Choosing a new domain name for your business is an important step and you should spend some time in getting it right first time.
To change to another domain name at a later date will have several consequences, some of which are listed below.
If customers can no longer find you, it could not only mean lost business but it may mean that they buy from a competitor.
We have compiled a guide below which we hope will help you to make an informed choice and avoid some of the mistakes we see many business make.
At the heart of any online store is the domain name. This is how your potential customers will find you and will form part of any advertising campaigns (whether online or offline). Choosing the right domain name can be crucial for the success of your online business.
If you already have a current business then you probably have customers familiar with your brand/business name. A few of our clients already had high street shops but wanted to get online to target more customers with an ecommerce store. In some (but not all) of those cases they chose a domain name to reflect their current trading name. However some wished to keep the two sides of the business separate and opted for a more generic domain name that matched the type of products they sold online.
If the website is a simple static one designed purely for information purposes as a resource of information about what your business does and how to contact you, then a domain reflecting your trading name is probably a good choice. However the availiablilty of the most suitable domain name may depend upon how common your actual trading name is, so your first choice may not be an option, but with a little thought there is likley to be a variation that will be available.
The main advantage of having a domain name that reflects your business name is the continuity it offers between online and offline. This may be a priority if you have a large customer base that would want to find you online via a search engine or even guess the domain name as many may assume that you trade under your existingbusinessname.co.uk/.com.
If you are looking to sell products online via an ecommerce store, then having a more generic domain name matching the type of products you sell has different advantages. A potential customer searching Google for the products you (and almost certainly several competitors) sell is often more likley to click a search engine result where the domain matches closely to what they are searching for as there is the expectation that the website is perhaps more likley to have what they are looking to buy. These domain names are known as “Exact Match Domains”. There was a time when such domains where given a significant ranking boost by Google. Although there are still some advantages, the impact is not as great as it was a few years ago.
Having a generic domain name has the advantage that if the business name were to change in the future due to a rebranding then the generic name would still be relevant and unaffected by the change. Should you wish to cease trading online, maybe your product range has changed and the domain is no longer relevant to the products you sell, then the domain name is likley to have a resale value to a similar business, unlike a business name domain would.
It may be that you wish to purchase a business name domain and a generic name. In this instance you would have two websites, the business one would be more of an informational site about the business with contact details etc and a link to the other website which would be the online store. This setup gives the benefit of both scenarios and leaves the door open to adding more links to future domain purchases that may sell a different range of products not suitable to add to the existing domain.
Just when you thought it was all over and you have decided on your domain name(s), there is one more decision to be made before you can part with money and register the domain. There are essentially 2 parts to a domain name, the first part is the unique identifier you have chosen above and the second part is the bit to the right of the last dot and is known as the top-level domain (TLD). Until a few years ago there were only two main choices of TLD’s (.com or *.co.uk) for businesses in the UK. Today however there are now over a thousand new top level domains such as .clothing, .shop .shopping .shoes and many more. It is still early days yet for these new TLD’s and no one really knows how they will fare in years to come. Our personal view is that .com and co.uk still reign supreme and one or both of those would be our recomendation, but it is a matter of personal preference. If targetting mainly UK customers then a *.co.uk adds credibility as UK searchers in Google see a co.uk and are more likley to click on the link than another extension as they expect it to be a UK company. Using a .com may be useful if targetting customers worldwide. It may also be prudent to register the .com and the .co.uk in order to protect your brand (avoid others from registering it) even if you only intend using one.
*the shorter .uk has been available since June 2014 and although not in widespread use yet, this may change in years to come and may also be worth registering to either use instead of a .co.uk or to prevent others from registering it.
Every domain name registered has to be unique and only one person can register a specific domain name. If having chosen your preferred domain name, you may find that someone else has already registered it. Just because it is registered does not necessarily mean you cannot acquire it.
Visit the domain name in a browser and see if it is being used. It may be that it is for sale as many domains are. We ourselves have over 1,000 domains registered that are for sale. If it looks like it is for sale then contact the owner and ask for a price if it isn’t shown. Be aware however that the price will be considerably higher than the cost of registering a new domain. Domains on the secondary market can sell for many hundreds of pounds or even many thousands depending upon how sought after it is. It really boils down to how important it is to you to get your first choice and what you are willing to pay.
If the domain is not advertised for sale and is currently and active website, then it may still be worth contacting the owner to see if they wish to sell but the likelhood of success may depend on how much the site is actually being used and the income it generates. If it involves the owner having to rebrand a successful business then the chances are slim, but everyone has a price....
If it isn’t possible to purchase a domain already registered, then your only option is to think of an alternative and register an unregistered domain.
Our advice would be to choose a domain name that when spoken (hence the term radio test) there is no ambiguity about spelling. For example, do not be tempted to be clever and use the number 4 instead of for. How will the person hearing it know how to spell it? The same goes for hyphens, you do not want to specifically have to point out everytime that there is a hyphen between two words, especially when you probably only registered the hyphenated domain because a competitor has beat you to the non hyphenated one. You could end up promoting your competitors website rather than your own!
The simple test is if you are likley to tell someone the domain name and you need to add any explanation about the spelling, you should probably think again, people have short memories and won’t remember it.
Every business has its own unique requirements but we hope some of the information has been useful in helping you decide on a domain name.
Any domain name has to be registered via a reseller known as a Domain Registrar and a sample list of some popular ones is shown below.
Registrars however tend to also offer many other services apart from domain registration such as hosting however you do not have to use the hosting services provided by the same registrar you use for domain registration. It may be simpler to have both in the same place, but in many cases the best deals can be found by having domain registration with one company and hosting provided by a separate company. See our Guide to choosing web hosting for more information.