Edit May 2015: Added namesilo.com registrar
In this guide we will cover everything that you need to know to make an educated decision about buying a domain name for your business. Some basic rules that you need to keep and many useful advice. First, lets start with some terms that are commonly used when we talk about domains.
Basic domains terminology
What is a domain name?
The domain name is a unique name that is used to identify an internet resource such as website. Or explained simply this is the text that you put in your web browser to go to a web site. Your business needs a domain name so your customers can find you and interact with you online. Some examples of domain names are google.com, aol.com, bbs.co.uk and so on. A domain name can only have characters, number and dashes in it.
What is TLD?
TLD is short for top level domain. It is what you see after the dot in a domain name. For example .com for commercial business, .gov for the US government and so on. Here is a full list of all available TLDs updated by IANA from time to time, but it is the most accurate one. You can find many TLDs available in the big registrars like GoDaddy.
What is domain registrar?
A domain name registrar is an organization or commercial entity that manages the reservation of Internet domain names. A domain name registrar must be accredited by a generic top-level domain (gTLD) registry and/or a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registry. (as taken from Wikipedia) The registrars are where you go to buy your domain. It is very important to use a trusted company to buy your domains from, since they are your most valuable digital asset.
Here is a list of credible domain name registrars:
- https://www.namesilo.com (they offer free lifetime privacy)
Pick a registrar that works best for you in terms of price and support and buy all your domains from them for easy management. Ideally the registrar that you choose:
- will not have any hidden fees
- offer free email whois privacy and data protection so you are not spammed to death
- gives you direct access to your whois records (so you know the domain is in your name), access to your domain authentication code and registrar lock and total control over your DNS settings
What is EMD?
EMD stands for exact domain match. It is term used in the SEO that means your domain matches exactly to the searched phrase. For example if someone searches for best pizza and you own www.bestpizza.com or bestpizza.net and so on, this is an exact match domain.
What is PMD?
PMD is partial match domain. If we use the above example, if someone types in search best pizza and you own best-pizza.com, peppepizza.net and so on, this is a partial match domain.
Domain name brainstorming and best practices
Getting the right domain name for your business is essential because this is how your customers will associate with you online and how successful your online marketing efforts will be. Until recently it was hard to find a good domain, since most of them with .com TLD were already taken, or at least the good ones. But from 2014 and in very soon in 2015 there will be more than 1000 TLDs available for you to choose from and get a memorable and catchy domain name that best fits to your business. There are TLDs line .bike .restaurant .attorney and so on, you can go ahead to GoDaddy here and play with the TLDs. If you want to know which are available for purchasing now, click on the Now Available tab.
Start with brainstorming
Here are a few questions that will help you - Does your business already have a name? What is you business about? Who are your customers? What industry do you work in?
Write down the answers and think of as many words as you can think. You can also ask friends and family to help. They can throw some great ideas in there. Then short list them and leave the top 5 keywords that describe your business the best.
You can go on http://www.pickydomains.com/ or Fiver and ask professional to name your business or domain name. For sure you will get some great ideas really cheaply.
Choosing the right domain name advice
Characters that you can use
As we said in the beginning only characters, numbers and dashes are allowed for domain names. A-Z 0-9 and -
Keep it simple and memorable
Try words that can have only one possible spelling. The shorter the domain name the better since it will be easier to remember and type in, try to keep it from 5 to 12 characters max and only if those are meaningful words.
Try to avoid hyphens
Hyphens are horrible for word of mouth marketing simply because the domains get much harder to spell. Try to tell to your friends you just found joesfloridapizza.com and joes-florida-pizza.com. Now you see the difference. Not to mention that you will lose a lot of the type in traffic to the non dashed domain and names with dashes are very hard to remember. Not good for you marketing especially with those more than 1000 TLDs that are up to come in the next year.
Use industry keywords in the domain name or the TLD
Since the Google EMD update in 2012 the exact match domains are not that strong but having your main keyword in the domain helps your SEO efforts especially in low competition niches. Also it can increase your click trough rate in the search results since Joesautorepairs.com cant be about dog grooming. It speaks about your business and is the first impression someone gets when they see the url in the results.
You can use the new TLDs to boost your SEO. For example if you have 50 links with the same anchor text pointing at your domain with your keywords, like lets say best pizza nyc there is a big chance to get a penalty. But if you get the domain bestpizza.nyc and you put that in the anchor, this is your domain url and you brand. So you are both getting brand links and keyword rich anchor text.
Make it link attractive
Links are the most important part of your SEO efforts and you need your domain to looks good to other webmasters and bloggers. It has to have some trust in it and be appealing. Think if you would link or open a link from the domain you have chosen. For example anniesrecipes.com looks much better than best100-recipes-ever.com
Ok, now that you have those tips and your top 5 keywords head over to my favourite domain name checking tool - https://domaintyper.com/. It is free and Ajax powered so it saves A LOT of time and you can test your domain suggestions without refreshing the page. Or you can go straight to GoDaddy and experiment with the new TLDs.
Avoid copyright and trade mark issues
You just don't want to register a domain like dellengland.com and when you make it popular and it start making money, Dell attorneys to come and take it from you.
It is very likely that you would lose right of your domain name registration if there are lawyers involved in the following cases:
- You have intentionally chosen a name that is similar to another domain name or trademark to create consumer confusion
- You do not carry business under that name
- Neither you nor any other individuals in your company carry a name that is same or similar
- You are planning to sell that domain name to your competitor for financial gain
- For more information on the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy - http://www.icann.org/dndr/udrp/policy.htm
Buying the domain
Now that you have a domain name that is available for purchase you need to buy it. Every register got different prices for the different TLDs and if they have very cheap .com domains their .at or .net might be very overpriced. That why try to go as close to the source. If you have chosen a .com domain any of the big registrars will offer you almost the same price. If you are trying to register a .uk domain though you might find a better deal with a UK company like TSOHost and if you are looking for a .at domain do a Google search and the best deal will be from NIC.at
Try a Google search for a domain and the TLD that you have chosen and coupon, for example - .com godaddy coupon.
Watch out for up-sale of services that you don't need. Especially GoDaddy tends to do that. You buy a domain and on the checkout they give you a hundred paid options that you don't really need. When you buy a domain name, you can add on a range of extra features: Whois privacy protection, SSL certificates and so on. These extra services can be quite expensive. Look out for special offers – or avoid the temptation to bundle in things you don’t need.
Check if the domain name is clean.
One last step before you buy the domain that you have found. Check if it is not spammed with bad links and blacklisted and someone has already dropped it. Not that if you find a good and appealing domain name that fits your business you can't straight buy it. Later when you build your website you can ask Google for reconsideration. But that means that someone has already made a bad reputation for that domain and it will take much more time and effort for your online marketing.
How to check if the domain name was already used? Here are two tools that are very effective - https://archive.org/web/ and http://whois.domaintools.com. In Archive.org you just type in the domain name and it will show you if there are any entries in its time machine if the domain was already used. Then head over to DomainTools and in the top right corner type in the domain that you want to check. It will show you the available records in its database for when the domain was first registered how many owners it had and if it was dropped before. Now if these two tools show it has not been registered before - Congratulations, go to your favourite registrar and buy it!
If the domain has history, first go to Google ant type in the domain name in the search exactly as it is, for example joespizza.net and if it show as a first result, that is good. If it doesn't, there is a big chance that the domain is penalized by Google so if you don't want to get headache to your SEO, look for another domain name, there are unlimited possibilities out there.
Good luck with your domain name hunting.