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August 8, 2011

How to Pick a Domain Name for Your Local Business

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We’re in the business of helping our clients set up shop online. A new product we’re releasing in the coming week is one we hope will allow small local businesses to create sites optimized for local search, complete with analytics and monthly reporting. It’s our vision of the total package a local business needs to create a competitive, search and social friendly online presence with the expertise and infrastructure we’re in a unique position to offer.

But there’s one critical element of a website we can’t provide: your domain name. We can, however, offer guidelines and recommendations for how to pick a domain name that supports your brand and goals as a community business.

Brand or keywords? How do your customers remember you? Are you well recognized in your community by name? Is there a person in the community everyone knows as the heart and soul of the company? Think of what you’re recognized for. Next-day service? Low price leader? Old man Higgins’ dressing up as Santa for the annual community Christmas party? Brainstorm a bit about your reputation in the community and what makes you stand out. Then riff off those ideas for names. You don’t want to be so specific that you paint yourself into a corner that prohibits growth and expansion of the business, but you do want to leverage what draws customers to you.

Keep it simple. Think all the good names are gone? If you invent something new, it can be hard to find a catchy name that speaks to the product or service. Inventors and entrepreneurs today are challenged by creating new words and phrases that are unique but not too outlandish. It’s a delicate balance. Watch any infomercials and you’re sure to have come across a few head scratchers. Ask me, ShamWow got lucky.

My New Glasses

Think about this a moment. Glasses ─ what an elegant name for those critical spectacles so common today. Unfortunately it can be a lot harder to coin a word or phrase today. But can you repurpose a word to your business? Microsoft did it with Windows and then became the most ubiquitous operating system in the world.

Alternate extensions? ICANN has opened up the option of custom top level domains. While it sounds cool, it’s totally impractical for most businesses and could even be harmful for a local business. It costs too much and it’s potentially confusing. Stick with trusty .com.

Did you know that the very first .com registered was Symbolics.com? My go to source for awesomeness on the Internet is Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 because they point out fun facts like this:

At this point, every domain was available. Every single one. They could have had any name they wanted.

In retrospect, this is kind of like being the first one out to the California Gold Rush and coming back with a bag full of silver. Or having the number one pick in the NFL Draft and taking JaMarcus Russell.

Here are some domain names I would have suggested registering instead: Anything. Anything other than Symbolics.com would have been a good choice. Any two letter combination. Any three letter combination.

Even any real word used in the English language would have made more sense than “symbolics.” [...]

So March 15th might actually also double as the 25th anniversary of the first Internet FAIL.

You can certainly be clever, but not so clever you lose the value of keywords, branding and recognition. Choose a descriptive or brand-focused domain name that’s easy to remember, unlikely to be misspelled, and is short and simple. It’s the first step in your development of a domain name that supports your local business goals and community standing.

For more info on how to pick a domain name (for any type of business) check out
How to Select a Domain and How to Pick a Kickass Domain Name.





6 responses to “How to Pick a Domain Name for Your Local Business”

  1. Koozai Mike writes:

    Good concepts Virginia. Although i’d watch out with repurposing a standard word in to a business name (e.g. Windows). Annoyingly Wikipedia ranks so well for generic terms, that launching a business with a basic name makes it very tough to rank well for your own brand name, which can be a nightmare in getting a new brand off the ground.
    You’re bang on about not using alternate domains. That’s even harder to rank and very frustrating for customers. Grabbing a similar name and sticking hyphens in it is also confusing for users.

  2. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Great point, Mike, thanks. As we agree, there are options, and the simpler ones are usually your best bets. And thanks for adding your extra two cents about hyphens and the challenge posed by Wikipedia. :)

  3. Dexter Boyle writes:

    I love to go for domains with keywords in it and i always kept this in mind while doing so. It never came to my mind that these factors could work and be such wonderful. Th next time i want to start a local campaign i will choose my domain according to your strategy.

  4. John Minter writes:

    Thanks for the read! You shed a lot of light on what to do and what not to do when choosing a domain name. Like you said, it’s best to keep it simple!

  5. Kent writes:

    Hi Virginia, the first point is very point and I have never thought of that. How people recognize us (choose that domain), so that people will recognize the company as well on internet! thanks for the article, I will advice my customer to use that way to choose a domain name as well. :)

  6. Virginia Nussey writes:

    They’re just a few helpful rules of thumb to keep in mind so I’m glad you’ve found the tips useful!



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