• Quick Summary: You're really excited about starting your own business. You realize that any business today needs their own website. So obviously the first thing that comes to mind is what domain name to pick for this exciting new endeavour. In this article we're going to cover everything you need to know to pick the perfect domain name for your business website.

  • Why a domain is the most important element of a website

    When I say a domain name is the most important element of a website, that might seem very obvious to you. Besides the fact that without a domain name nobody will have access to your site's content, the only thing you cannot change without heavily impacting your website's added value to your business is the domain name. Let me explain.

    Your website, when done correctly, has a tremendous added value to your business. For people who run webshops, it IS their business. Choosing a domain name arbitrarily can have lasting damaging effects in the long term, especially if you're considering rebranding. The domain name makes the link to each and every page on your website unique. Those pages gain authority in the search engines. If you change them, all that authority is gone.

    Let's say you have a page that attracts a 100 visitors per month. And let's assume those visitors are either organic traffic (traffic from Google), referrals (traffic from links from other websites) or returning visitors (traffic from people who know your site). No matter where that traffic originated from, if you change the domain name, none of that traffic will ever again reach your site. And you basically will have to start from scratch rebuilding your brand authority in the online world.

    So let that be a warning when deciding upon a domain name. It's very, very important.

    How to choose a domain name

    How do you go about choosing a domain name? This question follows a couple of simple, easy to understand but just as important rules of thumb. I like Rand Fishkin's article " How to Choose a Domain Name", but I feel it's too basic, and doesn't go into much depth, especially if you're talking about a website for a business owner. So without further ado, let's jump into the 4 rules that provide you with the perfect domain name for your business.

    Rule 1: Using a core keyword in your domain name

    First off, before I'm going into using a core keyword, I'll need to discuss what that is in the first place. It has to do with search engine optimization or SEO. SEO is a very useful online marketing tool to get traffic to your website. And it involves creating content for your website that serves a market demand from the search engines, the biggest one being Google. For an in-depth explanation of all factors involved in SEO read the article " What is SEO.

    So if people using Google want to know what the best smartphone of 2019 is they will type "best smartphone 2019" in the search engine. The result is, you guessed it, a search engine results page (SERP). On that page you'll find in order of what Google deems most relevant, links to webpages to fill in this specific market demand for information.

    These type of results are called "organic" results. The other ones being "paid" results. They are denoted with a small "ad" text box and are both on top and on the bottom of the SERP. These paid results kind of dilute the objectivity of the results, but that's not the topic of this article.

    You can write an article about the best smartphone, or maybe your entire website revolves around smartphone reviews. In any case there are many factors that are being taken into account when calculating relevance or "page rank". And one of the biggest factors you have any control over is your domain name.

    Your domain name is so important for SEO because, as stated before, it's the most important element of a website. So a domain name saying smartphonereviews.com is bound to have relevant content concerning smartphone reviews and is very on topic (if indeed the content on the site concerns smartphone reviews).

    In a nutshell that's the connection between getting traffic through SEO and how your domain name factors in that equation. Now, chances are that your business does not revolves around making reviews of smartphones. You might be a plumber, or a weightloss expert or a roofing professional or any other profession known to man. Whatever the case maybe, by its very definition, your specialty is your main or "core" keyword / key phrase. It is what you do and it is what pays the bills. So considering adding your profession or variation thereof in your domain name is a big SEO plus.

    So let's say you're a towing expert who makes money getting people of the road an to a car service station. Then it makes perfect sense that towing is part of your domain name: towingtony.com or 123towing.com.

    Rule 2: Using a location in your domain name

    Another mayor factor for business owners operating within a certain area, is the location. Make sense right. If, let's say, you're a massage therapist, your clientele is only willing to drive so far before they'll try to find somebody else to get rid of their back aches. In other words, you operate locally. This is not the case for everybody, especially people operating in the online realm, like SEO specialists, web designers and online marketers. But it's still very common for clients to want to meet face-to-face in todays world.

    That means that location is an important factor in the market demand of people. They don't just want any "massage therapist". They want a "massage therapist near me" or a "massage therapist [put location here]". And since Google's currency with the search engine is relevancy, they want to show search results that make the most sense. They know that location pays dividends for relevancy so they're apt to show those results that match the desired location in the search query.

    Now you understand why location is such a factor. Just as with your core keyword if you find a way to make the location part of your domain name, this is a huge factor you can control to optimize your website to attract more traffic. If we expand upon the towing example then instead of "towingtony.com" we could also go for "santacruztowing.com".

    I have to say that getting both the business type AND the location with a proper domain extension (.com) is nearly impossible nowadays. I'm not the first who thought of this neat little SEO trick and either these domains are already taken or bought up by resellers. But in an article about choosing a proper domain name you have to know about these rules if you want to play the game. And who knows, you might get lucky.

    Rule 3: Make it about your business not yourself

    Now you know the 2 biggest rules when selecting a domain for your business website. The third rule flows forth naturally from the first 2. And that is that you don't pick a domain name with you as the centerpiece (unless you're somehow a celebrity). If you're not famous, nobody knows you and nobody will look for you in the search engine. Using that sparce but oh-so valuable domain real estate for something as trivial as your name, no offence intended, is stupid (from an online marketing perspective).

    I know it's very tempting to do and it feels like a best practice since you've seen it being done over and over again. But that doesn't make it any less a stupid decision. It's not only stupid from a SEO perspective, but also from a growth perspective. If your organization becomes bigger than you, you'll stay stuck with the name while you might not even be a big part of the operations. It's a small reason, especially from a beginner's perspective, but I have seen it be an issue.

    I'm really being blunt here, I know. But nobody cares about you and your name, people care about what you can do for them, how you can help them. And that little nugget of truth is much more reflected in the combination of business type and location than your name.

    Rule 4: Choosing the correct domain extension

    Let's move on to domain extensions. For those who don't know a domain extension is the thing that follows the dot after your name. The most commonly known one is the .com extension. It's also called a top level domain or TLD. Sometimes you'll find the shorthand notation ccTLD which stands for country code top level domain. Think .jp for Japan, .de for Germany .co.uk for Great Britain etc.

    Nowadays you have all kinds of fancy domain extensions behind more traditional ones like .gov, .net and .org. Just take a look at this list of domain extensions and you can see that from 2014 onwards they include nouns. Things like .insure, .engineering, .house, .cricket and list goes on and on.

    Picking a domain name might make you all fuzzy inside and be outrageous from a branding standpoint but the plain old .com (or your ccTLD) is by far still your best bet. The reason is that it's familiar to the general public. Just as people understand that a blue piece of text in a paragraph represents a hyperlink (another web design best practice). Go against your creative instinct to go bonkers with your domain extension. Simply pick a .com or ccTLD version and your good to go.

    I have no clear data on the impact of fancy TLD's on SEO but I can imagine it's either nothing or a bad effect. People are generally suspicious about anything they don't understand or feel is familiar. If you decide to move away from a familiar TLD like .com towards some more fancy sounding version, you are moving away from familiar territory for people and overall that's never a good thing.

  • About the Author

    Johan van Seijen


    Johan van Seijen is co-founder of Nexus Themes and our lead designer. After gaining a Master's Degree in Information Science he decided to try his luck in the illustration industry, working for clients as Avantgarde, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. With the return to the software industry grew the desire to create something to be truly proud of and which could spearhead his ambition of having his own company. And this company is what followed. He lives with his wife and daughter in Amsterdam.