Just over half of small business owners are now doing business online, and aspiring and new entrepreneurs who are looking to start an e-commerce business must pick a powerful domain name from the start.
VeriSign’s 2020 Domain Name Industry brief reported 366.3 million domain names were registered across top-level domains (TLDs) by the close of Q4 of 2020. Domain name registrations have grown by 4 million year-over-year, according to the brief.
Let’s first define what is means to have a domain name; then, we will review some of the best strategies for creating a memorable one and learn about registration.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the name of a company’s website. For example, take our business name: MyCorporation. This is the name of our business, and it’s also our domain name. You can type “MyCorporation” into a search engine and find our website.
Our business domain also has a dot-com (.com) at the end of its URL address. This is a domain name extension. Many businesses will choose a dot-com extension, as these tend to be the most popular and recognizable.
However, every e-commerce business is different. It may not always be in a company’s best interest to use a dot-com extension. Some may choose to use another option, such as dot-co (.co), dot-us (.us), or dot-biz (.biz) depending on their offerings and services.
Choosing a domain name
Coming up with a domain name for an e-commerce business shares some similarities with the process of naming a business. Domain names should factor in the following aspects as they pertain to e-commerce businesses:
Go back to business name basics
E-commerce businesses rely heavily on the internet to build, engage with and retain a customer base. When possible, it is helpful for an e-commerce business to make its domain name an exact match to the business name. What if this isn’t possible or ultimately not useful in finding the business?
An e-commerce business may utilize basic strategies that are helpful for naming a business as they figure out their domain name:
- Is it short? The domain should be made up of no more than two to three words.
- Is it easy to pronounce? Say the name out loud. Ask a few friends or colleagues to say it out loud and get their collective feedback. You should be able to quickly determine and understand what the business does or offers just from hearing the domain name.
- Can you easily spell it? Steer clear of hyphens, numbers and any other special symbols that may confuse customers. Take a moment to spell out the name entirely in lowercase on a piece of paper. Examine it closely. How does the name read, and look, in lowercase? For example, an e-commerce company called “IT Scrap” may look great on paper, but spelled out in a web browser, it reads “itscrap.” Make sure the keywords placed together do not come off as an unintentional punchline — or worse, inappropriate or offensive — to readers.
- Did you make it memorable? Can a customer make an immediate connection to your business simply by hearing its business name? A similar connection can and should be made with your domain name. Think about feelings you want to evoke or concepts that you think will resonate with consumers.
Build a keyword-rich domain name
When it comes to choosing your domain name, you may opt for an exact match, similar to the example we provided above of our business name. You may also consider using relevant keywords to build a keyword-rich domain.
The keywords chosen for your domain name should be optimized for search engine purposes. Here are a few suggestions for picking out targeted keywords:
- Geography. If you have a brick-and-mortar location in addition to your e-commerce component, consider geotargeting as part of your keyword strategy. You may use the name of the city or state in which your business is headquartered. Doing so can help improve search results and drive organic traffic to your website. Keep in mind, though, if you plan to expand your business to other cities or states in the future, you’ll have to snag new domains at that time.
- Offerings. One of the keywords used in your domain name should be relevant to your offerings. If you are an artist and sell art online, for example, pick a keyword that is relevant to the industry. You may choose a slightly more niche keyword like “paintings” or “illustrations” depending on what your business offers, or you may pick a broad keyword like “art” that encompasses a wide range of mediums. Be careful not to create a domain that is so targeted in one particular space that it may be difficult to sell other types of products in the future, though.
- Unique. Beyond location and services, you may select a word that you would like customers to associate with your brand. This word, typically a synonym, may be added to one of your keywords to create a compound keyword.
Should you tweak domain name spelling?
Some companies, and thus, their domain names, tweak their spelling to stand out. They may remove a letter from the name to emphasize its uniqueness. While this works in the case of some companies, like Scribd or Flickr, remember the aforementioned rule about spelling. If neither you nor a customer can easily spell the domain name, you may think twice about tweaking it.
Include a suffix
Finally, consider adding a relevant suffix to your e-commerce domain name. This may include words like “store,” “shop” or “market.” Utilizing this type of keyword in your domain allows customers to learn more about your offerings. For example, an e-commerce business with “boutique” in its domain name likely has a selective, upscale line of offerings for customers.
Conduct a name search
Once you have determined your domain, conduct a name search. Similar to that of a trademark search, you may utilize free domain name search tools to determine if your name is available. If the desired name is found unregistered, you may begin filing the necessary paperwork to register the domain name for your business. Remember to obtain a domain name extension (ideally in dot-com format) quickly thereafter, too!
Domain names are incredibly valuable business assets for online entrepreneurs. As you reflect on the name of your business and registering its trademark, consider the equal importance of domain name registration. Choose a domain name with our aforementioned tips that is easy to spell, keyword-rich (as necessary) and memorable. Then, conduct a name search to ensure it is available and obtain both the domain name and top-level extension. Your domain name will give customers insight into what you offer and provide as a service, so choose and register wisely!