7 tips on choosing the right domain name for your business

To have a successful business it is important to grow your brand presence and online identity right from the beginning. Phil Kingsland of Nominet, the registry for .uk, looks at the key points to consider when choosing the right domain name for your business.

4th December 2009 at 7:47 am

1. Choose your domain name quickly
UK domain names are being registered at a rate of three every minute. They are allocated on a first-registered, first-served basis. Delay in choosing your domain name could mean someone else gets there first.

You can check the availability of all .uk domain names, by going to the home page of Nominet, the domain registry for .uk and using the WHOIS search facility: www.nominet.org.uk.

If the domain name is not available in any of the suffixes, you could try and contact the current registrant to see if they would be willing to sell the name to you. If the domain name includes your registered trademark you may consider using Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service to try and obtain the domain name.

2. Choose a name that suits your business

You should choose your domain name so that it best represents your company’s interests. Think about domain names that solve a problem or names that describe the products or services your company provides. For example, adventuretravel.co.uk, distinguishes your company from other travel companies, by showing that you specialise in a certain type of holiday.

3. Think about branding and keywords
Short memorable brand names are effective, especially if relevant to the personality of a business brand. If you keep the name short and snappy it is also less likely that people will misspell it and more likely that they will remember it and pass it on via word of mouth. For the same reasons it’s a good idea to keep the number of words in a domain name to two or three at most.

There is some debate about whether it’s better to choose a domain name that contains keywords, that will increase your search engine optimisation, or to focus on a name that is more generic or related to your brand.

If your target audience are unable to find your web site, they are likely to turn elsewhere.

With this in mind, if you are particularly interested in attracting customers via search engines it is advisable to choose a name that is a keyword. Choose keywords that are the names of the products or services you will be offering on your web site.

4. Decide which Top Level Domain (TLD) to use
Companies based in the UK usually register a domain name ending in .co.uk. Recent research carried out earlier this year by Ciao Surveys, suggests that British Internet users are 77% more likely to choose a .uk rather than a .com address when looking for information via an Internet search engine.

There are however a number of other alternatives including .com or other Second Level Domains such as .org.uk (for non-commercial organisations), .me.uk (for individuals), .ltd.uk and .plc.uk (for Ltd and Plc companies) and .com, .info and others for generic usage.

5. Register your domain name in other suffixes
It’s a good idea to register several variations of your domain name, so someone does not come in at a later stage and capitalise on your brand name using another major domain name type.

The more variations you register, the more chance you have of capturing traffic to your web site and preventing people registering similar domain names to trade off your brand’s reputation.

6. Take account of hyphens
If your ideal choice of domain name is not available, you might consider using a hyphenated version. One advantage of using them is that hyphens are said to identify keywords to search engines more clearly. The disadvantages of using hyphens are it makes your domain name harder to remember and more difficult to tell to a customer (e.g. on the telephone). So, consider using both the hyphenated and unhyphenated form.

7. Keep your domain name up to date
If you fail to renew a domain name before it expires, there is a real chance of it being lost to online hijackers. You could end up spending a lot of time and resources trying to get it back, or having to rebrand.

Pay attention to domain name maintenance. Protect your online brand against infringement by ensuring you keep your domain name registrations up to date. Registrations of .uk domains are made for a period of 2 years. Always remember to check that your contact details are correct in the WHOIS and that you know when it is due for renewal.

There is a quick and easy way to check when and how you need to renew your domain name – just visit http://www.keepyour.co.uk/.

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Phil joined Nominet in March 2006 with 15 years experience in marketing and sales for high technology companies. He is responsible for developing and implementing Nominet's marketing and communications strategy, raising the profile of .uk and defining Nominet's position in the global Internet industry. http://www.nominet.org.uk

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