Choosing your website’s domain name is as almost as important as choosing your business name.

After all, your business website is your the store-front of your business online – and if you have a great business website, a good SEO strategy, and great digital marketing, your website is likely more important than your business’s store-front. Your domain name is your identity on the web. You need to make sure you choose a domain name that not only fits your business, but is also easy to find, easy to remember, and easy to promote.

How to Choose a Domain Name

Tips for choosing a domain name for your business website

  1. Choose a domain name that accurately represents your business
  2. Be memorable
  3. Make the domain intuitive
  4. Use keywords relevant to your products or services
  5. Include your local area
  6. Play around with a business name or domain name generator
  7. Don’t wait for perfect, when you have good
  8. Register your domain ASAP
  9. Always register your domain name yourself
  10. Keep the domain name short
  11. Keep it short, but not too short – don’t shorten words
  12. Make it pronounceable
  13. Choose a domain name that is easy to type
  14. Always go for the .com
  15. Think beyond .com. Get a non-traditional TLD
  16. Choose a domain name extension (top level domain, TLD) that fits
  17. Country-specific TLDs
  18. Consider registering the other main TLDs as well
  19. Protect your brand with multiple TLDs
  20. Don’t use numbers
  21. Don’t use hyphens or dashes
  22. Stay away from acronyms unless your business is widely known by the acronym
  23. Append or modify if necessary
  24. Get the common misspellings and alternate spellings of your domain
  25. Buy an existing domain
  26. Don’t register a trademarked or copyrighted name or word
  27. Check the domain history via Wayback Machine
  28. Check the domain WHOIS history
  29. Pick a trusted domain registrar
  30. Consider enabling WHOIS protection & private domain registration
  31. Set your domain to auto-renew registration
  32. Consider the corresponding social media handles and accounts
  33. Run a language check
  34. Check how your domain name reads when written and typed out
  35. Businesses and people don’t own domain names

Follow along with these tips and steps to pick the perfect domain name and to register your domain name for your business website

1. Choose a domain name that accurately represents your business

It is very important that your domain name actually reflects your business. Your business name is a preferable domain name, but if you cannot get the name of your business because the domain is not available, make sure to choose one that represents your products, services, area, and target customer instead.

2. Be memorable

According to siteefy.com, there are 367.3 million registered domain names. Bounce your ideas off of friends and family and see how they react to your ideas. This is a good brainstorming tactic.

3. Make the domain intuitive

An ideal domain name should give a good idea of what your business is all about. For instance, our domain name registrar NameCheap.com is a good example of an intuitive domain name. They sell domain names at a cheap price. Your domain name should have the same effect.

4. Use keywords relevant to your products or services

Try using keywords in your domain name that describe your business and the services you offer. Nowadays, this is pretty tough to do, but get creative and you might find some great domains still available. A small power washing company might benefit from powerwashingprince.com.

That said, be smart about generic keywords. Simply creating a domain name full of relevant but generic keywords won’t give you a boost in Google‘s search rankings. Google big-wigs said this all the way back in 2012, yet I still run into potential clients who own dozens of these types of domain names and demand using them as their main business domain name.

5. Include your local area

If your business and website serves a local area, consider including that local area in your domain name. People of every socio-economic background love to support local businesses, so by simply adding your city or area name to your business and/or domain name, you’ll be likely to attract customers who want to spend their money with a local company.

6. Play around with a business name or domain name generator

Business Name Generator is a fun tool to help you get ideas for your business name or domain name. Just enter a few words that represent your business and click generate. Even if you don’t find a perfect fit for your business, this tool is guaranteed to give you some ideas you hadn’t thought of previously. Business Name Generator has options for number of words, business industry, rhyming, and will automatically check domain availability. You can also use it for blogs, Facebook pages, product names and more.

7. Don’t wait for perfect, when you have good

A lot of small business owners get caught up trying to choose the perfect name, when that time could be spent building a great website and great brand and around a perfectly good domain name. Don’t waste too much time choosing a “perfect” domain and don’t let finding the “perfect” domain name hold you back from starting your business or project.

8. Register your domain ASAP

With so many registered domain names, it’s a good idea to register your domain name as soon as your think of it. Registration isn’t very expensive, so grab it right away.

One strategy I use – as soon as an idea comes into my head, I register a domain name and spin up a simple WordPress site within a day that includes text/writing around the idea. If nothing else, the idea is live on the internet for a year while I decide if I am going to pursue it.

9. Always register your domain name yourself

Registering a domain name is simple and easy to do. Register it yourself for your business. It’s a good idea to not let anyone else – such as your web designer or marketing company – register a domain name for you. Even though it’s slightly less hassle, it can lead to trouble later on.

If someone else registers the domain, they actually “own” the domain name, not you. If you ever want to move away from their services, you can run into issues with the person who registered it not wanting to give it up or they may want to try to charge you extra money to get your domain back.

