All kinds of small businesses are increasingly finding that their online presence is equally as important as their physical presence — if not more so. And, of course, many businesses today launch right into eCommerce operations without a physical location at all.
Whatever your company’s specific business model, you’ll need a great website to serve as your brand’s online headquarters. The first step of setting up an effective website is actually securing its domain name — a crucial part of the URL customers will see in the address bar upon visiting your site.
Here’s a brief guide on how to select and buy a winning domain name.
Choosing a Small Business Domain Name
When you’re searching for a domain name, there are two main components to keep in mind: what comes before the dot and what comes after. There is customizability in both the former — called the second-level domain — and the extension, the most popular of which is .com.
Perhaps the most widespread advice you’ll see about domain names is to keep them simple. Not only do most experts recommend keeping your domain name short — typically under 15 characters or so — but they also warn against the dangers of including extra symbols that can make it cumbersome and confusing for users to access your site. You also want users to be able to pronounce your website, both in their own minds and in case they are saying it aloud to anyone else. The rule of thumb here is this: If they can’t find your website, they can’t convert.
There are generally two ways to go about choosing a fitting domain name for your SMB: use your brand name or use keywords relevant to your industry. Depending on how your company does business, you may also want to include its geographical location in the domain.
As for domain extensions, .com is generally considered the most well-known and trustworthy, but this can also make it more expensive and/or harder to secure. It’s worth exploring alternatives like .net or even industry-specific extensions, like .coffee, etc. Particularly when you’re selecting an extension, make sure your website won’t be easily confused with another business or you’ll just end up with website traffic from confused users.
Buying a Small Business Domain Name
When it comes to how to buy a domain name, you have a few options. The first is visiting a domain name registrar and paying a fee for a given amount of time. Perhaps a more streamlined approach is to bundle a web hosting service, which will power your website and domain registration into one step. Budget-conscious business owners will appreciate how domain names tend to be free or inexpensive when bought in conjunction with a web-hosting service.
Although this is called “buying,” it’s really more like renting. Why does the terminology matter so much? Because you may lose your domain name after a set amount of time, like 12 or 24 months after the initial purchase, if you assume that you’ve bought the name for good. What actually happens is that you’ll need to renew your contract and pay a fee again to keep the domain name in your possession. If you fail to renew it on time, others can swoop in and buy it for their own purposes — leaving you with an identity mess to clean up and some mighty confused clientele.
Finding the right domain name is really more of a two-fold process: You must first choose a quality name that’s available and go through the right steps to make it your own… then renew your ownership diligently to keep it over time.