Choosing Domain Names for Your Business

Letís say that youíre creating a website for Barbís Specialty Pet Products. Should the domain name be barbsspecialtypetproducts.com?

Perhaps ó but donít stop there. Having the right domain name, or domain names, can bring more traffic to your site.

Why more than one domain name?

One domain is all you need to set up a website. But with more domains directing to your site, you can have these additional benefits:

- Bring site visitors who type variations of your domain name

- Acquire traffic that might otherwise go to your competition

- Harness the marketing power of keyword domains

Your primary domain name

If itís feasible, use your business or brand name in your primary domain. People will remember it and associate it with your business. Also consider the following factors when choosing your primary domain.

Domain name extensions

Should your primary domain end with .com, .net, or .biz, or with a country-specific extension such as .ca or .co.uk?

If your website is aimed at people in a specific country, having a country-specific domain can help:

- Site visitors will recognize right away that the business has a presence in the country of the extension. They may therefore be more comfortable buying from you.

- Some country-specific search results include sites with the relevant country-specific domain extension even if the site isnít hosted in that country.

On the other hand, if youíre targeting an international audience, a country-specific domain could work against you. People from outside the country of the extension may be less inclined to buy if the business looks foreign to them.

If you want to attract both people within your country and those in other countries, have both. Each domain could direct to the same site, with each audience seeing the domain intended for them. For country-specific search results, the primary domain should be the country-specific one.

Chances are that the .com domain you want is already taken. If you use the .net or .biz version, you risk having potential site visitors go to your .com competition instead. Be sure to use the full domain name on all promotional material to reduce this risk.

Domain name length

A short domain is easier to remember, it has less risk of being mistyped, and itíll fit easily on your business cards and correspondence.

Conversely, if a short name doesnít represent your business, itís more difficult for people to remember. The short names you like may already be taken anyway.

If your business name is up to three easy-to-spell words, itíll probably work as a domain name. For a longer business name, the initials or just one or two words may be easier than remembering a combination of words.

Secondary domain names

Secondary domains directing to your site are for online use:

- For people who type your primary domain name incorrectly

- For people who search for your products or services online

Typing and spelling variations

How many ways can people spell and type your business name?

barbsspecialtypetproducts.com

barbs-specialty-pet-products.com

barbspecialtypetproducts.com

barbsspecialitypetproducts.com

barbsspecialitypetproducts.com

barbspecialtyproducts.com

barbspecialtyproduct.com

Hyphens arenít recommended for your primary domain. When people tell others about your site, theyíre likely to omit the hyphens. They may also forget to type them.

For secondary domains, hyphens make long domains easier to read. Each word stands out when people see your domain. However, domains such as buy-keyword-product-now make some people view hyphenated domains, especially those with more than one hyphen, as spam-like.

Having the words in domains separated may help some search engines recognize keywords. With Google, though, hyphens donít make any difference.

Consider all of these variations for secondary domain names:

- With and without hyphens

- Different ways of spelling some words

- Singular and plural versions of nouns

- Extensions with .com and .net as well as a country-specific extension if relevant

What people search for

If you want to find the website for Time magazine, you might do a search for it, or you might try typing in time.com. If you do the latter, youíll find yourself at the Time site.

This type of search behavior extends to generic words too. Searching for dog collars? Try dogcollar.com, for example, and youíll be redirected to dogidcollar.com. Do you want life insurance? Lifeinsurance.com redirects to nmfn.com (and so does northwesternmutualfinancialnetwork.com).

While having keyword domain names may not draw a lot of site visitors, using them is a technique to consider.

How to use more than one domain

Set up your website with your primary domain, and use that domain on your correspondence and with your customers.

Point secondary domains to your site using URL forwarding (also called domain forwarding, domain redirect, or URL redirect). To have the secondary domain appear in the browser, use domain masking. You can set up these features when you log in to your account with your domain registrar (if your registrar offers these services).

With domains that are simply variations of your primary domain, you can expect additional traffic just from having set up these domains. With domains that contain keywords, you can get more from them by using them to list your site in online directories. When these domains appear in search results, searchers will see the keywords.

The next step

Once you decide on the available domains that you want, register them immediately. They might not be available tomorrow.

If you donít already have a business name, youíll find it easier to market your business online if you choose a primary domain and a business name together. If your first choice for a business name doesnít work well with any available domains, consider a business name that you can easily market with an available domain. Once youíve registered that domain name and your business name, register secondary domains and put them to use.

Is it worth registering multiple domains for one site? That depends on your site, but any variations that you donít register will be available for competitors to register and use. If a domain is valuable to a competitor, itís valuable to you.





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