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Simply save any potential hassle and register it yourself. After you register your domain name, you can give your web designer or marketing pro access to manage your domain name – while you still own it and have full control.

Domain manager in Namecheap

Give your web designer domain management access in Namecheap

10. Keep the domain name short

If your domain name is too long and fairly complex, you risk customers mistyping or misspelling it. Short and simple is the way to go. You don’t need to use every word of your business name in the domain, and in most cases, drop the LLC, Corporation, etc. from the domain. For example, our company name is Search Centered Digital Marketing, LLC and our domain is searchcentered.com (more on that later).

11. Keep it short, but not too short – don’t shorten words

To me, this is one of the most annoying trends ever for business names and domain names. Don’t do it. Do not shorten words for no reason.

Sure, some words are commonly shortened – Brothers to Bros (but register both versions in your domain) – but don’t shorten words just to do it.

One of the most hilarious situations I’ve run into during my career: I had a potential client who was a guitar luthier, guitar repairman, guitar teacher, and he sold high-end refurbished guitars. He insisted on abbreviating the word guitars as GTRZ. I asked if he sold gutters or guitars?! He was not amused, but he got my point.

Short domains are usually simple and more memorable, but if you go too short with your domain name you run into the possibility of causing confusion.

12. Make it pronounceable

This is a tip where searchcentered.com fails. Yes, I would love to have searchcenter, but it’s not available. When saying the domain name aloud, I really have to make a point to enunciate the business name and domain name. That said, when telling someone the business name, I always say Search Centered Digital Marketing, not simply Search Centered.

If your domain name is easier to pronounce, it will be easier to remember. Say your domain name aloud to yourself and bounce the idea off of few people. You’ll quickly figure out if it’s easy to pronounce or not.

If your domain name is not easy to pronounce, consider registering domains with the word(s) it also sounds like and forward them to your domain name.

13. Choose a domain name that is easy to type

Some words and phrases are simply difficult to type. When you think you’ve found the perfect domain name, do a Google search for each word in your domain name individually, along with “common misspellings” and “mistyped” to see how often your domain name may be typed incorrectly. Consider registering the domain name with the misspelling and redirect it to your actual domain name

Always choose the .com TLD if you can when selecting a domain name

Always choose the .com TLD if you can when selecting a domain name

14. Always go for the .com

Unless you absolutely have to go for a different TLD, get a .com. .com is by far the most recognizable TLD and the most trusted. When anyone thinks of your website, they will automatically assume it is .com, so it’s best to put in a little more thought to find a .com domain name. According to statista.com, 52.3% of all websites have a .com domain name.

15. Think beyond .com. Get a non-traditional TLD

As mentioned above, there are MANY different TLDs available now. While I recommend always going for a .com, a non-traditional TLD may be perfect for your business’s industry or brand. A non-traditional TLD will not affect your website’s SEO or search rankings. It is important to mention, however, that non-traditional TLDs are popular with spammers because some are cheap and “disposable,” so make sure your non-traditional TLD is relevant to your business or industry.

At Search Centered, we use searchcente.red for our shortlinks when sharing our blog posts on social media.

16. Choose a domain name extension (top level domain, TLD) that fits

Extensions are suffixes, such as .com or .net, at the end of web addresses. Some TLDs have specific uses, so make sure to choose one that fits your business. These can have specific uses, so make sure to choose one that works for your business. There are more than 26.3 million generic TLD (gTLD) domains.The .com domain extension is far and away the most popular with more than 52% of all registered domains being .com, but it can be tough to get a short and memorable .com domain name because it’s been around for so long.

A newer fad in the marketing world is to register a .digital domain name for the marketing business – as in “digital marketing,” but it’s always best to get a .com, if you can. That’s what people remember most.

17. Country-specific TLDs

If you regularly do business in or with customers in other countries, consider a country code top level domains (ccTLD) that is specific to that country, such as .uk for United Kingdom, .au for Australia, for the Netherlands, .de for Germany, or .ca for Canada. It’s best to use a ccTLD if you solely or primarily do business within that specific country.

18. Consider registering the other main TLDs as well

Once you’ve selected a TLD or ccTLD, consider registering other TLDs that are relevant to your business and/or industry to help protect your brand. According to GoDaddy, the most common TLDs for United States websites are .com, .net, .org, .co, .us.Consider purchasing other popluar TLDs and redirecting them to your website.

This is more important for large brands, as scammers will register other TLDs and send spam emails pretending to be the brand to get affiliate commissions or to try to steal credit card information.

