If you’re taking an offline business online you are likely to want your own domain name. For the avoidance of doubt, a domain name is the part of a web address that makes a business unique. These can be generic like .com, .net, .org or country specific like .co.uk, .com.au, .fr, .co.nz etc.
How to get a good domain name for your business? The first step to getting a good domain name is going to a reputable “brainstorming” website such as instantdomainsearch.com or leandomainsearch.com. The next step is to register the domain name yourself at hover.com ($2 off with that link) so that you control the ownership of it. From here you can easily set it up for any services (email, website etc) you need which I’ll cover in a separate article.
Does it matter which domain name I buy?
Most people asking this question fall into one of two camps. Either they are wondering about search engine performance or what’s allowed.
From a search perspective you have to consider 2 things;
- will a search engine choose to rank your site as a prominent result
- will a user seeing the result choose to tap on it
Both of these elements are important and can become very involved. However, the prevailing opinion in the search community is that the domain name isn’t a huge factor in where your site appears in search results.
The impact a domain name has on the user’s motivation to select a search result is certainly more important. Signalling to a user that your result is relevant to their search term is the desired outcome. Take the following example; someone searching for garden benches. A top result is simpsonandjones.com unless the user knows that Simpson & Jones are great bench retailers the domain name adds no relevance signalling value. Another top result is for gardenbenches.com This clearly signals to the user an area of interest that goes a long way to encourage a tap.
So from a search engine perspective try to get a domain that signals to your users that the site addresses their query. A useful site to help find a relevant domain is leandomainsearch.com – this site adds common prefixes and suffixes to keywords and can reveal some gems. In my garden benches example there are lots of great options found on LDS:
What’s allowed – can I have any kind of domain name?
Simple answer: Yes. There isn’t really any restriction on type of domain name you can buy (government and education extensions aside). Some countries put restrictions on domain registrations (like having to prove you are a resident or have a business in that country). But if you’re trying to register one of those domain names then you’re likely to be operating in their country so would pass those restrictions anyway.
How do I actually get a domain name?
You buy a domain name from a registrar. You may have heard of one of the “big boys”. GoDaddy is the most notable due to their Superbowl ads and a little bit of controversy but there are 1000s of registrars. A registrar registers your domain name for you and you pay an annual fee for the privilege. You can pay for multiple years (up to 10) so you can save a bit of annual hassle that way. Apparently, the time until your domain expires is a search engine ranking factor so the longer the better. I don’t register too far in advance as I don’t want to forget how to log in!
How much does a domain name cost?
.com domain names should cost about $10-15 per year. A .uk domain is likely to be <£10 per year. Some of the more exotic domains cost more but are still affordable for most businesses. A few examples: .is (Iceland) is €30 per year. .co is $25/year, .io is $45/year so cost will depend if you stray away from the classic .com
Like any scare resource prices are driven by demand. If you have designs on a domain name that someone has already registered then you’re in their hands.
What do I need to be aware of when I register my domain name?
The world of domain name registration is historically incredibly spammy and scammy so being alert is the name of the game. The old adage “no such thing as a free lunch” certainly applies here and although you might not pay today you are likely to pay in the future. Simply, if you use a registrar that offers a free domain name, (or at a vastly reduced price) you will end up paying for it later. My advice is to choose a reputable, high-quality registrar (hover.com is who I use) and then set it up with whichever services you need. This is a very straight forward process and step by step instructions are always provided.
I can’t find any good available domain names
I often hear people saying “all the good domain names are taken” …or words to that effect. Obviously there can only be one generic term .com so if you’re reading this you’re unlikely to be the person with it. However that doesn’t mean all the good domain names are taken. In my garden benches example LDS turned up gardenBenchesWorld.com gardenBenchesOnline.com gardenBenchCo.com all of which I think would be great.
No, .com’s really are all taken
If you really are struggling to find a decent .com then you can branch out. This means going to a country level domain so an obvious start would be your country .co.uk, .uk, .co.nz etc. If that doesn’t work then you could use a country domain name that has been adopted as a global looking domain. Examples of this type of domain includes .co (Columbia), .ai (Anguilla), .ly (Libya).
In addition to these country domains, a host of application specific domain extensions have been generated in recent years. These include extensions such as .blog, .business, .space, .florist and hundreds of others. All of these will work in the same way as a .com. The problem with some of them is that customers won’t recognise them as web addresses. Not many people seeing johndoe.consulting on the side of a van will recognise it as that company’s web address.
The no-nonsense recipe for finding and registering a domain
If you just want to find a domain for your business and don’t need the detail follow these steps:
- Visit instantdomainsearch.com and see if your desired domain is available
- If it isn’t, go to leandomainsearch.com and find a suitable prefix or suffix that works well enough.
- Head over to hover.com to register a domain name for a fair price with great service and features.
Tip: If you want to get $2 off your purchase you can use this link: https://hover.com/LacdHrdH If you don’t want the free discount, use this one: https://hover.com (Hint: use the first one 🙂
Some notes for extra background
- In years gone by having the keywords in the domain name was a way to improve search engine performance. Simply; owning a domain name that matched user queries it was a way to print Google money. This is no longer true (if you’re reading that advice, it’s out of date).
- Domain length was also something which appeared in “SEO best practice” guides. Again, domain name length is no longer considered a ranking factor. It obviously is a factor if you want people to either remember it or type it correctly into an address bar but that’s not SEO related.
- You don’t need a domain name to set up online. There are plenty of successful businesses that don’t have one. They use 3rd party platforms like Etsy, Amazon, eBay etc and don’t worry about a domain name. However, even if you just want the domain name for professional looking email, I would suggest the minimal annual investment is worth it.
- A lot of the more recent domain extensions have been created by businesses looking to capitalise on a niche (e.g. .lawyer). The prices for some of these domains operate on an opaque tiered system. So you might often find a domain is available but at a high (e.g. $3000) price. I don’t entertain these extensions and suggest you don’t either.