The primary goal of your small business website is to make sure that your ideal clients are able to find you easily online. If you’re a book store in Edmonds you want people looking for a local book store to easily find you when they Google “book stores, Edmonds WA”. Your domain name can be a crucial tool in making that happen.
1. Use your business name
Your website name will become an important part of your identity. It should reinforce your customer’s perception of that identity. Use your business name spelled out as one word if you can. rickandersonarchitects.com is a name that reinforces Rick Anderson Architects identity online. In addition it contains key words that Google recognizes.
2. Don’t use acronyms
Hard Drives Northwest has been around a long time and they chose their domain name back when short domain names were desirable. Unfortunately HDNW.com isn’t at all descriptive. In addition it doesn’t have a name-acronym association that is particularly easy to remember. Harddrivesnw.com or harddrivesnorthwest.com would be better today. Harddrivesnorthwest.com contain both key words (hard drive) and location. Both of these help Google “qualify” the relevancy to a search request.
3. Don’t use hyphens
Hyphens are hard to type, they’re also hard to describe. Hard-drives-northwest.com is much harder to remember, harder to type and harder to explain to someone. The underscore is the same. I recently had someone write out their email address for me and he felt he had to explain and emphasize the underscore in his address. If you want your name to stand out in print you can always type it with capital letters for the beginning of each word, such as RickAndersonArchitects.com.
4. Use descriptive key words
Rickandersonarchitects.com is much better than rickandersonaia.com. If you’re in the business you may know that AIA represents membership in the American Institute of Architects. However, most people don’t know that. Everyone knows what an architect is. Seattlearchitect.com is owned by a small architectural firm that doesn’t appear to do much of what experts say a website should do in order to be liked by Google. However, it shows up in the first page of a Google search of “architects, Seattle” just because of its name. Edmondsbookshop.com is also an excellent name because it has both key words and location words. Search for “book store Edmonds” and it shows up at the top.
5. Make it unique
Don’t use a name that is close or very similar to another domain name. Remember the goal is for potential customers to actually identify YOUR business. If you’re the second book store in Edmonds and your name is Pathway Books don’t name your website edmondsbookstore.com. Sure, edmondsbookstore is different than edmondsbookshop but they are so similar that you could confuse potential customers. (For that matter, the owner of the edmondsbookshop.com name should also buy edmondsbookstore.com and point it towards their real name) If your name is something similar to one already established then find a descriptive modifier that will help distinguish you from the rest. For example if pathwaybookstore is already taken you might consider pathwaybooks or edmondspathwaybooks.
6. Make it memorable
Hungryarchitect.com is much more memorable than rickandersonaia.com. Rickandersonaia.com requires you to remember Rick Anderson’s name as well as the obscure acronym. Hungryarchitect.com is memorable both because it humorously suggests “value” and because you know the service being offered. Next week you’ll probably still remember hungryarchitect.com from this example. The chances are you won’t remember rickandersonaia.com.
7. Make it easy to spell
Forget the odd or cute spelling. Edmonds Book Shop is much easier than Edmonds Book Shoppe. If your business is Pythagorean Enterprises you’re better off with a different domain name. I was a little surprised to learn that even rickandersonarchitects.com was difficult to spell. I’ve had to spell it out for people many times. Find a domain name that is easy for people to spell.
8. Consider how people will search for your products or services
Ask yourself how someone would Google in order to find you. Even plural vs singular could make a difference. People have a tendency to search in the plural such as “architects, Edmonds” rather than “architect, Edmonds”. “Architects” (plural) is better for search results. “Pathway Vintners” is probably not as good as “Pathway Winery”. It is more likely that people will search for “wineries, Woodinville” than “vintners, Woodinville”. If your name is Pathway Vintners you might consider pathwayvintnerswinery.com
9. The Yahoo alternative
Your can also consider selecting a name that is simple, easy to remember and easy to spell but that people don't generally connect with your business. Amazon, Yahoo and Google are good examples of this. The names may communicate something that you want associated with your business without actually being about your business specifically. When you do this the challenge is to create the association in the minds of both your potential customer and the search engines between your name and your actual product or service.
The summary of all of this is that the best domain names are simple, descriptive, memorable, easy and linked in folks minds to your type of business. For a small local business that might be as easy as using your established name.