19. Protect your brand with multiple TLDs

If a digital marketing agency – such as Search Centered Digital Marketing – decided to use the .digital TLD, such as searchcentered.digital it might also be a good idea to register searchcentereddigital.com and searchcentered.marketing. Ultimately, we prefer a .com over all of these and don’t really worry about all of the marketing related TLDs, but if it is relevant for your brand, register multiple TLDs and redirect them to the active domain.

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20. Don’t use numbers

Numbers and hyphens are often misunderstood and confused. People who hear your website don’t know if it’s a numeral (4) or if it’s spelled out (four) or if you mean a completely different word – for. This was a big trend years ago and it can cause a lot of issues. Make sure you register all versions of your domain if it has a number, then redirect the “incorrect” versions to your active domain.

21. Don’t use hyphens or dashes

If you want a domain name and it’s not available, DO NOT simply add a dash between the two words and “call it good.” Using a dash in a domain name is the #1 worst thing you can do, in my opinion. Basically, you’ll make everyone remember the bigger and more established website and nobody will remember yours. If you really need a dash in your domain name, make sure you can register the version without a dash and redirect it to your live dashed domain.

22. Stay away from acronyms unless your business is widely known by the acronym

Only consider an acronym if your business is widely known and branded by the acronym, like UPS. Turning your business name into an acronym may sound helpful, but it’s tough to remember and people use your domain to remember your business name and use your business name to remember your website. If they cannot remember either, then you’ve made a big mistake

An exception here is if your business targets an industry in business-to-business (B2B) or sells a product(s) which is more commonly abbreviated. For an example, a veterinary supply company could benefit from having DVM (doctor of veterinary medicine) in their business name and domain name, but a company selling pet products directly to consumers would not benefit from DVM.

23. Append or modify if necessary

If you’ve tried everything you can think of but you still want a specific .com (or other TLD) domain name, consider appending or modifying the domain name a little to make it unique for registration.

You can add a prefix or suffix, such as: shop, the, get, eat – just to list a few.

Another tip: List the positive feelings and thoughts you want your customers to associate with your business. Append your domain using one of those words, such as: friendly, fast, family, nerdy, etc.

The key here is to make sure the non-appended version of the domain name is not being used by a similar type of business (preferably not used at all).

24. Get the common misspellings and alternate spellings of your domain

If you choose a domain name that has words that commonly get misspelled, register the common misspellings or alternate spellings of the words in your domain name and redirect them to your domain.

Some common examples of misspellings:

  • US vs. UK spellings of words like: color / colour, favorite / favourite
  • Words that have a double letter, such as “R” are commonly misspelled
  • Words that have two acceptable spellings, such as: doughnut / donut, adapter / adaptor, adviser / advisor

It’s also a good idea to do a Google search for each word in your domain name. Search for “common misspellings ____” and “common mistyping ____” to make sure you get it all covered.

25. Buy an existing domain

If the domain name you want for your business website is already taken, you may be able to purchase it from the person who currently has it registered. This is a much different process than registering an unregistered domain name. If the domain you want currently doesn’t have an active website, there is a chance you can contact the person who owns it and ask them to sell it to you. When purchasing this type of domain, you can expect to pay much more than the base registration fee. When we’ve helped clients purchase an existing domain name, we’ve seen the owners have selling prices from $125, to $450, to $2500, to $5000, and the highest asking price we’ve seen is $32,000.

26. Don’t register a trademarked or copyrighted name or word

Choose a domain name you can actually legally own. Research your domain name to make sure you’re not including any trademarked or copyrighted product names or business names. You could find yourself in legal trouble if you try to start a website and advertise your business using words, products, or services in your domain name that are owned by another company.

27. Check the domain history via Wayback Machine

When registering a domain name, it is a good idea to look back through the history of the domain name to see what type of website has previously been live on the domain name. Wayback Machine is a great tool that let’s you look back on the domain’s history and see snapshots of what the domain’s website looked like at various points in the past.

It’s a good idea to go back through each month in the Wayback Machine timeline to make sure you’re okay with the types of websites that had previously used at your new domain name.

Ultimately, most types/themes of websites should be fine for you going forward – The biggest thing to look for are any websites that look like they were trying to steal identities or used to sell illegal items or services.

searchcentered.com Wayback Machine timeline

searchcentered.com Wayback Machine timeline. We rebranded to Search Centered Digital Marketing in 2019. searchcentered.com had no history before we registered the domain

28. Check the domain WHOIS history

WHOIS is a public database that houses the information collected when someone registers a domain name or updates their DNS settings.

Visit whois-history.whoisxmlapi.com, create a free account, and use the WHOIS History Search tool to lookup your desired domain name. With this service you can see the entire WHOIS history of the domain name, including who registered the domain (if the info is public), how many different registrars the domain name has been registered at, and how many times the domain name has changed hands.

searchcentered.com WHOIS History Tool

searchcentered.com in the whoisxmlapi.com Domain Research Suite WHOIS History Tool

29. Pick a trusted domain registrar

Going for the cheapest domain registrar isn’t always the best move when it comes to choosing where to register your domain. We register our domains with Namecheap, and that’s the registrar we recommend to our clients. Namecheap has good prices and they always have domain registration coupons available, as well. Namecheap began in 2000 with a mission to deliver the best domains at the best prices with the best service. They also offer many other services now, but they’re definitely our go-to for domain names.

