Choosing a domain name for your new business’s website should be simple, but it becomes more of a challenge by the day. According to Google, there are over 1 billion websites in existence; so chances are, what first comes to mind is already taken.
Unfortunately, though, this isn’t a decision you can avoid. Your business needs a website, and ideally, you want this online space to exist for a long time. That means you need to choose something that will work for your business, and that you’re willing to live with for the foreseeable future, so you need to choose wisely.
To get you started, I’ve put together a few guidelines that you can follow to make that process a little bit easier—but first, a little vocabulary lesson. You’re going to see me using the term TLD a bunch below, so before I start getting all jargony on you, I want to make sure you understand exactly what I mean.
TLD is an acronym that stands for “top level domain.” The TLD refers to the last segment of a domain name; for example, .com or .org. There are a few basic types of TLDs you should know about:
- Common or generic TLDs, like the aforementioned, which may have some restrictions but can generally be used worldwide by anyone for any purpose.
- Country code TLDs (ccTLDs) which reference a geographic location such as .eu, which represents the European Union or .ca which represents Canada. Some of these ccTLDs have residency requirements and others have no restrictions at all.
- Restricted TLDs (rTLDs) which have requirements about who can register them and for what purpose. Some examples of rTLDs include .edu, which requires it be used by an educational institution and .museum, which must be verified as a legitimate museum.
This is just a quick primer, as there are many different TLDs available to you now. If you’re interested in digging deeper, you can find an exhaustive list on Wikipedia.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, let’s get back to you. Ideally, you want a meaningful, memorable domain name that will stand the test of time, so here are a few guidelines that will help you get there.
- Look for a .com name first. The .com TLD is pretty much synonymous with the internet. It is still the gold standard and the most recognizable TLD—the one that most people will automatically type into a web browser on instinct. So ideally, if you can get a .com name that makes sense, you should. For example, if your business name is Laura’s Flowers, LaurasFlowers.com is most likely the ideal domain name for your business. (Sidenote: I’m using capitalization in the examples that follow just for legibility reasons. Domain names are not case sensitive.)
- Make it relevant. If your business is all about floral design, something in your domain name should relate to that. Don’t try to get too creative by coming up with a name that doesn’t refer to your actual business in any way. For example, Laurasflowers.com says much more about your business than LaurasofWestport.com does.
- Make it easy to spell, type and remember. Your website should serve as an indispensable marketing tool for your business, and that includes everything from your site’s content to the domain name itself. Most of the time your visitors will get to you by clicking on a link, but you still want your website to be easily shareable with others. The harder a time a person has with typing, spelling or remembering your domain name, the less likely they are to make a return visit or share your site with people who might find value there. “Creative” spellings like LaurazFlowerz.com should be avoided.
- Keep it short and sweet. Ideally, you want a domain name that is as short as possible, while still maintaining relevance to your brand. There are no hard and fast rules as to the maximum number of characters you should use, but a good place to start is by using the number of words as a gauge. Try to stick to 3 words or less. For example, LaurasFlowersWestport.com is much better (even though it’s already on the long side) than LaurasWeddingFlowersWestport.com. You can see how the longer name is simply much more difficult to process. Just a few more letters can make a big difference.
- Avoid hyphens, numbers and special characters. This rule directly supports the last couple of guidelines. Generally, a domain name that uses any of these will work against you when it comes to legibility, memorability or typing ease. To give your domain name the best shot, do your best to stick to the 26 characters in the alphabet only, and avoid things like Lauras-Flowers.com.
- Make it actionable. If your options have been exhausted and you can’t come up with any .com variations that work and are available, try using phrases that incorporate your brand in an actionable way. For example, BookLaurasFlowers.com, GetLaurasFlowers.com or ChooseLaurasFlowers.com.
- Pick a creative TLD. If you can’t come up with a .com that works and you’ve tried out the other common TLDs to no avail, look to the more creative TLDs to find some options that might work. In the case of our floral example, she could use LaurasFlowers.shop or LaurasFlowers.wedding or Lauras.florist, just to name a few.
If you simply stick to these guidelines, I can assure you that you will end up with a domain name that will serve your business well. It might take a little bit of work to find the right one, but there are so many options out there, you will find it.
If you want a little extra help, below you can download this cheat sheet I put together which narrows down your options to make things even easier for you. It includes all of these guidelines, a list of the most common TLDs and a curated list of some more creative TLDs to jumpstart your creative process—all in one place for quick reference when you’re ready to find the perfect domain name for your business.