Are you running a service business? Today, we’re talking about how to choose a domain name for your website. But I’ll start with a quick-and-dirty history lesson.
In 1985, the first ever .com was registered, Not long after, domain squatting became a thing. What’s domain squatting? It’s people snatching up domains with common keywords or business names, hedging that someday, someone would buy them back. A domain that once cost $8 may be sold for upwards of $20,000 (if it’s good enough).
All this to say, if you’re a small service business, we’re past the point of therapistberlin.com or coworkingspace.com. Almost gone are the days of two-word URLs, proper spelling, and easy phrases. You may even find buying a domain that matches your name or business name can be a challenge. And that’s what we’re going to talk about.
First of all, what is a domain? How do you get one? What makes a good domain? And what to do if the domain you really want is gone.
The Basics: Domain Names
What is a domain? What’s a domain registrar?
Put simply, a domain is how people find your website. It’s the URL that someone types in their search bar to find your website. ie. yourbrandname.com. A domain registrar is a business that takes care of the registration of domain names.
So what makes a good domain name?
A good domain is short, clear, memorable, easy to spell, and ideally a .com.
Why short? Because people are lazy. Why clear? Because people won’t put a lot of time into figuring it out. Why memorable? That one should be obvious enough. And the benefits of it being easy to spell and located at .com are that you won’t lose customers who type common spellings or .com of your brand name into their search bar and land on a completely different website entirely.
How to choose and register your domain for your business
Registering your domain is a relatively simple process. But before you register, you’ll want to check the availability of your domain and social channels.
Checking the availability of a domain for your business
There are lots of sites that offer domain availability checking, but my favorite is namecheckr.com. Namecheckr not only tells you the availability of the domain you’re interested in – it also tells you if some of the other domain endings are available (.coach, .berlin, .artist, etc.)and whether the corresponding social channels are available.
This is important. Ideally, you want to have the same name for your URL and all your social channels to avoid confusion. If your first pick of domain is unavailable, your first option is to type it into your search bar – typically there will be a sales page that advertises how much the site would cost to buy.
It’s shady that people do this, in my opinion, so my actual recommendation, in this case, is to add information like your industry, city name, or an alternative to .com to get something that’s unique and universal without having to pay a small fortune. This can also be good for SEO!
Registering Your Domain
That said, it’s generally considered more secure to register your domain in a different place than your website is hosted. Why? Because it ensures more control. If you decide to move to a new hosting provider in the future, you’ll have the security that you can take your domain with you without any conflict.
This will create a bit more hassle. But it is the best way to do it. I’ll frame this as a recommendation, but also let you know that it’s very common for people to go ahead and register their domain through the same service where their site is hosted.
Best domain registrars
- Register your domain with Squarespace
- Register your domain on WordPress.com
- Register your domain with Google Domains
- Register your domain with NameCheap
A word of caution
Once you buy your domain, add a reminder to your calendar about when you need to renew it. Keep your credit card details up to date and don’t skip notifications about a renewal! A domain that expires usually gets immediately snatched up and held hostage. When this happens, all of the hard work you’ve put into your online presence gets transferred to a new owner, and I think we can agree that sucks.