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That said, Namecheap does not offer every TLD available, as many TLDs are only licensed to a few companies for registration and some ccTLDs require proof of business organization to register a domain for some specific countries.

30. Consider enabling WHOIS protection & private domain registration

Under ICANN rules (the organization that regulates domain names), all domain names must have publicly viewable contact information assigned to them. This is the information you provided when registering your domain. This info includes: your name, address, phone number, and email address.

When all of this information is public, spammers can – and do – scrape these details and will spam you via email, via phone, and via real mail.

Most domain registrars offer WHOIS and domain ID protection. This is a service that will replace your domain registration information with intermediary information through the domain registrar – this means the domain registrar itself will become the manager of your domain’s public information and they will automatically deal with all the spam and they will manage any official communications from ICANN and other required domain-related information.

With many domain registrars, this is a paid service ~$5-$15 per year. Our top pick domain registrar, Namecheap, offers this as a free service with every domain registration. Simply select the free service at checkout and make sure to “flip the switch” in your domain management dashboard.

Namecheap Domain ID protection

Enable WHOIS protection and private domain registration in Namecheap

31. Set your domain to auto-renew registration

When you register your domain name, you can select how long you want to register it for – generally from 1 year to 10 years. If you know you’re going to be in business and you have the money to spend, register it for a long as possible. This means you won’t have to renew it every year.After your registration period is up, you will need to renew the domain name.

If you do not renew it by the renewal date, it will become inactive and your website will not load. Your domain registrar will give you a grace period – anywhere between 30 days and 75 days for you to reactivate and renew it (sometimes with an additional fee), then it will become available for anyone to register if you have not renewed it. Once the domain name is registered by someone else – it is their domain now, not yours. Be aware, there are companies who specifically try to poach expired domain names, then attempt to resell them to the former registrant or business for very large prices. Don’t let your domain name expire.

Stay safe by turning on the auto-renew option within your domain registrar. Nearly all domain registrars give you this option.

32. Consider the corresponding social media handles and accounts

When you’re registering your domain name, also consider which social media channels and accounts you want to use and check to make sure that all of the relevant social media accounts are available to match your domain name as closely as possible. There’s nothing worse than grabbing a great domain name, just to find that ALL of the social media handles for your new domain are already taken (Note – sometimes you can buy unused social media accounts).

KnowEm is a fantastic service that lets you to check your brand, product, personal name, or username on over 500 established popular and new social media websites and platforms. They have a premium service offering that will register all of these accounts for you to help protect your brand by securing your brand. For a business, this service is well-worth the time you will save.

33. Run a language check

It might seem odd to search for the meaning of your domain name in multiple languages, but there are many examples of words that mean nothing of note in English, but are considered odd or even offensive in other languages.

It may be an urban legend, but the legend of the Chevy Nova fits here – and probably would not be only a legend if it were created today. In Spanish, “no va” means “no go.” Regardless of legend or not, you probably don’t want a business or domain name that means something different in another language, especially if that other language is a widely spoken language in your service area.

34. Check how your domain name reads when written and typed out

I remember a non-profit initiative that was adopted by a lot of local restaurants in the early 20-teens. The initiative had the goal to use less straws because they’re a one-use piece of plastic that are widely unnecessary. Their website was bestrawfree.org. But, depending who looks at that domain name, you may see:

  • BeStrawFree.org – obviously about using less straws
  • BestRawFree.org – Uhh… Is that free sashimi website or a porn website?

Make sure the words in your domain name don’t combine to become other words when viewed in the written or typed form.

35. Businesses and people don’t own domain names

Nobody really owns a domain name. Not in the same way that they own a car or inventory. Rather than “own” a domain, you register it, giving you the exclusive right to use the domain name. This is just something to keep in mind when registering your domain name.

Now go get that great domain name!

Now that you know some important guidelines, the next steps are brainstorming, research, and seeing what domains are available. As you go through this process, be sure to brainstorm some back-up names in case the domain name you want isn’t available.

Taking the first step is sometimes the most difficult. Take your time and do your research when completing this first, and very important step, of creating your website!

Note: If you register a domain through Namecheap via link in this article, they give me like $1, at no cost to you – but I wouldn’t recommend them, if I didn’t actually use and prefer their service.

Have a great, funny, or horrible domain story?

Share your domain name stories in the comments. I love hearing about the funny and horrible things about running a business we can all related to as small business owners.

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