Deciding on your domain name (or URL, or web address) is an important starting point for any business when embarking on having a website built.
There are two parts to your domain name, and (without getting into technicalities and jargon) these are: your business name and the suffix.
You’ll no doubt be hoping your business name with .com or .co.uk is available and there’s a chance it will be. If it’s not, it may already be in use or it may be owned by a holding company.
If it’s in use by another business, there’s little chance you’ll be able to get a hold of it unless you offer a lot of money for it, but there aren’t may small to medium enterprises with (possibly tens of) thousands of pounds to throw around at a domain name. Back to the drawing board.
If it’s owned by a holding company there’s a chance you might be able to buy it from them for a reasonable price. I did that with tempertemper.net and it cost me around £80.00, but the prices can vary wildly!
By far the most cost effective way of buying a domain name is to go for one that’s available and not owned by a third party.
What about changing the suffix?
An alternative to thinking again about the business name part of your domain name is to change the suffix. The first suffixes that come to mind here in the UK are .com and/or .co.uk so most people want these first. But it may be that you don’t mind taking .org, .eu, .biz, .info, .net, .me.uk, etc. It’s entirely up to you. The only thing to remember here is that the suffix should be appropriate to your business.
Here are some examples: my web address is tempertemper.net- the .net suffix is generally used by businesses that have something to do with the internet itself, so suits me as a web designer well. What about some of the other ones I mentioned? Well, .me.uk is good for personal sites, .org is generally for not-for-profit type organisations, .biz is for businesses (although, in my humble opinion, it suggests showbiz or something!), .eu is for companies that do business in the European Union, etc., etc.
.com V’s .co.uk
If you’re in luck and your first choice .com or .co.uk URL is available, you’ve got another choice to make: which do you want!? It’s up to you. You may plump for both in the end- one, say .com, will be your principle address (that you use for your email, etc.) and the other will catch anybody who types .co.uk instead.
Buying both also saves someone else buying the address you didn’t, potentially (and quite legitimately) setting up a site that could ‘steal’ customers who are looking for you but find the competition’s site first if they type the domain name you didn’t choose.
What you choose as your principle domain name is pretty subjective- there isn’t a definitive answer, but the following points may be worth taking into account:
- .com is generally the first thing someone will type;
- clients that have or anticipate a potential client base outside of the UK generally go for .com as it’s more international;
- .co.uk gives your site a more local feel and UK based clients can have more confidence in it as it feels closer to home;
- .com addresses tend to cost about twice the price of .co.uk addresses;
- .co.uk is that it has a minimum initial registration of 2 years.
Business name format
Having hyphens in your domain name is perfectly acceptable. You just have to decide whether you want to have to say “hyphen” or “dash” every time you tell someone your web address or email.
A consideration is that you may want keywords in your domain name. Google looks favourably on this, so your search engine ranking may get a boost, but there is a downside. Filling your domain name with keywords will mean it’s longer. On a human level, this can make it more difficult to remember- especially if you’re giving someone your email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
To www. or not to www.
One final point you’ll want to have a think about is whether you’d like the www. in front of your domain name or if you’d prefer it to read without it. It’s not something you can’t change in the future, but Google will treat your site as two different sites unless what’s called a redirect is added (don’t worry- I’ll do that for you! All you have to do is choose which way you prefer), meaning the two sites it sees will be competing against each other, meaning your rankings will be diminished by about half!
Oh, and don’t worry: if you choose to go without, like Twitter has, you’ll still end up in the right place if you type the address with the www.; Facebook is the opposite- if you type facebook.com it’ll take you to www.facebook.com!
Researching your domain name
It’s best not to do this yourself- I don’t know whether it’s coincidence or not, but I’ve been stung in the past. Don’t type them into a search engine like Google and don’t search for them on a dedicated domain name site. Certain companies must have ways of finding out what URLs people are searching for and they can buy them up and hold you to ransom. A client of mine had to go for .net instead of their preferred .com as one of these unscrupulous companies bought the .com a couple of days after she searched for it and only days before she went to buy it!
If you want to do it yourself, type the address in your URL bar, rather than search box. If your service provider (BT, TalkTalk, etc.) returns a ‘this cannot be found’ message of some sort then you’re probably on to a winner.
If you prefer, fire me an email with the domain names you’re thinking of and I’ll do the checking for you. This way, I can also give you my tuppence-worth on how effective they’d be!
Renewing your domain name
When you register your domain name you will eventually come to a point that it will expire. This is usually a year, but it can vary, depending on the suffix. You can renew your domain name for anything up to 9 years, but you will always have to renew your hosting (the space that you rent on the internet that your website lives on) every year. It’s up to you what tack you take- some people just renew everything every year for a year, others prefer to know they’ll have their domain name for longer than that.
What if you change your mind?
Moving your website to a new domain name is tricky… The first thing to consider is that anybody linking to your website (from Facebook, Twitter, their blogs, etc.) will link to the old address so your hard work getting people to mention your site will be wasted as these links will now point to a website that doesn’t exist. Your rank in search engines will fall without these links into your site!
With this in mind, if you do decide to move your site to a new address, it’s best to have it done professionally and it can take time, and this will eat into budget that may be better spent on a different area of your website. The reason it’s best not to do yourself is that Google, Yahoo and Bing can get awfully suspicious of a website that appears out of the blue with the exact content that they’ve got logged on a different site (it considers your old site as a separate entity). They’ll see this a ‘spam’ website and more than likely you’ll end up in their ‘sandbox’. This means you’ll not appear on the search engine results unless you do some begging and some serious work on promoting your site to prove that you’re the real deal.
So think long and hard about the right domain name for you before you have your website built on it.