Congrats! You just finalized your business idea. Your next step is to choose a business name so you can start the legal process. Before you settle on a name though, you may want to see if the domain name (for your website) is available. Many people think, “I’ll just buy MyBusinessName.com“. Well, good luck with that. Chances are it’s taken, and chances are the owner of that domain wants to sell it to you at an 18,000% profit. Choosing a domain name is not so easy.
The truth is, the more you search, the more you’ll realize there’s a whole business in buying and selling domain names at inflated prices. Much like the stock market. It feels as if every domain name is taken.
Fear not! I’m here to help you in your business name/domain name search.
When you’re forming your business, before you finalize your business name, I’d suggest you check if the domain name is taken as well. Your domain name doesn’t have to be the exact name of your business, but should somehow be related and memorable.
Is your business local?
If your business is locally based, you may be able to put your city or operating area in your domain name, for instance MyBusinessVegas.com. That would work just fine if your future plans are specific to Las Vegas, like a law firm that has no plans on expanding outside the area. However, if your big plan is to expand geographically (think positive!), then you definitely won’t want to limit yourself with a locally focused domain name. An example would be, if you want to start a whole slew of law offices up and down the West Coast, then you wouldn’t want to specify a city or state in the domain name. If your business is all about Las Vegas, like Vegas.com, then of course, it makes sense.
If you do plan on expanding in the future, I would also recommend against opening a new website for each city you plan on opening in. Keep your business to one domain. More on that in another blog.
TLD’s when searching for your domain name
You finally think you’ve honed in on a business name, and find out the .com is taken! Well, if you don’t mind getting a bit creative with the domain name extension, other options are available. The great thing here is that the Internet is now open to tons of “top level domains” (TLD’s), like .com, .net which are the most common. Now there are a bunch of others too- .co, .io, .vegas, etc.
Top Level extensions like .com and .net don’t do any better or worse for SEO, with one very important caveat! That caveat being that some TLD’s are country specific. They’re called ccTLD’s, the “cc” for Country Code. Examples are- .ca is Canada, .it is Italy, .br is Brazil. Google will expect those domains to contain content that should be related to that country’s area.
However, there are exceptions to country specific TLD’s that Google will treat at as generic, and not country specific. An example is .me, which is the country code for Montenegro. Since it’s catchy and popular, Google won’t think your .me website is a business in Montenegro (or about Montenegro). Here’s Google’s list of ccTLD’s that they treat as generic domain extensions (like .com or .net). Which means these are fine to get, even if you don’t operate in that country:
The above list is from the following link. Click “More about domain determination” (you’ll see that area expand) and you’ll see the country codes that are considered generic. Just in case they’ve updated their list since this blog.
A great tool you can use that will give you some different extensions is the domain name generator domainr. Domainr will help you get a bit creative. Start typing in your business name idea. It’ll give you some interesting results.
Check expiring domains
You’ve been searching for weeks for the perfect domain name so you can finally name your business, and now frustration is setting in. Like I mentioned before, tons of domain names are being bought each day. The good news is that tons of domains are expiring each day as well . Check the following link for expired domain names, and you may find a jewel. Possibly a new name for you business.
If you’ve found a domain name and you see it’s taken, you can use Whois to see when it’s expiring, though there is a grace period of about a month after it expires.
It can also help if you think outside our conventional vocabulary. Heck, you might want to think about making up a name. Ever hear the word Twitter (or tweeting for that matter?) before the microblogging company was formed? How about Waze, the social navigation app?
Another option is to combine 2 known words. Think YouTube, Facebook, Dropbox, Quickbooks. Sometimes you have to, [cough, cough]… combine a word with a made up word to be safe. That’s what I did with my company name.
You can search for a business name and domain name availability at the same time with some great online tools, like the business name generator from Shopify. Here’s another one from businessnamegenerator.com to help.
Domain names are cheap enough that if you even think you have a good one, go ahead and purchase it for a year. If you decide to settle on it, you can add more years. Make sure you register the domain name in your name! Not the person doing your website, not your assistant, not your ex. Make sure you have the login and the password in a safe place. Put the domain on auto-renewal when you buy it as you don’t want to lose it to those domain
If your credit card expires and the auto-renew doesn’t work, you should receive an email from the registrar. If you somehow forget to update the outdated credit card at your registrar, like I mentioned before, you’ll have about a month to renew before you lose it.
Hope this helps, and if you have a good story on how you got your domain name, I’d love to hear it!