What's your dot com?

Choose a Distinctive Domain

Kelly “Rags” Ragland is owner and operator of Rags to Stitches Productions, a holistic advertising-specialty company providing a range of services from web design and development to customized apparel.

Although many businesses and brands enjoy having a clear, easy and obvious option for a domain name, others discover that choosing an effective one can prove to be challenging. WalMart.com, for example, is a no brainer for Wal Mart but MJ’s Custom Embroidery and Baby Gifts, on the other hand, must find a creative and, likely, abbreviated solution.

Changing the rules

The golden rules from which to start include selecting a name that is easy to remember, is as brief as possible and one that suits your business model. While MJsCustomEmbroideryandBabyGifts.com rolls off the tongue quite nicely, it is clearly too long and cumbersome for potential customers and existing clients to remember. MJs.com would be a better choice however, without the apostrophe s, this could also lead to confusion. Keep in mind domain names can only use letters, numbers and dashes. Spaces and symbols are not allowed and domain names are not case sensitive. I’ve experienced confusion from clients for years having a simple dash in one of my own domains.

Another important element to consider is choosing a keyword-friendly domain name. EmbroiderybyMJ.com, for example, outfits the business name and includes the keyword embroidery. Though, bear in mind, Google has announced changes to be implemented in 2011 that will change their algorithm to rank pages with keyword-heavy domain names differently than they have in the past—a penalty we must deal with as a result of others who have abused the system. Will Bing, Yahoo! and others follow Google’s lead? It has been my observation over the years that the answer would be yes. And in short time.

Despite that little glimpse into the future of SEO and domain name keywords, I am still confident that a keyword-friendly domain name is a wise choice. Should the gurus of search engine algorithms decide that keyword-friendly domain names lose the ranking boost they once had, you still have a domain name that reflects your business and what you do. I would advise, however, to play on the safe side of the keyword game with the search engines and to keep it simple. EmbroiderybyMJ.com tells the story with a quick keyword and identity, as opposed to EmbroideryInMichiganbyMJ.com which might trigger any of the algorithm changes we’re being warned about.

Decisions, decisions

If your particular situation demands it, consider purchasing multiple domain names. With domains running as low as $7 per year, the investment could be more affordable and effective than you’d think. EmbroiderybyMJ.com doesn’t state anything about the baby gifts, so why not pick up BabyGiftsbyMJ.com as well? You can purchase as many domains as you’d like and direct all of them to the same website, or point them to specific pages within your site to effectively drive traffic to desired landing pages based on their interest.

Also consider whether a .com domain is necessary. The simple answer is no. EmbroiderybyMJ.net would work just as well as EmbroiderybyMJ.com. On the other hand, how many people type in or remember a domain name by .com as a force of habit? And, if the .com domain is not available, would your .net domain name be directing your potential customers to a competitor if they typed in .com? The smart move is obvious. Do your best to get a .com extension and, to avoid any future issues with a competitor, grab the .net domain as well.

Short side story: In early 2010 I discovered a website that was using the domain mydartshirt.com. I own mydartshirts.com and enjoy top-level rankings and high traffic from the darts community worldwide. Had it occurred to me that might happen, I would have purchased that domain years ago and avoided having to contact them and make the arrangements for them to discontinue that domain. As I mentioned previously, as low cost as domains are, taking the steps to cover your business with a few of them is a smart move.

www.yourbusinessname.com

The first step in registering a domain name is to visit WhoIs (http://www.whois.net/), a site that allows users to type in domain names and check for their availability. If your first choice is not available, you can then begin trying other options or modifying the name you’d prefer to use. A great tool to use during this process is the keyword-rich domain suggestion tool, found on http://www.webconfs.com/keyword-rich-domain-suggestions.php. This tool allows users to enter keywords and get results and suggestions that can make the process faster as well as offer domain names you may not have thought of.

Finally, before purchasing your domain name, consider the source. I personally have decided that GoDaddy is a stable, reliable and affordable choice. Plus it offers benefits with each registration such as free website hosting and credits for advertising on Google and Facebook. Other domain name providers include Namecheap.com, Yahoo! Small Business and Network Solutions. For an entire list to choose from as well as comparisons and reviews, log onto http://smallbusiness-domain.com.