What to Consider When Purchasing a Domain

Your domain name is the URL link name of your website. It is what people will type in when visiting your website directly, it will be on your business cards and email signature. It will be the first point of contact for most of your prospects and customers, so it is pretty important you get it right.

This blog gives some thoughts for consideration when you are looking to purchase a domain name:

1) Top level domain (.com, .co.uk, .org etc)

Your first consideration is how you want your website address to end. This is known as the ‘top level domain’ and immediately says something about your website. For British websites there are four main ones: .co.uk, .net, .org (and .org.uk), .com

If you are a business you should definitely purchase a .co.uk domain for your chosen name, even if you don’t use it as your primary URL. This is to prevent a similar sounding business registering the name themselves and thus confusing your customers – or even worse, profiting from your oversight by stealing business from you. It is also often the first thing a prospect might type in to find your website if they don’t know your full URL.

If your website is a purely online presence, perhaps an information portal or online store, you might want to consider using a .net domain as well. Charities and clubs are probably best off using a .org domain for their primary URL to distinguish themselves from company websites; although a business should definitely not do this! If you are looking to attract traffic from outside the UK, a .com address is the best option.

In order to cover your bases, I suggest that as a starting point you register a domain name that is available for both .co.uk and .com top level domains.

For specialist websites there are a plethora of other top level domains available, ranging from local, such as .london or .ny, to topical domains like .me, .XXX, .social and.info.

2) Your business name

It is worth emphasising that your website domain name should reflect your business name as closely as possible. It might not always be possible to match them up directly, but every effort should be made to correlate them closely. Your website URL should reflect the trading name your customers know you as. For instance, if you have a limited company called Jones & Sons but trade under the name ‘Discount Laptops’, your website domain should be something like discountlaptops.com, rather than jonesandsons.com.

This ensures your website is easy to find for prospects who know your company trading name but not your full website URL. It also avoids the possibility of Google being unimpressed the lack of correspondence between your page titles and content; and your website URL. This brings us neatly on to our third point.

3) Keywords

You might have once been told that having a super keyword embedded in your domain name was a sure-fire way to propel your website to the top of Google’s first page. Maybe this was true once, but if so it is one of those SEO myths that you are better off unlearning. If you are setting up a new limited company it might be worthwhile doing some keyword research on common search terms for your industry and then seeing what company and website domain names are available. Chances are many of the most popular ones will already be taken, but you might still be able to get yourself a plum if you look hard enough. The downside to this is you are likely to end up with a very similar sounding name to many of your direct competitors.  Do a search for ‘SEO Company’ on the Company’s House website and you will see what I mean.

The same logic applies to keyword driven domain names. You will end up with little to distinguish your website from hundreds of others pulled up on Google by the same search.

So on balance I suggest you avoid using keywords in domain names altogether. Certainly you shouldn’t even consider using a keyword domain name if it is radically different from your business or trading name.  Returning to our previous example, for Jones & Sons Ltd, registering a keyword domain such as “cheap-laptop-london.com” as a primary website domain would be a disaster. It is just as likely to result in the website being penalised in the search rankings or black listed as spam, as it would be to bring in a single additional customer.

Instead of doing this, you should take advantage of the new local top level domains to attract local traffic from Google searches e.g.  ‘discountlaptops.london’. This may cost you a few pounds more to register than a .com address, but it will certainly be cheaper than the traffic you stand to lose by falling foul of Google’s spam busting algorithms.

4) Accessibility

Pity your poor customers when typing in your domain name into their search bar. If someone types in your URL, gets it wrong and ends up on a random website, they may not try again. It pays to put some thought and effort into making sure your domain name is accessible to your web visitors. Make sure it isn’t too long and that it is easy to spell – and whatever you do make sure YOU have spelled the domain name correctly when you resister the domain. There is no turning back if you make a typo on the registration form or misspell your company name. Try to avoid having two letters running side by side when using more than one word in a domain name.  Also, you would do well to avoid hyphens and underscores as far as possible.

The golden rule when choosing a domain name is to ‘keep it short, keep it simple and keep it relevant’.

If you take these considerations into account and use some common sense, your domain name will become one of your most important business assets. It is a key element in both your brand identity and your overall online presence.