I know I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again: Every business needs a Web site. Since most of you are already business owners, I’d like to assume you already have a Web site out there, but apparently nearly half of all businesses do not have a Web presence!
Whether your goal is to build a new Web site for an existing business, to promote a new concept or product, or to launch a new business entirely, the first step to building your Web site is to come up with an effective name for it. Unfortunately, that’s not as easy as it used to be.
According to the latest Domain Name Industry Brief (PDF) published by VeriSign, a leading Internet infrastructure services provider, at the end of June there were 168 million top-level domain names registered worldwide, up 22 percent from the same time last year. From January to June of this year, 25.7 million new domain names were registered, compared to 33 million registered in all of 2007. It’s no wonder then, when you go to register the “great name” you’ve come up with, it’s so often already taken.
So how do you come up with the best domain name for your business? To get some answers, I talked to Michael Schultz, director of marketing and product management for Microsoft’s Office Live Small Business. Schultz says there are three main components of selecting the best domain name for your business. The first is to “choose a name that’s easy to spell, easy to remember, and says something about your business.” Keep it short, he advises, since longer URLs are a distraction and prone to misspellings. Many experts recommend you restrict your primary domain name to 20 characters or less.
If you can’t think of (or can’t get) the perfect name, Schultz shares these five smart tips:
- Create a fanciful name by putting together two common words (of course choose words that convey the spirit of your business) like BlueDog or BigVoice.
- Choose a name inspired by words from another language.
- Think of a name inspired by a geographic location.
- Ask your friends and family for ideas.
- Put together descriptive words related to your industry, like Whole Foods or PetWash.
Second, Schultz says make sure you buy the “.com” extension, because “it says business.” Once you get the .com, consider buying the other extensions (.net, .biz, etc.) and the common misspellings of your domain name. Lastly, watch out for hidden fees from site registration services. Only go to a trusted source to buy your URL.
If the name you really want is already taken, is it worth it to buy the name from its owner? Shultz says yes … sometimes. “It’s worth asking the owner of the name if they’re interested in selling it.” Be sure to negotiate. People might be more open to selling URLs they’re not using these days, but don’t let your emotional attachment to a site name interfere with your business sense. (As much as I’d like to own rieva.com, it’s not worth the $6,000 selling price.)
Some business owners get caught in the trap of thinking their business name and their domain name have to match. They don’t. Schultz advises you think of your potential URL as more than just a name, but as a descriptive call to action as well. And, he adds, think locally. For example, a plumber might choose as his or her URL “BestPlumberOnWestside.com.”
Once you buy your domain, your job isn’t over. Remember that your URL is your Internet identity. Use it as your e-mail address. Schultz advises that your domain name appear on your business cards, in your e-mail signature, and on all your marketing materials and other business collateral. And spread the word. Get registered on all the search directories, social networking sites, and rating sites like Yelp or Angie’s List. Ask your customers to go to the various rating sites and rate their experiences with your business.
Domain names are cheap enough that you can buy one whenever you get a good idea, years before you actually start the business. I own around two dozen URLs. Some may never see the light of day, but I have high hopes for a few of them.
No more excuses. Coming up with a domain name is fun, easy, and inexpensive. How many business activities can you say that about?
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