Choosing a Domain Name

by A.J. Howard 3 months ago

Choosing a domain name is one of the more fun and often most frustrating parts of starting a website. Most of the time, it's not too difficult to find a URL that logically represents your business/site name. However, if your business contains some pretty common words or phrases (like maybe Bright Smiles Dentistry), you may find that the domain name/URL is already being used by someone else or that someone who thought it might be of value already invested in owning it so that they can charge you more for it. In those cases, all we need is a little creativity, and we can find a name that will work for you.

Because your domain name can be a huge part of your business' identity, it is important that you register and maintain primary control of your domain name.  If my clients have any trouble with this, I have been known to purchase the domain(s) for them and then transfer ownership to them; however, this usually involves more steps and more confusion.

Where to Buy

There is no shortage of options when it comes to domain name registrars. Most that offer the domain name as an add-on or bonus option (read: "Free domain for a year when you sign up for a website!") may be cheap up front, but they tend to make up for that gift to you when you renew or try to add another domain. Many are affiliates of some of the others. So, I like to keep it simple.

Two registrars I tend to like are Google Domains and GoDaddy. I am affiliated with neither, and I use both. While both offer reliable auto-renew options, tools to help find alternative domain names, and reasonable/competitive pricing, each also has its own perks and problems:

GoDaddy

  • Pros:
    • This is a reliable, reasonable domain registrar that tends to offer a broader selection of domain extensions and discounts.
    • They have been in the domain registration business for quite a while, so they've continually worked through some of the bugs and annoyances (though not all) of domain name sourcing and management.
    • If you aren't an avid user of Google products, GoDaddy can be easier to work with when it comes to granting permission for your website developer(s) or handler(s) to access your domain name settings. Also, when you do grant access to someone like me, you can ensure that I only have access to the domain settings.
  • Cons:
    • GoDaddy sells numerous services that many of my clients don't need (or that, as my clients, you will probably not be using through them). From hosting to email, they will try to up-sell you throughout the domain name purchase process. However, once you have created your account and purchased your domain name, you can then manage your communication preferences to ensure you only receive the updates you want.
    • Unlike Google Domains, domain registration privacy is not included in the cost of domain registration. They offer two levels of privacy protection that range in price (depending on discounts) from $7.99 to about $33 a year.

Google Domains

  • Pros:
    • While the prices vary a bit more dramatically for some domain extensions, the pricing is consistent from year to year.
    • If you would prefer that your domain registration contact information be made public, private registration is included in the cost of the domain registration.
    • If you are using G-Suite for email management, integration with your domain is easier.
  • Cons:
    • While it's not as obtrusive as the GoDaddy up-sell method throughout checkout, Google does try to sell you stuff you really don't need.
    • When it comes time to grant access to non-owners/website handlers to manage your domain name settings, you have less freedom to set restrictions on what the handler can access. It's more akin to sharing ownership than granting access...
    • If you are not familiar with Google products (and I don't just mean the search engine), then the interface and help options may seem a bit more techie and restrictive than that available through GoDaddy.

[Actually] Choosing the Name(s)

One thing to note before getting too mired down in the process of finding the "perfect" domain name is that it's possible to purchase more than one domain for your website. For instance, if a business name is rather lengthy, it may be useful to buy an easier or more useful domain name for your marketing and correspondence to use in addition to your full-name domain name.

Say you have a handy-man and house cleaning business named "Handy House Cleaners, LLC."  Because it is your business name, you're probably going to want to protect it by securing the domain that contains your name (handyhousecleaners.com). However, if it's a bit too wordy for your radio-ad jingle, one of these other names may be more useful:

  1. handycleaners.com
  2. hhclean.com
  3. handycleanhouse.com

*Acronyms, location(s)/area served, and synonyms for your kind of service or product are things to also consider, if you find that your preferred names are not available.

**Most registrars offer domain name suggestions if you simply enter the most important words of your business name or service into the domain search.

When opting for multiple domain names, one name is usually used as the actual domain name, while the other is set up to direct to the other domain name.

Once You Own the Name(s)

  • You can purchase a domain name well before your website is created. Most registrars have a generic "Under Construction" page that will appear for that domain name to indicate that is is no longer available, and, in most cases, I will add my own Under Construction/Website Countdown page for my clients.
  • As soon as my clients purchase their domain(s), they should contact me to let me know which name is the primary domain name, confirm that any others are to be re-directed to the primary site, and to get the information to grant me access to manage their domains.

Things to Note

  • Regardless of whether you have privacy added, you may receive emails or snail mail at any of the addresses listed as domain contacts indicating that you must "renew" your domain name with them. This is a sneaky kind of SPAM that attempts to frighten you into changing registrars. Unless it comes from your existing registrar, you should ignore it (or contact me).
  • Some legitimate and popular domain registrars offer a variety of services and will try to convince you that you need those services. My clients can rest assured that I will include or make them aware of the services they need. If you do have any questions about offers or suggestions they may make, please contact me.