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Choosing the right domain name

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They're a tiny thing domain names; just a handful of letters and words you will spend hours, days and maybe even weeks agonising over if you really want your website to succeed. The web has been one of the fastest growing media formats for over a decade and already so many of the best names have been claimed, leaving you wondering just what to do about that critical website address. If you're not sure about the difference between websites and domains, take a look at the linked blog post.

Choosing the right domain name - Keep it short

There's a simple rule with domain names; keep it short. Think about the best known websites like Ebay, Google or Amazon, most of them leave no clue as to what they're actually for, but the creators avoided the temptation to go for ebayonlineauctions.com or amazon-the-book-dvd-game-and-electronics-store.com. Why? Because such long domain names aren't easy to remember off the top of your head, and the more letters and words there are in there the more likely someone is to miss-type it and not be able to find the website at all. Few businesses can expect to build a brand as strong as these monsters, but always keep it simple; ebayauction.com or googlesearch.com are both strong domain names and well suited to any size of business.

Choosing the right domain name - Be descriptive

Google and the others have the benefit of colossal brand recognition, so almost everyone who uses the Net knows the companies services by just a single word, but few others can aspire to that so consider keeping your name descriptive; smithsplumbing.com or daveswebdesign.com both tell a clear story and help customers remember your web address.

What if your domain is taken?

There's a range of options to consider when your ideal domain name turns out to be taken for the next ten years, firstly bear in mind that your web address doesn't have to end in .com, so if you have missed out on davetheplumber.com maybe davetheplumber.co.uk or davetheplumber.eu will do the job. You could get really creative, for example using the domain ending for Eritrea gives you www.davetheplumb.er; there are plenty of suffixes to choose from and you don’t have to be based in Eritrea to have one of their domains!

If you really want that .com on the end though consider some alternatives; plumbingbydave.com might work, or go more descriptive such as greatplumbingservices.com or with a location such as londonplumbing.com.

Most domain name provider websites will have a free search system for you to check new domain name ideas, and they often make alternative suggestions. If you are using a web designer or small business marketing expert they should make suggestions as well.

A last resort is to pay out; many owners of domain names have gone out of business, have alternative domain names or have never made use of their purchase, make them an offer (you can find their details in something called the "WHOIS" registry) and maybe they'll hand the domain name over, some sell for just £20, others can go for thousands.

Dashes, dots and freebies

Another popular solution to the domain already taken issue is to throw in some punctuation such as smiths-plumbing.com, this is really asking for trouble since people will be more likely to remember "smithsplumbingdotcom" rather than "smithsdashplumbingdotcom", so you're just sending work to your competitor in typos.

Other dots can turn up in domain names too, especially free domain names which can be found bundled in with web hosting or Internet provider services, so you end up with a domain name something like smithsplumbing.freedomain.com. Besides being un-memorable and guaranteeing further typos, this is an unattractive solution for a company that wants to be viewed as professional, with domain names costing as little as £2 per year, settling for a free one screams cheapskate!

Keep it simple, give it your time, play around with domain name suggestion search tools and ask friends for ideas, there's always a good solution out there to be found and getting it right will make marketing your website online that much easier. Choosing the right domain name could be the best investment you make.

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