A valuable domain name can make or break your business. Here’s how to ensure your customers find you, and not your competitor.
Exactly what’s in a name? A lot, says Chip Meade, marketing consultant and owner of FreshAvails.com in Fairfax, Va. A domain name isn’t just a few words that show up in the URL when your business is searched: It represents—and can even build—your business’s identity, determines the success of your social media efforts, and when named incorrectly, can cause you to lose sales to your competitors.
“Your domain is your online brand,” Meade says. “You need to think of it as your online storefront or online real estate. This is how it will be seen by customers, competitors and employees.”
Thinking critically about a visitors’ experience with your website is the first step in determining an optimal domain name for your business. Here’s what’s next:
Pass the Radio Test.
If your business’s name is long or the spelling is unintuitive, you should consider excluding it from your domain name, Meade says. Customers will have a difficult time remembering and finding your website if they can’t easily pronounce it or spell it. As an alternative, Meade suggests using a name that describes what you do and where you’re located—like ‘miamiwindows.com’ instead of a more difficult business name.
That approach also allows the domain name to do some of the “heavy lifting” for your company’s marketing: It clearly signals what customers can expect when your website appears in a search, and translates well to social media because it’s easy to remember.
The “radio test” principal applies to hyphens in domain names as well. Since customers can’t hear them in speech, you may lose customers to a competitor that shares a similar, un-hyphenated domain name. Search engines also don’t register hyphens, and that could limit how you appear in search results.
Remember, ‘.com’ is King.
Many customers also anticipate a ‘.com’ ending, and if your domain name ends with ‘.net,’ you may lose customers to a website of a similar name that ends in ‘.com,’ Meade says.
Understand Your Domain’s Value.
The value of a domain name is determined by how often certain keywords are searched. While you can claim a domain name for as little as $10 at domain registry websites like Godaddy.com, register.com and domain.com, if your desired domain isn’t available, you may need to negotiate with its current owner. Be prepared to pay a premium—sometimes a valuable domain name can be worth thousands of dollars.
It’s a good idea to invest in a valuable domain name, Meade says. “Don’t sell yourself short and try to shoehorn something in that isn’t right for your business,” he continues. “If you go the extra mile, you’ll reap the rewards of customer satisfaction and visibility.”
Related: 5 Ways to Boost Your Presence Online