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As you work through your long list of things to take care of before you launch your business, you’ll need a website, and of course, a domain name. Consider this your easy guide to choosing the right domain name for your business.

Why Domain Names are So Important

You may have found during your research that you could snag a free domain name (also called a URL) from sites like WordPress, Blogger, etc. But in reality, a free domain name could hurt your business more than it helps. Besides the fact that you’re essentially advertising that brand rather than your own (usually the sites are something like mybusiness.wordpress.com or mybusiness.blogspot.com), there are other reasons why buying your own URL is the right decision.

  • They brand your business:

    If possible, your domain name should either contain your business name or keywords that relate to your brand. Your domain name is like your digital calling card. When people see the URL or you tell it to them, they should get a sense of what your business does, even if they don’t know. When you see the domain name SocialMediaToday.com, you know that the site will deal with social media in some way (it’s a resource for news on the subject). And Amazon.com has become ubiquitous: no need to spell out the domain name! The branding is built in.

  • You’ll use this URL for the foreseeable future:

    Consider your domain name as a tattoo. Sure, you can get it lasered off down the road if you regret it, but it’s a lot of trouble. Once you choose your domain name, you’ll print it on business cards and any marketing collateral. You’ll work on your search engine optimization so that people can find you online. All this work would be for naught if you decided to change your URL in six months.

  • It will make you look more professional:

    It’s easy and cheap to get a free domain with someone else’s brand name in it but it may communicate that you’re not serious about your business. Buying a domain isn’t expensive, and literally takes just a few minutes. But the result is that you now look more professional, and people will be confident in spending money with you.

Now let’s look at what you need to know

How to choose your domain name

  • Start with Your Business Name

    In a perfect world, you could buy a URL with your business name, but these days, competition is fierce. Do a search for your business name to see if others are using domain names that might easily be confused with yours (you might not want to buy PoshPuppyBoutique.net since there’s already someone using PoshPuppyBoutique.com, or you might lose business to them since the site name is so similar).

    If your business name is not available, look for SEO-friendly keywords that relate to what you sell, like SanDiego-Art.org. This will help you rise up search results for that keyword phrase.

  • Make Sure It’s Pronounceable and Short

    Realize that you will be speaking your domain name out loud a lot, so avoid dashes and other things that make it hard for people to find you. It’s much easier for people to process you saying that your site is Pencils.com than Pencil.Collectors_PA.com.

  • Consider your Domain Extensions

    As competition heats up for .com domain extensions, we’re starting to see some interesting ones like .art, .vip, .club. If you can find one that’s relevant to your type of business, you may be able to get the domain name you want with a different extension (and these are usually cheaper).

    Know that some online forms don’t recognize these more unique extensions yet so you may have trouble filling out forms where your website or email address is required.

  • Set Up Your Domain Email

    There’s one final step once you’ve chosen your domain name: setting up your domain email. Using an email address with your domain ending is more professional than using a Gmail or Hotmail account. People expect to get emails from a brand with the domain name (sales@myretailstore.com) so your emails will make it to their inboxes, whereas a Gmail email might not (sales.myretailstore@gmail.com).

    When you choose your email address, make it easy to spell. Something like firstname@website.com is easy to remember and rattle off when people ask you for your email address rather than Sales_and_marketing.retail@website.com. You can also create emails for different departments (even if you’re a one-person show), like sales@website.com or accounting@website.com. Be consistent with the email addresses for all employees, if you have a team.

Your domain name and website are your digital credentials. It’s important that you look professional and by investing a little time and money into the process of choosing your domain name and setting up your website, you can do just that. But once you do, you instantly establish credibility, and that helps get sales rolling in.

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Susan GuillorySusan GuillorySusan Guillory is the President of Egg Marketing, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and frequently blogs about small business and marketing on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.View all posts by Susan Guillory