Choosing Your Domain Name

As you plan your Web presence, an issue to deal with early on is your domain name. So let’s talk domain names! There are a few things that you ought to know about it.

To get to your Web site, visitors type in http:// followed by your domain name. You need to choose a domain name that’s available and list it with a registrar. Then it’s yours. To find out which domain names are available, go to the site of a domain name registrar, such as Network Solutions, and do a search. You can also purchase the domain name there, if it’s available. If you’d like to purchase a domain name that’s owned by someone else, that process is more complicated and expensive. Good domains sell for thousands and tens of thousands of dollars on the resale market.

Network Solutions is the oldest registrar of domain names, and they are one of the most expensive. But the cost difference ma be ten or twenty dollars a year between the most and least expensive, so that’s not a reason for choosing one or the other. As the most established registrar, it is possible that Network Solutions is likely to have more customer service and a better dispute resolution procedure in case some sort of dispute develops. That’s not a guarantee that you won’t have trouble, but it could be a reason to register with them.

Can your choice of domain names help or hurt your position in search engine results? You bet it can! Do some Google searches on a few terms you dream up, and look at the results. You’ll find that very often, the sites in the first positions in the search results have domain names that include or even match the query you entered! It’s quite evident that Google uses the domain name as an indication of what the site is about. If you can find a domain name that includes a popular search term in the topical area of your site, then that’s the way to go. Notice that my own domain name starts with webmarketing; that’s no accident, since web marketing is one of the terms used frequently for searches. My site doesn’t have very good search engine position yet, though, because my promotion campaign for it has just started.

If you’re fortunate enough to choose a domain name that echoes an important search term, you’ll save a lot of promotion effort getting good search engine position. However, these days we often find that the best domain names are taken, and we have to be content with something else.

You don’t have to have a domain name that ends in .com. Consider .org or .info if they suit the purpose of the site. Or if you’re a business site, there’s always .biz. And often you’ll find that .us is available; the suggestion that you’re nationwide can’t really hurt. Yes, we all want .com, but the other domains are a good way to have those keywords you want.

You’re going to put serious money and time into promoting your domain name, so it will become a valuable business asset. That makes it worthy of your personal protection. It’s a good idea for you to personally register your own domain name, pay for it yourself, and register yourself as all of the contacts. Many businesses that have sites let their Webmaster handle the registration. But if you might want to change Webmasters, if they’ve registered your site, they are in control of your domain name and the site. Or suppose there’s a disagreement about an invoice from the Webmaster. If you don’t pay the disputed invoice, your Webmaster could take your site off the air, and you’d have no quick recourse. So keep the registration in your own name and control it personally. Consider all the resources that you’re putting into building the site and building its reputation, and you’ll realize that your Web site is a significant asset that you must control personally.

Finally, when you register your domain name, be sure to register it for at least ten years. One good reason for doing this is that you won’t face the nuisance of needing to renew the registration every year, with the risk that you’ll overlook it and lose your domain name. But even if you’re perfectly organized and won’t forget to renew, note that Google uses the length of registration of your domain name as one indication of how committed you are to the business. If the owner is willing to pay for a ten-year registration, then this is a serious site–deserving of higher search engine position–at least in Google’s opinion. So go for a ten-year registration. An added benefit is that it’s cheaper per year than a shorter registration.

The Bottom Line

Choose a domain name that includes important search terms, register it yourself in your own name with yourself as all of the contacts, and register it for at least ten years.