You’ve claimed your Yelp page, listed your business with Google+, Yahoo, Bing and all the major local listing services and now you’re ready to take the plunge and create a full-fledged website for your local business. The first thing you’ll need to do is select a domain name. This is a critical step, and one you should navigate very carefully. Once established, it’s very difficult and expensive to go back and change a domain name.
What is a Domain Name?
Your domain name is the key part of your website Uniform Resource Locator (URL), that customers type into the address bar of their browser in order to get to your site. By adding http://www. to your domain name, it becomes your URL. Your domain name may be part or all of your business name, or could be something else entirely. Here are some considerations for selecting a domain name.
Include a Location or Keyword
Consider what customers might type into a search box when searching for you online. Chances are someone looking for a hair salon in Bakersfield will type in something like hair salon Bakersfield, and domains containing those words are going to be the first ones to pop up after the paying advertisers. Instead of simply choosing KrazyKuts.com, for instance, you might select KrazyKutsBakerfieldHairSalon.com.
Select Multiple Domains
It’s possible to have multiple domains, and have the additional domains simply forward the user to the main domain website. So if KrazyKutsBakersfieldHairSalon.com is too long for your regular customers to type in, you could also have KrazyKuts.com as a shorter version. Domain registration is typically less than $20 a year per domain, and no matter how many domains you have, you’re only paying for hosting of one website.
Don’t Make it Too Complicated
It might seem cool to come up with some unusual or exotic name for your business, but you will quickly tire of having to spell out the name for people over the phone. And customers who misspell your name online may inadvertently end up on a competitor’s website. If your business does have an exotic name, you might consider leaving it out of your domain entirely. A bar and grille called Xanadu might choose to use something like BestBurgersinBiloxi.com instead, when selecting a domain name. Also, leave out any dashes and numbers, as they will only complicate things.
Investigate Potential Domain Names
Before settling on a selection, be sure to investigate your new domain’s past history on www.whois.net. You don’t want to end up with a domain whose previous owner managed to get it banned on Google due to violations of protocol, or one that had to be forfeited because it infringed on someone’s trademark. You can also purchase domains at that site, along with web hosting services.
Where to Get a Domain Name
This is the easiest part of the journey. The best known services are GoDaddy, Web.com and Google. Nearly every web hosting service also offers domain registration. Many offer a free domain name when you sign up with them. Alternatively, some domain registry services offer free limited web page hosting if you purchase a domain from them. Before purchasing your domain, you should decide where you want to host your website and find out if they offer a free domain.
What About Other Extensions?
When you purchase your domain name you will doubtless be offered a whole suite of other domain extensions, such as .net, .biz, .tv and others. First of all, if you can’t get the .com version of your desired name, try a different one. Sometimes just adding a word such as buy or try to the front of your domain makes all the difference. Or consider adding a keyword or location or both. If you go with anything other than .com, a large chunk of your marketing efforts will go to the benefit of the owner of the .com. That said, unless you’re a very large business with high brand visibility, you probably won’t get any benefit from purchasing the other domain extensions along with your .com, although it doesn’t hurt.
Renewing Your Domain
Domains can be renewed annually, or you can pay for five years (or more) up front, and you won’t have to think about it again for five years. While your domain registrar will no doubt send you a reminder when it’s time to renew, don’t bet the farm on it. Mark a calendar or make yourself some sort of reminder so that you don’t risk losing your domain. There’s a whole online industry of domain snipers ready to swoop in and purchase domains that hapless owners have unwittingly allowed to expire. They will then offer to sell you back your $12 domain for several thousands of dollars, or take advantage of your years of SEO marketing work by selling advertising on your site.
Remember, once you purchase your domain and start building your site, there’s no turning back without forfeiting a lot of money and a lot of hard work. Your web presence is a valuable commodity, so choose your domain wisely. It’s going to be with you for a long, long time.