Photo by Widjaya Ivan
One of the first, and most consequential, decisions you make when building your web site is figuring out what to call it. Do you stick with a dot-com, or do you try out a dot-tv, a dot-biz, or something even further afield? Do you use your domain name to just describe your business, or do you instead choose something that matches your business name? What else do you need to worry about when you’re choosing a domain name?
Although the hardest part about choosing a domain appears to be finding the name itself, there are a number of mistakes that you can make that will cost your site dearly. Choose wisely, and your site will be a perfect accompaniment to your business and professional identity. Choose poorly, and you’ll face confused customers, disgruntled searchers, and legal challenges. Here are a few tips to choosing a domain name that you want regret.
Keep It Simple, and Memorable
You know who you are, and what you want from your website. Your domain name should reflect your interests. If you’re creating a business web site, your website should reflect that business. If you have a catchy name, and a trademark, by all means register that name as your domain. But, if your business name is boring, or too generic, try describing your business instead.
When you’re trying to decide what to call your site, try out this thought experiment. Imagine yourself giving out your domain name, ten times a day, to customers. Try typing your domain name into your browser, or smart phone, and see how long it takes you. As we all know, dot-coms are the default, so if you’re considering a non-standard domain name, make sure it’s worth any possible customer confusion. Before you commit to a domain name, take a day and think it over.
Do Your Homework
With domain names, we’d like to think you just need to check one thing: is it available, and, if so, when can I buy it? But, there are other factors you need consider before purchasing what seems like a dream domain.
First, is the domain really available? Some domains might have expired accidentally. If the former owner retains a trademark on the name, he or she can sue you to get it back. Before you sign the contract, check to see if someone else claims to own your domain name.
Second, is the domain on a blacklist? Use WhoIs.net to see who has owned the name in the past, and investigate whether it has been banned from popular search engines, like Google. For previous violations. When you can’t believe that a domain name is available, it might be because it isn’t worth registering.
Third, will you own your domain, and have you planned to renew it? When you buy a domain name, you’re probably spending most worried about getting your new website up and running. But, when you register your site you need to make sure that it’s in your name—not your tech support person, or anyone else—and that you have plans in place to automatically renew it.
If your web site is successful, you don’t want to find yourself having to pay back part of your profits to the person who decided, without your approval, to register the site using their own name, and now demands a cut of the proceeds. Likewise, you don’t want your domain name to expire, and then have to buy back your own name from an unscrupulous squatter.
Choosing a domain name can be fun, but it’s also serious business, as your site will most likely live or die based on how easy it is for people to find you. Choose a memorable name, but one that you can own outright, and will last you for years to come.