Choosing a Proper Domain Name for Your Business Website
Updated: Aug 5
For a short while, I worked as a web designer for a local advertising agency that developed digital marketing campaigns for small businesses. My official title was digital content producer, because I also created slideshow videos with audio voice overs. One client wanted a new website similar to the one they currently owned, but with an improved design. “Okay, no problem,” I thought. Well, I braced myself for all kinds of pushback from this client when the account executive gave me the domain name for their website: www.pinebluffinsuranceagency.com. I could have swooned out of my chair. “Are you kidding me?” I immediately retorted. “Who did that to them?” No one, including the account executive, saw a problem with this domain name, which revealed to me the kind of novices I was dealing with in regards to digital marketing and technology.
Some unfortunate web designer registered that domain name and assigned it to their business website. Why? Instead of arguing over the ineptitude of the previous designer and that ridiculous domain, I simply asked, “What is the name of their company?” R & T Insurance Agency. “Shouldn’t the domain name be something like www.rtinsurance.com or www.randtinsurance.com? Something that actually reflects the name of their business?” The expression on the account exec’s face told me this basic idea had not occurred to him. I always remember this moment as an example of just how little people know about properly establishing an internet presence.
In case you are also wondering what the problem was with the previous domain name, let me offer this explanation. There is more than one insurance agency in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. That domain name is general and does not specifically refer potential customers to their agency. That domain name is actually an SEO phrase that might appear as a title of a page or as a keyword phrase in their image captions. So, the first rule in choosing an appropriate domain name for your business website is to actually start with the name of your business.
1. Use a form of your business name as your domain name. As in the example above, if rtinsurance.com is already taken, try an alternative such as randtinsurance.com. The point is to make your business name memorable, so that when people hear or see it, they will associate it with the types of products or services you provide, such as insurance.
2. Keep your domain short and sweet. You do not want to use a lot of characters, because this increases the chances of people typing the wrong domain. When this happens, potential customers might think your website is faulty instead of realizing their own mistake. Unfortunately, some business owners forsake professionalism for cleverness, as with the domain rentmenow.com. That domain is indeed short, but what kind of business does it refer to? Does this sound like the name for a storage company called Secure Onsite Storage? Use good judgment when branding your business with a domain name.
3. Do not use dashes or purchase novelty extensions. If corkysbbq.com is taken, do not purchase corkys_bbq.com. Try a different alternative that does not include punctuation. Also, .com is preferred for businesses that sell products or services. Although there are myriads of new extensions such as .info, .online, .live, or .club, these are perceived as unprofessional and a bity shady. Instead, opt for the commonly accepted extensions such as .com, .org or .net.
4. Remain professional. Although it might be boring, choose a professional domain that is not embarrassing for potential clients to type. Refrain from names such as sexysusiesandwiches.com. That domain is too long and cumbersome. On the other hand, depending on how you brand your business, a provocative domain name could work. Consider the restaurant in Atlanta called The Slutty Vegan at sluttyveganatl.com. This domain is short, catchy, uses a variation of their business name, and suggests they might open other locations in other cities, thus tagging this one with “atl”.
In choosing a domain name for your business, imagine what potential clients might think of you personally and your business based on your choice. Will it inspire confidence or deter mature customers? Does the domain hint at the kind of business you own or the services you provide? If not, please try again. Remember, the business world is still fairly conservative. As dull and out-of-touch as it might seem, your domain name should also be practical and sensible.
Ashan R. Hampton is a long-time English instructor turned entrepreneur. Through her company, Onyx Online Education & Training, she offers online courses and print books on grammar, proofreading, business writing and communication for personal and professional development to individuals and corporations. To find out more about Ashan's work, visit www.arhampton.com.
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