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How to Choose a Domain Name for Your Business Website

A website’s domain name (also know as a website address or URL) is an important consideration when developing your online presence. Choosing an appropriate domain name is the first step in the process of building online credibility. Remember to choose carefully because this online address may be where your business resides for the rest of its operating life. Now, some important tips to consider before choosing your domain name:

Choosing Your Domain Extension
A domain extension or top level domain is simply the suffix of your website address: (.com, .net, .org, .ca, etc.) Most Internet users are familiar with the “.com” extension, and will generally use this extension by default when typing an address into their browser. Choosing a “.com” extension should be your fist choice in case your potential customers forget that your address is “www.mybusiness.NET”, and visit your competitor at “www.mybusiness.COM” by mistake. Choosing the “.com” extension gives your website the most credibility in the eyes of your customers.

If your business only caters to the local community, then it makes sense to get a country specific domain name, such as the “.ca” extension. A country specific domain benefits you in two ways: both your customers and search engines such as Google will know that your website is registered to a Canadian and operates in Canada. Potential customers will feel more comfortable knowing that they are dealing with a Canadian company, and not a U.S. based business pretending to be a Canadian company. Also, search engines will give your website higher placement in the search results when a user is performing a Canadian specific search.

I personally recommend that my clients, if possible, register both the “.com” AND “.ca” extension. This way, your Canadian based website will benefit from using the “.ca” extension, while at the same time ensuring that they reach your website if they accidentally type the “.com” extension into their browser.

Using Your Business Name
The first choice for any domain name would be your business’ name. This ensures that your customers will remember your website’s address. You can’t expect your potential customers to remember a phrase that just relates to your business.

Choosing Choice Keywords
Including specific keywords in your website’s address will help your rankings in popular search engines such as Google or Yahoo. It is best to choose a keyword that you think your potential customers will use to search for your business. A search engine optimization (SEO) professional such as Cost Effective Design can assist you in choosing your keyword (s). These type of domain names are used in instances where the client does not want to use the business name because it is either already registered by another company, or the company name is simply too long. Any company that is serious about generating traffic through search engines should acquire a domain name with a keyword in addition to your business name.

Don’t Confuse Your Customers
If possible, try not to use domain names that include: “2” for “To” or “4” for “For” or “u” for “You”. These may make your domain look “cool” or “hip”, but in reality they are not very practical. These domain names create a problem when directing your clients to your website verbally or over the phone. For example, if you owned UsedCars4U.com, every time you verbally directed someone to your website, you would have to specify that the URL uses the actual number 4, and letter U.

To Use, Or Not to Use Hyphens
Given that more and more businesses are registering domain names every day, getting the website address you want is becoming increasingly difficult. One or two word domain names are usually already registered, forcing new registrants to choose URLs containing three or four words. To some people, these URLs can look like a big mess of words. Using hyphens in between the words can make them visually more appealing. For example, “www.used-cars-for-you.com, looks better than “www.usedcarsforyou.com. The jury is still out on hyphenated domain names. The advantages are that they look better and search engines can easily distinguish the separate keywords for better search placements, but the disadvantages are that they are difficult to verbally communicate and type.
The best solution would be to register both the hyphenated, and the un-hyphenated version of the domain name to ensure that there is no confusion.

Domain Name Length
Even though you are allowed to use 67 characters for a domain name, the general rule of thumb is: shorter is better. Although, in some instances, the website address may be more memorable if it is more descriptive. For example a domain consisting of initials only, such as “www.waa.com”, may not create a lasting impression compared to the domain name “www.windsorautoassociation.com”. Therefore, it is best to choose a name that, while short, contains enough description for your customers to easily remember.

Buying an Existing Domain Name
Maybe the domain name you really want is already registered, either by a legitimate company, or by a “domain squatter” who merely registered the name to sell for a profit at a later date. You can make an offer for these types of domains, although they make cost several hundred, or even thousands of dollars. There are advantages to purchasing an existing domain name. In addition to getting the domain you want, it may also rank highly in the search engines for certain keywords and / or generate topic specific traffic that you will benefit your business.

About the Author
Paul Coulter owns and operates a Custom Web Design Service in Windsor, Ontario. To view more articles written by Paul, visit his business website, Cost Effective Design.

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