Your domain name is a very important part of your online communication. It is essential to take a few hours to properly choose your main domain name and as a consequence, the name of your company and/or brand.
With over 20 years of experience in the domain industry, specially advising major companies in their domain and digital strategy, I’m offering you to share here my 15 tips to properly choose your domain name in 2019.
What is the best domain strategy ?
To be fully transparent with you, there is not!
The best strategy will be yours, once you have deliberately made the choices that led you where you are.
However, here is a list of things that will allow you to properly choose your domain name; when I say “domain name” I should be saying “domain names”, because you will quickly understand that registering a single domain name is not a very relevant strategy as registering millions.
I will not discuss here the marketing and strategic aspects in the choice of a domain name, it will be the subject of other articles.
Your domain name must respect some rules:
1. Simple and understandable
How can I be sure that my domain will be written properly by my customers? The simplest way is to ask your friends.
This is called the radio test: state out loud your domain name and at how your friends wrote it. You can also do the same with Siri, Alexa, Google and other AI system.
2. Short and easy to remember
Our brain, for the average person, is no longer accustomed and trained to memorize information. Who knows by heart their chosen one’s phone number? The answer is not so many! Why remembering when all you have to do is tap on his/her name or his/her photo!
The same goes with domain names when a prospect sees your ad on the street. If the name is simple, short and easy to remember, he will remember it when he gets home; otherwise he will have to do a search on his favorite search engine and potentially go see a competitor that will be better referenced.
3. No number
If this practice was fashionable and widespread in the 2000s, it is now proven that it is not wise to replace the “to” with “2”, “for” with “4” etc.
This rule joins the fist two by emphasizing on the simple aspect of your naming. Even if using number may seem “fun” at the beginning, it will quickly become a major issue in terms of brand protection.
4. No dash
There are several reasons for not putting a dash in your domain name.
First of all, dashes often rhyme with phishing, etc.
Then, Google (or other search engine) will consider that you are trying to over-optimize your website. This kind of practice are always resulting by SEO penalties which would be a shame for your new website!
5. Key words yes, but not too many!
It can be interesting to differentiate yourself by adding a descriptive keyword regarding your activity, your location in your SEO strategy. However beware of not being excessive since it will be heavily penalized by Google.
We will see in points 7 and 13 that many new extensions allow you to have a keyword directly in the extension like .paris, .london, .alsace, .email, .consulting, .archi, .shop, .app …
6. Relevant to your market
If you are located in France, it goes without saying that you must have a .FR extension, also if you are selling some products in Italy, it will be necessary to communicate on your .IT domain name.
Beyond your country of residence, you have to think in terms of market opportunity. Where are my clients? If I am in France and also have clients in Switzerland and Belgium, it is absolutely necessary to register my domain in .CH and .BE.
7. Related to your business activity
We have already partially mentioned this, but there are many extensions other than . fr, . com, . net etc. You can now clearly indicate your activity with your extension.
If you sell wine, go for a .wine. You’re in the consulting industry? A chance we have a .consulting! Some more example with .design, .immo, .pub, .shop or .casino, .ski, .coffee... there are more than 900 extensions of this type, no doubt you will find your happiness.
8. Related to your development strategy
There is nothing worse than arriving in a country and finding out that its domain is already taken by a third party in its national extension.
You will thus avoid any last minute disappointment by anticipating your domain registration according to your global development strategy.
9. Not too generic
The use of a generic term in your domain name is, in my opinion, an error in your branding position. Of course, there are always exceptions such as hotels.com for example, but do you have the marketing budget for this?
What will make you stand out from your rivals if you are using generic terms? Nothing and that’s the problem!
Choose a domain name that will be specific to your brand and will match your values, your message or that won’t have a particular meaning but will sound good.
If your brand name or your family name includes a dash, it is important, regarding the cyber-squatting and the phishing, to register both the dashed and not dashed version of it.
Your main domain name will be the dash-less version and the other versions will be redirected with a 301 to your domain.
11. Watch out for brands
There are so-called “notorious” brands whose reputations are well established and whose existence is known to everyone. On the other hand, there are many brands around the world that you probably never heard of.
However if you register a domain name that is identical to a brand naming, you might not be able to keep it for very long! In order to prevent yourself from this kind of unfortunate misadventures, it is preferable to check first the National Intellectual Property Office.
- Of your country, for example the INPI in France
- The EUIPO for European trademarks
- The EUIPO for international brands
12. Think of translation if you are seeking for an international market
As soon as your company exports its products and services abroad, it is important to ask yourself how your naming will be understand internationally.
You will find many examples on the internet especially concerning the car industry.
Let’s sick for an example : When KFC first arrived in China, the slogan “Finger lickin’ good” became “Eat your fingers”. Pretty bad right?
13. Alternatives to .com
Not having your .com is embarrassing but not insurmountable. It is increasingly difficult to find short, simple and memorable domain names in the first global extension.
It should be noted that .com alone represents nearly 142.5 million domain names, or 40% of the global extensions.
To give you an idea, China is in second place with only 23 million .cn, and France has only 3.4 million .fr.
Some country extensions have become alternatives over time, such as .io, .tv, .co among others, which like the new extensions discussed previously, are treated the same way by Google as a .com.
14. Buying a domain name from someone
If your. com is already taken and you absolutely want to have it, know that it is possible, as it is in real estate, to buy a domain name from its current owner.
After having identified whether it was clearly put on sale on an auction site for example, you can start negotiations.
The value of a domain name is defined only by your interest in it.
15. Living with cyber-squatting
You will not be able to register all variants of your domain name financially and technically.
Example: mondomaine.fr is my main site, so a malicious person could register my-domaine.fr or mondomaine-fr.fr or m0ndomaine.fr (the 0 being close to the capital O), mmondomaine.fr etc.
You have to learn to live with the idea, that somewhere potentially, someone has recorded the same term as you under another extension. As long as there is no phishing, for example, it is not a serious issue.
However, it is important to act as soon as you become aware of a fraudulent use.
What to remember is:
- Simple and Understandable
- Short and easy to remember
- May contain a keyword
- Fit with your market and business
- In line with your development strategy
- Thinking about security
- Do not omit alternatives to .com
- Buy a domain name from someone
- Living with cyber-squatting
- Use of numbers
- Include dashes
- Too many keywords
- Generic domain
- Omit the existing brands
- Forget the translation
- Having to buy a domain name
- Undergo cyber-squatting
Where can I buy my domain name?
You must go through a Registrar such as Netim in order to register your domain name and then be able to use it to put your website online, use it in your personalized email addresses and then proudly display it on your business cards, vehicles, etc.
If you want to know more about the hierarchy of institutions, you can read our article on Understanding the hierarchy of institutions Registry, Registrar, Reseller and Registrant