While you may not be familiar with the proper term “domain name” you use it daily whenever you visit a website or send an email. Simply put, a domain name is a unique web address. It is used most commonly as your website address, but can also be used to create a customized email address.
As the virtual store sign for your business, a well-picked domain establishes and defines your business online, and a subpar domain can confuse and even deter potential customers from choosing your business. Putting some thought into the web address you choose is critical to your marketing and advertising efforts.
How does a domain benefit my marketing?
Secure Your Online Brand
What happens if you hand someone a business card, but when they search for you online they can’t find you? Most likely, they’re going to find your competition. Registering the domain for www.yourbusiness.com guarantees that prospective customers searching for you will find you. Keep in mind that anyone can buy a domain name for any reason, so skipping out on buying www.yourbusiness.com could lead to someone else taking away that domain. In the early days of the internet, animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was embroiled in a legal battle when someone else secured PETA.org and built a website dedicated to “People Eating Tasty Animals.” PETA had the legal budget to reclaim PETA.org; your small business likely won’t.
Give Prospects Confidence
Even if you don’t have a website, a domain is still important for its use in email. A professional email address gives your prospects confidence that you are who you say you are. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org clearly identifies what my name is and that I am an employee of IndoorMedia. If you Google search “anna ruby indoormedia” you will find blog posts that I’ve authored and my LinkedIn profile. Without using the custom domain (@indoormedia.com), an email address like email@example.com can lead others to question my legitimacy as a business professional and make it difficult to find me online.
You wouldn’t use a different physical address on your business cards, flyers, and Google Maps listing because it would be impossible for customers to determine your actual location. The same principle applies to your online marketing. When your business name, website name, and email address closely or exactly match, all customers need to do is remember one of the three in order to connect with your business. Furthermore, your email address should contribute to your brand, not Google’s, Yahoo’s or Hotmail’s. By using a domain name to create a customized email, your brand is reinforced each time you communicate through email.
What if I just want to use Facebook?
Even if you don’t want a website, you still want to have a professional email address, not just firstname.lastname@example.org, so we still recommend that you get a domain name.
7 Tips to Picking a Domain Name
Picking a good domain name is important because it identifies your business not only for consumers, but also for search engines and other internet processes. Good SEO gets your website found, and a strong domain is helpful in this regard. In short, a good domain name makes you unique. With that in mind, see some tips for picking a domain:
- Keep it as short as possible while identifying your business name. “Joe’s Ultimate Burrito Shack” is a great name for a restaurant, but online, a simple burritoshack.com is easier to type and easier to remember.
- Make it easy to say and spell. You will be saying your domain a lot. You will say it out loud when you give people your email address or direct them to your website. For example, how would you know that HootSuite is not HootSweet just by hearing it? Ds and Ts can be easily confused, like in the words “build” and “built”. And any word with a silent letter (like “wrap”) can be easily confused if not seen in writing.
- Be careful of word remixing—in which your innocent domain name becomes something not quite intended when the capitalization isn’t done right. Try writing your domain in all lower case letters to make sure your brand is still represented correctly even without the proper capitalization. Some examples are:
- WhoRepresents.com becomes WhorePresents.com
- SpeedOfArt.com becomes SpeedoFart.com
- Opt for .com suffixes over .net, .org, or any other top-level domain options. If your domain name with a .com is already taken, choosing a new name is often a better option over settling for .net.
- Stay away from acronyms. Unless it is short and sweet, don’t string together a bunch of letters to form a domain name. Such addresses are difficult to type, and customers won’t make the connection between, for example, “Main Street Top Pedicures and Manicures” and a hypothetical (and initially head-scratching) mstpam.com domain name.
- Skip the hyphens—they are a pain for you when reciting your domain and a pain for users to remember.
- Avoid being too common in your choice of a domain name; it might get confused with common searches unrelated to your specific business. For example, if your local house painting business is just texaspainting.com, your SEO could get thrown out of whack by people searching for commercial building painters rather than a residential house painting service.
Registering Your Domain
Coming up with a great domain name is only the first step. Completing the process requires additional work, but with today’s domain services the next steps are easy and affordable:
- Decide on your domain name and have a few alternatives in case your first choice isn’t available.
- Find out if the domain you want has already been purchased. Godaddy is one of the easiest ways to secure a domain name, although they are just a tad pricier than other options, but they have tons of simple services for websites and email. Google has their own domain service and is one of the quickest ways to get your Gmail up and running. One of our favorites is NameCheap. They offer no nonsense domain registration for a good price.
- If your name is taken, you can try to purchase it. Take a look at How to Buy a Domain Name That Someone Else Owns to learn more.
- If the service you choose doesn’t offer email, you must attach your domain to an email account so you can send out messages under your new web address. Gmail is becoming increasingly preferred because people are familiar with the platform and it’s easy to use. The Google G Suite gives you this capability and is surprisingly affordable for small businesses.
Making the Most of Your Domain
Once your domain is established and your email is created, you can start making the most of your digital web address. Employees can be given email accounts to better communicate with customers, vendors, and each other. Your new, easily remembered domain name can be used as a handle for social media accounts (do this quickly before someone else claims them). Also, your web address can be added to print coupons, business cards, and other advertising for even more exposure.