Your domain name is a critical piece of business success, both online and offline. If you're on the ground floor of a business, the power of the internet is waiting - you have the opportunity to choose a domain name thoughtfully and carefully so that all your branding and marketing efforts can work in your favor. Even if you have an established business, there's advice here for you too, and ways to make your domain name even more effective.
1. Include keywords and geography in your domain name.
You should spend as much time planning your domain name as you do your business budget. You want the URL to be memorable but you don't want it to be so clever that it's easily mistyped. You want the address to closely mirror your brand name, but your domain name does not need to match your business name.
Let's say your official business name is ABC Company, Inc. Your domain name could be abccompanyinc.com. However, you're better off using keywords within your domain name - the keywords you're hoping to be found for - and, ideally, geography. For example: glonkalaw.com or glonkafamilydentist.com clearly communicate legal and dental practices. Even better: glonkadetroitlaw.com. This URL communicates the service and the geography.
2. It's fine to have several domain names.
OK, so I just told you to think long and hard about choosing a smart domain name and now I'm telling you that you can have more than one domain name. Let me clarify: A URL like glonkafamilydentist.com is long and slightly cumbersome (especially when you try to spell it over the phone). By using domain redirects, your website can answer to many domain names. You could set drglonka.com as the name you communicate to clients and for printed material, just to make it easy. However, your keyword domain name remains the primary landing spot for Google and other search engines so you can still reap those benefits.
3. But don't have too many domain names.
Having a handful of domain names is cool, but, and this is a big but, don't get caught up in buying too many domain names. Owning 75 different domain names all close to the variant of your main domain name does nothing for you, other than lighten your wallet. There is no search engine value to owning drglonka.com and dr-glonka.com and dr.glonka.com and drglonka.biz and dr-glonka.org. The only exception to this rule is if you see yourself developing additional websites at these domains - then they're worth hanging onto.
4. Protect your domain name.
Domain names are purchased through registrars like Network Solutions or GoDaddy at a cost of between $15-35 annually. Just like you have insurance protecting your home, your domain name is your internet real estate and you need to be in charge of it and make sure all your paperwork is in your name. Even if you have someone purchase the domain name on your behalf, be sure you have the credentials necessary to manage the account - that means the username and password for the registrar. Don't accept anything less, even if someone tells you it's just busy work that you don't need to worry about.
Here's the reality: Maybe your in-house tech guy goes AWOL or maybe you fire your outsourced tech guy and he won't return your calls. If this person is the only one holding your registrar info, it'll be too late for you to manage the situation. The username and password for your domain name should be well documented in your personal password library. It's also best to keep a credit card number on file with the registrar and allow them to automatically bill your credit card every year. If you fail to renew your domain name, the registrar will revoke it, your website will go offline, and your email will stop working. Not good.
5. Go ahead and make your whois info public.
When you purchase a domain name, you're obligated to tell your registrar who you are - think of this like your name on a property deed. You will also need to provide additional contact information for administration, technical issues, and billing - it's quite common for all four contacts to be the same and they all link to your domain name and become part of the "whois" information for your domain name. Whois is public information, which brings me to my next point...
6. There's no sense in hiding.
Registrars offer a service called "private registration" which hides your whois information by appointing the registrar as a proxy for you. They charge an additional annual fee for this service. Your registrar's carefully worded marketing material will make you think this is a service you absolutely need. It's quite the contrary. Think about it: Your website has a "contact us" page, right? So why bother hiding who owns the domain? It doesn't make sense to cloak it. Considering that you need all the help you can get with SEO, it's best to have your whois publicly available. Skip the added cost for "private registration."
7. Pay a premium for your coveted domain name.
As you shop for the ideal domain name, you may discover that the URL you've selected has already been spoken for, like detroitdentists.com. You can reach out to the domain owner to see if you can purchase the domain directly - but this move is only worth pursuing if there is not a functional website at the domain. Otherwise, you're likely out of luck and will just be wasting your time. What is a good use of your time and money is having an intermediary reach out to do the negotiations for you. Domain owners can incorrectly sense big profits when approached directly from a buyer and may not be willing to sell at a reasonable price.
In some cases, you may discover that the domain name you want is owned by someone called a "domainer" or "cybersquatter" - a person who registers tons of likely-to-be-desired domain names to sell them at a serious profit. A few years ago, Apple won a case for the domain name iphone5.com before they even had a product by that name. Cartier, Dior, and Swarovski all have filed suits against cybersquatters. Even politicians run into issues with domainers who register all variations of that person's name in order to make a quick buck (or perhaps it's a competitor gearing up to do some negative campaigning).
In short, this secondary market is lucrative. So how much is your desired domain worth? Well, it's worth as much as you're willing to pay for it. It's not uncommon to have a domainer ask $400 for the domain name you want. I would pay that price for a good domain name all day long because, in the long run, it's worth it. More sought-after keyworded domains can command thousands of dollars - again, I would consider paying this price. If it comes to negotiating with a cybersquatter for your desired internet territory, once you have the domain and deal in place be sure to use an intermediary monetary transaction service like escrow.com. Tread carefully and keep your eyes open for any shady deals.
8. Don't ignore your domain age.
This article would be incomplete if I did not touch on the age of your domain. At some point, and for whatever reason, you will need to redo your website. At this point, you may be tempted to start fresh and consider a new domain name, ideally a better keyworded one. But be careful - it's often better to use a domain name that has gathered some Google street cred for years than to start over, find yourself in the Google sandbox, and losing your site rankings. It's better to leave your current site in place with your current domain name and start a second site. Redirect traffic to your desired site if you must, just don't eliminate your old web space entirely.
It's easy to get caught up in the big picture and the day-to-day operations of your enterprise and neglect to give attention to what may seem like insignificant details. Rest assured, every detail of your website is critical to business success, especially your domain name.