Top five tips to choosing the right domain name for your startup

Oliver Milman | Startup Smart

If you’re a start-up business, it’s unlikely that you’ll be rushing to get one of the new top-level domain names that have been made available.

While a US start-up called Donuts generated headlines this week after applying for 307 domain names, the business had the rare luxury of having $100 million in the bank after a capital raise.

With the new domains, which replace suffixes such as .com with monikers such as .hotel, .baby and .shop, going for up to $185,000, it’s not surprising it has been the likes of Google, which is reportedly after .google and .youtube, that have led the charge.

But even if you can’t afford such a suffix, that doesn’t mean that your website domain name shouldn’t be a carefully thought-out choice.

So if you’re in the process of choosing a domain name, here are five top tips to help you along the way:

1. Go local first

There are countless domain suffixes out there, ranging from the familiar .com and .com.au to .biz, .tv, .info and so on.

So, which one to go for? As a rule of thumb, .com.au should be your priority, followed closely by .com if you hope to sell your products or services overseas.

“The best known suffix for Australian consumers is .com.au,” explains Fred Schebesta, founder of Finder.com.au.

“It brings trust with it, because you need an ABN to get a .com.au suffix. Google recognises this and trusts it more. Other countries don’t have this requirement, so it’s harder for spammers to use a .com.au site.”

“Suffixes such as .info and .biz are a little salubrious and known for spam. Anything with hyphens doesn’t look good, either.”

Scott Robinson, founder of digital marketing agency The Box, adds that Australian businesses looking to expand into overseas markets should look at whether their domain name is available with the .com suffix.

“You need to be careful not to have 50 different derivatives, as it will cost you a lot of money and you won’t get much value from it.”

2. Keep it snappy

Look at Google, eBay, Amazon. All short, snappy and memorable titles. Even if your business name is, for example, Total Sydney Network Solutions Ltd, that doesn’t mean that you need to include all of this in your URL.

“Ideally, you want to keep your domain under seven characters,” says Schebesta. “If someone asks for your website and you tell them something that’s 15 characters long, there’s no chance they will remember it.”

“We used to be Credit Card Finder, but once you get it down to Finder.com.au, it’s easy. It sticks in people’s minds.”

“If you are building a particular brand name, you may not want certain key words in the domain but if you, say, are selling designer jewellery, you will want the keyword ‘jewellery’ in there somewhere.”

3. Don’t rely just on your domain

 

The process of choosing a domain should start with the naming of the business itself and extend through to your marketing, according to Robinson.

 

“Think about domains when you choose the business name,” he says.

 

“Also, you need to make sure that your marketing of your business name is good, then SEO becomes almost secondary and Google becomes more like Yellow Pages.”

 

“You go to Google if you don’t know a brand to turn to. If I’m looking for a plumber and don’t know of one, I’ll go to Google. But if a plumber has branded himself properly and done basic marketing work, you are more likely to go to them.”

 

However much marketing you do, people might still get it wrong when they search for your business’ name. This can lead to problems, unless you are diligent.

 

“I had a client that was a shabby chic furniture store,” says Robinson.

 

“The name was great, but the .com version was one of the raciest lingerie sites I’ve ever seen.”

 

“If someone makes a mistake and puts in the wrong suffix, it could lead them to a competitor or something very inappropriate.”

 

4. Beware of clashes

 

The internet may have opened up new markets to start-ups, but it has also increased the possibility of your domain stepping on the toes of another business.

 

“There was a swimwear brand called Absolute Swimwear which found out that Absolut Vodka had a trademark across several categories, including apparel,” says Robinson.

 

“They had to change their name because they hadn’t done their homework. You need to do due diligence otherwise all of your hard work and money will be wasted if another business has a trademark.”

 

If you’re confident that you aren’t impinging on anyone else, make sure you register more than one domain – Schebesta says that five is a good general number to go for. Sites with a .com suffix cost around $9 a year while .com.au sites will cost $25 for two years.

 

5. Don’t worry about being boxed in

 

If you’ve chosen AussiePetShop.com.au for your pet shop and you make an unexpected foray into the world of horse riding lessons, your domain won’t accurately reflect your business offering any more.

 

This isn’t something to be overly concerned about, according to Schebesta. He says a domain name doesn’t have to define your business nor should it restrict you from offering new services.

 

“Don’t change your domain name as it ruins all the work you’ve put into it. If you look at the UK business Carphone Warehouse, they don’t sell car phones anymore, but it’s clear what they do.”

 

“Technology changes and moves on. If your brand is strong, you shouldn’t worry too much about shifting trends.”

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