usually the most popular choice for a business domain name because it’s the most recognized and accessible brand.

So if you’re trying to have an easy, recognizable business domain name, .com is probably the best extension for you. You’ll be able to build up a very brandable business domain name that your customers and network can share.

8. Check to see if it’s available across social channels

Another pro tip for choosing a business domain name is to think about how you’ll use it online, but beyond just a website.

If you want to have a social media presence, with a Twitter handle, Instagram account, or Pinterest account, check to see if your website’s domain name is available across social handles before you lock it in and purchase it.

Having your social media accounts connected to your main business domain name and brand will help facilitate the “brandability” and recognizability we keep bringing up.

While the complete phrase in your domain name might not be fully available for every type of social handle out there, you might be able to tweak it slightly so that it remains connected to the general brand and is recognizable.

9. Avoid business domain names that are similar to other companies

When you’re coming up with your business domain name, now’s not the time to be a copycat and go with a domain name similar to an existing company.

First off, you’ll have the added trouble of trying to separate your brand from the brand that has the similar domain name. It will be an advertising and marketing nightmare.

And further, you might be legally crossing the line if your business’s domain name is too similar to another’s.

As you’re brainstorming for your business domain name, check to make sure you’re not infringing upon someone else’s copyrights.

If, in some worst case your business domain name is considered to be too similar and easily confusable with another business, that business could take you to court for it. And in that scenario, it’s up to the judge to decide whether the two names could potentially be misrepresented and confused.

These are dangerous waters that you should do your best to avoid at all costs. So, as you’re coming up with your business domain name, check to make sure it’s totally unique.  

10. Think about keywords—but don’t exclusively think about keywords

Keywords in business domain names can be helpful from an SEO perspective.

If you run a lamp business and you exclusively want to be found online when people search “lamps and shades,” then maybe you’d want your business domain name to be “johnslampsandshades.com.”

For one, these main keywords will help with the cognitive recognition of your brand—there’s no mistaking what John does and sells when a visitor comes to his website. It can also help from an SEO perspective in that people around the web will likely link to you on anchor text that is “lamps and shades”—exactly the keywords in your domain name.

But when it comes to adding in keywords to your business domain name, you don’t want to get too specific, pigeonholing yourself for the future. If John ever wanted to pivot to a massive lighting company, “johnslampsandshades.com” is now a pretty narrow description of what he does.

So if you want to put keywords into your domain name—you can. Just try to stay as broad as possible with target keywords so you don’t close any doors down the line.

11. Don’t marry yourself to one business domain name

By now, you’ve followed a lot of steps and tips to come up with an awesome business domain name.

If you’re set on one absolutely perfect business domain name, you might be crushed to find that it’s already taken.

Brace yourself for disappointment, and don’t marry yourself to just one business domain name.

And for that matter, it’s a good idea to check to see if the business domain name is available before you spend weeks crafting the name and having your creative team work through it.

If you run a check on a potential domain name (just by searching it, or using a tool to check for you) and find that it’s taken, try adding a suffix or prefix that makes it unique, or use a different gTLD than you were planning.

But remember, if the domain name is already taken and you’re trying to come up with something similar, you might have a problem keeping it separate from other brands.

12. Move fast

Domain names sell fast. When you have the perfect business domain name, move quickly!

They aren’t expensive, and you’ll avoid the disappointment of losing out on an awesome business domain name that you’ve spent time working through.

Got a Great Business Domain Name? Here’s How to Register It

Now that you have some good ideas for business domain names, go check to see if they’re available on GoDaddy.com or Register.com.

Both website services have search functions that will show if your name is available and provide alternatives to your business domain name if it’s already registered.

To get through the process, you need to provide some contact information to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—the governing body for domain names.

You’ll pay a fee of anywhere from $10 to $35 to register the name.

And once you score your business domain name, don’t let it expire! Even the biggest brands have their domain names expire. Almost 20,000 domain names expire each day.

Don’t lose your perfect business domain name by forgetting to renew it. Set a calendar reminder right when you purchase your domain for when you have to renew it.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Georgia McIntyre

Georgia McIntyre

Finance Writer at Fundera
Georgia McIntyre is the resident Finance Writer at Fundera. She specializes in all things small business finance, from lending to accounting. Questions for Georgia? Comment below!
Georgia McIntyre

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