The first step toward having a website is registering a domain name. A domain name is a recognizable textual name that points users to your website when they enter it in their internet browser (e.g., liquidtreedesign.com). Your new domain name will be your company's home on the web, so it is important that you choose the right one. Some principles to consider when choosing a domain name include:
In general, short names are preferable to long names. Although one can register domain names up to about 60 characters, it is generally thought that domain names that are easy to type and easy to remember work the best. Short names make it easier for customers to talk about your website and easier for potential customers to remember when attempting to visit your site for the first time. A short name is also less likely to be misspelled because of these inherent attributes.
It is important here that we define "short" and "long" as a simple character count is not exactly their only meaning. We generally think of a domain name as being short if it consists of one to three words. In a less exact sense, a short name rolls of the tongue more easily than does a long name. While shorter is usually better, keep in mind that you do not want to sacrifice a large amount of the other principles mentioned below just to shave a few characters off of your name.
Keywords / Business Name
The website behind a domain name should fulfill the expectations created by that name. Therefore, when choosing a domain name, it is important to keep in mind a list of keywords associated with the purpose behind your website. Pairing these keywords into a suitable combination is a good idea, and will often help your site to achieve the all-important high rank in the major search engines. When someone hears your domain name, they should be able to ascertain the contents of your site before visiting it.
The principle of fulfilling expectation can be met by registering your company name. If you have already invested time and money into your business to create a recognizable brand, it is probably more important to translate that asset into a domain name. Customers already familiar with your company will now exactly what to expect of the site. Using your company's name as your domain will also have the effect of contributing to your brand recognition. yourcompanyname.com is the ideal domain name for established companies.
Alternatively, if you are a consultant, writer, or have some similar solo profession, registering your personal name is recommended. If you have a more common name, try using initials and a last name, or some combination of initials and surname that has not yet been registered.
The most important measure of effectiveness for a website - apart from how users interact with your site once they are there - is traffic. The more traffic you are able to steer towards your site, the more exposure your business will get. Therefore, uniqueness plays an important role when choosing a domain name. It is for this reason that choosing a domain name that is similar to other existing domain names is generally a bad idea. For example, using alternative spellings, plurals, or adding "the" or other similar articles to existing domain names makes it much more likely that users trying to visit your site will mistakenly visit a competitor's website. In that case, not only have you lost out on a potential customer, but you've helped your competitor out as well.
If you are able to come up with a good domain name that is relatively unique, it is usually a good idea to register similar domain names. Multiple domain names can be registered for one website. For example, if your company name is "Acme Cogs and Parts," you might want to consider registering acme.com, acmecogs.com, acmeparts.com and acmecogsandparts.com. The same is true of TLDs. Some people will even register common misspellings of their domain name to capture even more traffic. None of this is necessary, however, and should be considered on a case by case basis.
Top Level Domains
A TLD, or top level domain, is the suffix of your domain name. The most common TLD is .com. For businesses, this is the most desirable for several reasons. It is the oldest of the TLDs in existence today. If a potential customer forgets what your TLD is, they are more likely to enter .com then any of the other TLDs. Similarly, browsers will first search for the .com TLD if a user just enters your site name without a suffix into their address bar. If there is a competitor at that domain name, a potential customer has just found their way to a competitor.
TLDs can also be used to shield your company from other companies that would attempt to use your good name to catch customers. For the uniqueness reasons described above and if you are able, registering acme.com, acme.net, and acme.org can be beneficial as it is relatively cheap to register a domain name, and each domain name has the potential to catch all-important traffic for your site.
On the other hand, if a certain TLD is appropriate for your site, you may be just fine with one. Non-profits might be content with registering just a .org TLD, while a smaller family site might be content with registering just a .net TLD. It depends on your needs.
It is very important to avoid infringing on trademarks. Companies are increasingly protecting their intellectual property in court today. ICANN, which coordinates the overall global system of domain name registration, has a dispute procedure in place for those whose company names have been registered by others. It is best to stay away from any possible disputes. Federal trademark searches, and often state trademark searches can be done online.
Domain names are not case sensitive. You can advertise your domain name with capital letters if doing so would be advisable (perhaps because it makes it easier to remember), but entering any combination of upper- and lowercase letters will achieve the same result.
Domain names can only use letters, numbers, and dashes. Numbers should be used sparingly, if at all. Dashes should be used with caution. Some argue that separating keywords can help your search engine rankings. However, many believe that using dashes makes it much too difficult to convey your domain name verbally.
Before making any final decisions regarding your domain name, ask your friends' and clients' their opinions!
How to Find if a Domain Name is Available
You can easily check the availability of a domain name that you have in mind by visiting any domain name checker. We personally like domjax because it allows you to simply input your domain name and it lists all of the important TLDs for your chosen name. For example, entering just "liquidtreedesign" will return the availability of liquidtreedesign.com, liquidtreedesign.net and liquidtreedesign.org at the same time.