How to Choose a Domain Name for your Website

All about choosing a name. Tips on
Selecting and Registering a domain name

A Domain Name is Important for Your Business and Web Marketing

When starting or expanding a business, choosing the right name of your website is a very important decision. It may become what your business becomes known by, like your trademark. It must be easy to remember-- AND associated with your main products, brand and business. Therefore the name is an integral part of your Marketing Strategy, which must be done first. Choose the name only after (not before) you have done the basics of business and marketing strategy. It also relates to your Logo.

The domain name is also a part of web marketing strategy, which Google - search engines use as a factor that can aid your ranking (so you can be found). Nowadays you have to do EVERYTHING RIGHT to succeed in internet marketing. The name bears on both organic and paid promotion.

We emphasize and explain the importance of good name selection in relation to your business and helping you compete on the web and things to know and avoid.

Here is a summary of where and how to search for domain availability:

Thinking up good names and searching for them is a trial and error process.

Registering a domain, which is the same as buying, always starts with a search of available web domains for sale. But study our Tips on choosing a name below before jumping ahead for availability.

Whether a name has never been used or is expired or not, look at an official registrar site for domain names for sale or registered. One registered may be unused and for sale at a premium.

There are also resellers of registered names which show up at the registrar as not available - registered. You may really need one of these, and may go through the agent or look up the owner and send an offer. (more at bottom of this page)

The final official way to purchase a domain name is at a domain name registrar. That is where you search to see if the domain already exists in a registry or is "available". The search for available names is also known as domain lookup. When you finally buy and own it, you will see yourself as the owner at the registrar (which you can keep private, for a price).

A registrar may also sell registered domain names in a "for sale" list, usually at a premium with prices (possibly negotiable). Those are up for sale by the existing owner usually at a steep premium from original registration, even up to a million dollars or more. (most are around $80 to $5000). The registrar may be a sales agent of the owner.

The fastest way to start searching for name you come up with is to just type the URL in the top of a browser like: www.nameiwant.com . This is the first step and only tells you whether it is in use or "parked", but does not tell if it is registered but not used or parked. If a website comes up with the name, it is definitely already registered. You may find who owns it by a "Whois" search.

That way you can make a list of those that don't come up with a site or "parked" (registered but no site built).--- (We have more details on the process at the bottom of this page.)

Here are Tips on choosing a good domain name:

Research and Factors in Choosing A Good Name:

1) Name selection is important, so spend some time on it. But don't wait long, because good domain names go quickly. Names are registered by many who may never even start a business or site, merely as an investment. Because it can take about a year for a website to propagate, it is also important to get a name early and get some semblance of a home page up as soon as competitor research is done and the focus, differentiation, keywords and marketing strategy are determined.

2) The key factor as to whether you have much flexibility is whether you have an existing business or are starting a new one, a web version of your business, or a new web business. Seriously analyze and study strategy and understand the web is different than regular business, with growing competition. See Checklist starting a new website.

3) Before you get excited about a name, do a lot of searches on Google and Yahoo and other search sites to see what names exist that are similar in your business line or even not in your business area. Take notes and get ideas for names and ideas to tweak your focus and differentiation. Note that your Doman Name (URL) can aid your SEO search engine ranking, like the URL JalapenoKetchup.com mentioned above.

You may want to also register major generic names like your main web site name. For example www.spiceitup.com reserved also HotKetchup.com and JalapenoKetchup.com. Those are to be used for landing pages or "gateways" each focused on one aspect of their famous spicy ketchup. Notice how they own the generic product-name.com and the Brand.com, and the Description.com .

4) Most people think the domain name should match the main business name, but that is not necessarily true. Several options exist and the goals may not be for it to read just like the company name. Not many people remember not-so- popular names, and most people don't look for a business or product by the company name, unless it is a major or known area brand.

More often the product or service type is what is searched, unless your brand is well-known. Some choices are to have the company initials, or a domain name for each major product, spelled like the product or brand. If your brand or company is not well known, a product or service type in the name is usually good, or a catchy oddball name that can be turned into a brand. But test such names on people who are not your friends, who will be honest. The reactions will usually surprise you. Similarity to real words is often good for a brand.

5) Another option is to identify your prime customers within the name, or try a complimentary name flattering them, like "BetterBuyers" or similar, or consider something that implies expertise or specialization or superiority. Think hard about this opportunity to establish a brand while choosing a domain name to register. If you want to do that too, you should research the brands or trade names you are considering. Also search the Trademark office of the US or what area or state you are in, such as DBA's, or your state's "secretary of state" office.

6) At this stage, write down many names and alternative formats. Try not to depend on capitalization of the first letter much. What is your purpose? To be memorable? To be cute or clever? Or to be very simple and short? Simple and direct or short is often good. People can not read a longruntogetherdomainname. See?

How to Register a Name and Choose a Registrar.

7) When you have a very good name or two, it is time to sit down and get online with a domain registration company (See Top Registration Companies - Registrars) and try out their domain name searchtool. That will bring up any names exactly like your choice. The issue will then be whether the .com and .net (if for profit) are taken, or whether you will have to settle for .us (United States) or country code extension.

8) To understand the meaning and purposes of such domain name suffixes, go study at Wikipedia which has various pages explaining the naming standards. The big issue is whether you are profit or non-profit. The options have expanded, and there is not quite the same stigma to not being a .com or .net that there once was back around the year 2000. In the big scheme of things, that is not likely to be a big factor in your web success. It would be preferable to "lock up" a series of the same name, including all the profit or non-profit categories. This can get expensive. The permutations are many if you try to do this on many optional names.

