A critical step when preparing for your small business website is choosing and purchasing your local business domain name. The selection of a domain name can be the most influential decision you make regarding the direction you want your website to take and how potential customers can quickly understand what your business is and does. Choosing the domain of your website may seem like a simple thing to do, but a little bit of thought put into it can make a huge difference in the performance of your small business website over time.
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Here are 5 steps for choosing the right domain for your local small business website and marketing:
Step 1 - Research Your Competition
Knowing what your competition is doing their marketing and website domains is a pretty simple task to complete. Start by asking yourself a few questions about the competition:
What domain do they use for their website?
Do they use multiple domains?
Is it their brand name or is it their product?
Does it include geographical information?
Perhaps you have quite a bit of competition for your product or service. Find several of the most popular of your competition and note their domains. This process will help you determine what is available as far as domains go, and it will also help you find a way to be unique.
Once you have looked through a few of your competitors' domains, you will realize that there is very little consistency, but you can start to find some common things between all of them.
Step 2 - Brand, Keyword, Location
The second step in choosing your local business domain name is determining whether your domain will be the name of your brand or business, the keyword(s) of your product or service, or include the geographical location or region of your business coverage. This is a basic SEO principle. You can continue to ask yourself a few more questions:
What are my potential customers searching for?
Are they searching for your brand or business name?
Are they searching for your product or service?
Do they include the location in their search?
If you find yourself unable to choose between using your brand name, keyword, or location, try a combination. A combination of the brand name, keyword, or location in your domain will work, as long as the domain isn't too long. Try to keep it under 20 characters. Nine characters or less is ideal, but competition for these domains is high. Make a list of domains you would like to use for your new website.
Exact Match & Marketable Domains
Ultimately, you want to choose a domain that is close to what your customers will be searching for (known as an exact match domain, for some added SEO benefits), but is also easy for customers to remember and repeat.
The exact match domain will contain search keywords and location, such as "tampabayplumbers" OR "doggroomerseattle" - both examples are straight forward with what is likely to be local search keywords, but lack a business name... unless the business name is exact match as well!
Getting a domain that matches your business name, or brand name, should be fairly simple the more unique your business name is. Avoid odd spellings if you can, as it can complicate what people can recall. However, if you can get away with having a unique name, more power to you!
Step 3 - Domain Suffix
Deciding the suffix, or TLD (Top-Level Domain) of your domain name can be either exciting or devastating. Everyone who starts a website has the "perfect" domain in mind only to find out that the domain became someone else's "perfect" domain years ago. In the past there were only the Big 3: .com, .net, and .org, but there are many domain suffixes available on the internet today, such as .info, .biz, and .us.
Many of the shorter domains from the Big 3 suffixes are gone. To gain a short character .com domain, you either need to be extremely creative or have money to spend. This is where it is important to have your list of domains from Step 2.
The .com suffix is preferred, however, many .net domains are still available. Other suffixes such as .info, .biz, and .us are widely available and usually at a lower cost than .com, however it is wise to avoid using these domain suffixes for your primary business website as they do not perform as well as the Big 3 (.com, .net, and .org.) in search marketing.
For the best marketing performance, you want to score a .COM top-level domain. In our mainstream society, the .com is assumed by the majority of people every time.
Step 4 - Domain Availability
Step 4 is the last step before you make the purchase of your domain name. A great tool for checking the availability of domain names is the Mediaryte's Small Business Domain Search Tool. The Small Business Domain Search Tool will quickly determine if your domain of choice is available for purchase. If it is not, Domai.nr will take you a step further and give you alternative domains. Some of these suggested alternative domains may be taken as well, but it saves you the time and stress of having to make several disappointing searches.
Once you have decided on your available local business domain name, you will need to purchase it through a Domain Registrar. The domain registrar we recommend again and again, is NameCheap. Don't let the name fool you. The domain prices are decent and the quality of service is high.
If you find multiple domains available to work with, I recommend purchasing more than one. Having multiple domains pointing to your website can be a great way to rank for multiple keywords on search engines. Of course, you should choose one domain to be the domain name of the site and use the others as add-on domains.
Step 5 - Prefix or No Prefix (www sub-domain)
The final step in choosing your internet business domain is deciding if you will have a prefix. The prefix is the part of a web address that precedes the domain name. Commonly you will see the www prefix for domains, www.example.com. The prefix is unnecessary and outdated, but is still found across the internet for usability purposes.
Whatever you choose, prefix or no prefix, you will need to stick with it and be consistent when publicizing your domain. Search engines find the prefix and no prefix domains to be separate domains. By using both, you can potentially dilute the search results for your website, but this can be fixed through the Google Search Console.
Now that you know the steps to choosing your local business domain name, you can be confident that your thoughtful domain will have better performance on the internet than a hastily chosen one. You want your website to be easy to find, so go with a domain name that is easy to remember, easy to type, and easy to share.
What tips can you share about choosing a local business domain name?
Leave your answer and feedback in the comments section below.
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