9) If you really like a name someone owns, and they have no website, and you see it has been registered for a while, maybe 3 or 4 years, consider contacting such person to see if they will sell it, or hire a Buyers' Agent experienced in negotiating, pricing, closing and transferring names. (BGdesign has experience as a buyers' Agent). Domains vary a lot in price and are what the market will bear. Probably $200 to $50,000 would be most of the range and around $400 to $2000 would likely buy a large proportion (95%) except major names. There are also name brokers. Don't get too excited. These names will not make or break your business, and you will have tons of other expenses, including promotion. Prove your business--- then add names.

Names Can Help Organic Search Engine Ranking

10) A key part of your naming and business strategy depends on your budget---whether you can afford mostly paid promotion or must rely on free "organic" search engine placement, which is hard to do and does not usually work unless you work constantly at it for thousands of hours, unless you own a famous brand or you are in a very tiny niche of unusual product with almost no competition (the ideal business).

Go over your goals, your business strategy and your web strategies with your web designer in consultation with their web marketing arm to review your goals and make suggestions for improvements to save you money and be more competitive in the long run. They can tell you how to save money on PPC and how to use alternate hooks to more strongly draw prospects. These may require alternate domain names if you get ambitious, to compete organically. Even if you choose mostly paid promotion, your designer will likely suggest a hybrid approach to get some organic traffic.

11) Give a final consideration of using the main search keywords as the domain name, regardless of the company or product name or brand. That is especially important for a company depending on organic placement to rank high. Your web designer can do studies and or give you how-to information to do it yourself.

12) Keep in mind there are wide ranges in costs for registration, some quite expensive, like Network Solutions used to be, who may not give any better service (UPDATE: Network Solutions has improved and cut some prices), if as good, as many less expensive registration companies. Try to use a top-tier top-rated name registration company, because many are "re-sellers" and many are unresponsive or their website may not function correctly. Some smaller or unscrupulous registrars could even watch or cherry-pick good names that you pass over. The reliability and permanence of the registrar is important, so review the top registrars - registration companies carefully. This is a many years relationship, so think about that. It is possible to move the registration, but it's a hassle. We suggest mainly looking that they have been in business more than a year, and charge a mid to mid-low price adequate to keep them in business. Of course stick to one in your country unless you have special security needs.

13) Website hosting companies now often offer free dommain registration to get your hosting business. That can work out OK, but be sure the hosting-registrar is good at both. There are a few resellers that we like. So, like any shopping and anything worthwhile, do your homework, work hard, then shop hard and hopefully your creativity and work will pay off, if you do all the other things necessary for "web success".

14) Do not be concerned about having a domain registrar who is not a hosting company. We believe it is wise to keep the two separate and be able to easily move a website by also choosing a good hosting company, which is your next step. That includes finding a good web designer and webmaster to help you understand issues. They can help you choose a better hosting company with which they prefer to work, and also to perhaps help you find a good template which might save you a bit or give you a more attractive and maintainable site. Do not only look at the top hosting company ratings, but also at details to be aware of regarding hosting companies. This is also a good time to really study proper web site design tips and factors for web business success.

Tips on How the Sellers and Agents Operate and Cautions

Most hosting companies have the search and registration capability as resellers of web name registrars for websites. Hosting companies subsidize purchases or even say "Free Registration" to have an "all in one place" solution to get their hosting business. They know the best time to sell hosting is when someone is searching for names.

As above, we do not recommend getting registration where the site is hosted, although the process of getting hosting and the name all at once can be convenient.

A few registars actually use a big hosting company's registration system, but not many. A good cheap registrar that does just registration and has been in business a long time is often a good bet. Do some research.

Cheap registration can be found at Cheap-DomainRegistration.com , a specialist reseller with an excellent "control panel". Cheap-domainregistration seems to us a good inexpensive registrar to search and register a web name. (This is NOT an endorsement. We get nothing for saying that)

Occasionally a registrar may have a sale, a discount off the regular price or coupon.

Owners give up paying for names fairly often if a website never gets built. Its registration expires. If the owner's registration expires, the name will show up available as if it was never owned.

This is not the same as when you buy a website and the domain must be officially transferred. Study this process and Be very careful to have the name fully transferred or via an escrow service before completing the payments for a website. There is a lot of fraud out there.

Don't make the mistake of buying an expired registration from anyone but a registrar! The person has no control over it and would be committing fraud to claim it was theirs. They might however advertise it as for sale and then snatch it quickly if someone gets interested. Don't pay a premium for what you can do directly if paying attention.

More often the owner will try to sell it before it expires or offer it through a company that helps sell them, his agent. These are places you can look for expiring domains for sale, where the owner has listed it.

There are many people who speculate by buying expiring names or even those never registered--for resale. They have no intent of using it themselves.

For existing names there are resellers, negotiators, agents and auctions. These are essentially sales agents of the owner. Make sure a resale auction is reputable and long-established and in your country, whether selling names or buy names. Check out the site or seller.

There are other places that sell websites which requires buying and transfer of the registration, much like a title. For that you might try search terms like "website for sale" or "buy website". Be very cautious on buying entire websites for sale. Many have locked-in hosting. Unless you really want to run the business or there are no long term contract obligations, purchasing a name by buying a cheap website is often not a good idea when you consider pricing, often of the hosting. That is what some rackets do is sell a very cheap site to get you locked into expensive hosting. That is not the same as a reputable hosting company with reasonable fees.

Good Luck

Note: If you would like more helpful information about starting a website or a web business, then browse our other information guides and tips on our menu above: 11 Web Business Success Tips, Starting a Web Business Checklist, How to Choose a Domain Name, How to Choose a Domain Registration Company, How to Choose a Hosting Company, Tips for Designing a Website, How to Get My Website Working, How to Promote Your Website, 10 Website Improvement Tips

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