How to pick the perfect domain name for your online business

In high school, I had a teacher named Mr. Stevens who would get my name wrong every day.

During roll call, he'd yell out "Kahmilly Ferrari? Kahmilly Ferrari?" One time, he even called me Raymond.

Umm… what now?

My name is Cami for the record.

I don't blame him, though. When it comes to names, things can be tricky. Especially when it comes to naming your business and picking a domain name.

In fact, I get questions about how to pick a domain name all the time. 

  • Should I use a personal name or a business name?

  • What if my name is already taken?

  • What if my name is hard to spell or pronounce?

I'm answering all those questions and more in today's post!

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    What is a domain name?

    A domain name is your online address.

    Your physical address tells people where in your city and state your house is located. Your domain name tells people where on the internet your online home is located.

    Generally speaking, there are two types of domain name:

    A personal domain name can also function as a business domain name. Marie Forleo runs her multi-million dollar business under the name “Marie Forleo International.” Her domain name is marieforleo.com. Nice and simple.

    Should you pick a personal domain or a business domain?

    Ahhh! The eternal question. If you’ve spent any time in online business forums, you’ll know that this question lights up the comments section like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

    My perspective is: don’t overthink it.

    Your brand isn’t defined by your domain name any more than your home is defined by your street address. Sure, your address might tell us something about what to expect once we arrive at your front door, but it’s only one tiny part of the whole experience.

    Your brand isn’t your domain name, your logo, or the colors you choose.

    Those are elements of your brand, but at the end of the day your brand is the experience you create for others and what they say about it.

    There are wildly successful businesses running under both kinds of name. There are businesses that fail under both kinds of name. Whether you use a business or personal name doesn’t matter as much as what you DO with it.

    Need proof? Here are some examples…

    Want to create a multi-million dollar empire under yourname.com and then sell it? Go right ahead! Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Michael Kors have done it (to name a few!)

    Want to hire a team and have a global impact? You can do that with yourname.com OR yourbusiness.com. Think of Danielle Laporte, Ramit Sethi, and Gabby Bernstein… their large businesses all happily run under personal names.

    Want to create a “couch-driven” business that you can run solo from the comfort of your own home? You guessed it! Either type of name works. Talking Shrimp by Laura Belgray is exactly that kind of business.

    Want to sell services, online courses, physical products, or a combination? You can do that with either kind of name, too! Although if you’re selling exclusively physical products yourbusiness.com is more common with e-commerce businesses.

    The bottom line is, you can build a thriving business with either kind of domain name. The most important thing is to make sure you’re buying the right domain name and avoiding common mistakes.

    5 tips for picking a great domain name

    to pick a great domain name, aim for these 5 things

    A great domain name makes it as easy to find, remember, and share your online business.

    For example, amazon.com is a fantastic domain name. It’s short, easy to remember, and it’s spelled exactly how it sounds. Now let’s imagine that Amazon was called something like theempirethatjeffbezosbuilt.com, instead. WAY too long and too difficult to type out, right?

    Your domain name should be…

    • Short

    • Memorable

    • Easy to spell and type into a browser

    Your domain name should avoid…

    • Short words like “and” “a” or “the”

    • Hyphens

    What if my name is hard to spell or pronounce?

    Faiven Feshazion's website

    First of all, I hear you! My name is spelled “Camille Farey” but pronounced “Cami Far-ee.” It can take a bit of explaining to get it right. The silver lining is that if you’ve got an unusual name, you can probably claim your domain before anyone else does.

    Let’s take my client Faiven Feshazion as an example.

    When I started working with Faiven, we knew that faivenfeshazion.com wasn’t the right domain name. Her last name is prone to being misspelled and we didn’t want to risk people not being able to find her website because of a typo.

    Instead, we chose Faiven.com. It’s short, sweet, memorable, and easy to spell. So that Faiven has full ownership over her online presence, we also bought faivenfeshazion.com and redirected it to faiven.com.

    The result? Faiven booked an AT&T commercial based off her website. The casting director told her that it was so clean and easy to navigate that it made hiring her for the commercial simple. Nice!

    Tips for buying a domain if your name is hard to spell:

    1. Buy a domain that features only your first or last name

    2. Consider using your middle name

    3. Pick a business name that’s not yourfullname.com

    4. Buy yourfullname.com and claim the social media handles. Even if you don’t use it, it’s good to have 100% control over your online presence!

    5. Buy any common misspellings. For example, Marie Forleo owns marieforleo.com AND mariaforleo.com because she knows “Maria” is a common typo

    What if my domain name is already taken?

    5 steps to picking the perfect domain name (even if your name is long, unusual, or already taken). Plus a free checklist!

    Sometime a name that’s too easy to spell and pronounce can be just as tricky as an unusual name, especially when it comes to finding the perfect domain name for your online business.

    Let’s take my client Laura Cohen as an example.

    Laura is a multi-media artist and uses her website to apply for grants and residencies and announce upcoming shows. The problem is, there’s more than one Laura Cohen in the world and lauracohen.com wasn’t available as a domain name.

    So, I started experimenting with different domain extensions and came up with lauracohen.art, which was perfect! It suits both Laura and her industry.

    Tips for buying a domain if your name is already taken:

    1. Experiment with different extensions. Not every site needs to be a .com. Try some different endings, like .co, .design, .yoga, or .art and see what you come up with! For example, janesmith.yoga

    2. If you’re a local business, try adding your city to your domain name. For example, janesmithnyc.com

    3. Add your industry to your domain name. For example, janesmithphotography.com

    4. Use your middle initial in your domain name

    5. Think outside of the box and create a business name that’s not yourname.com

    No matter what, make sure you do your research to make sure your domain name isn’t too close to other brands.

    I recently saw a Facebook post from a distraught entrepreneur.

    She’d bought a domain name and worked hard to build up her company, clients, and brand recognition. Then WHAM. One day she opened her mailbox to find a cease and desist letter from Harpo Productions, Oprha’s media company.

    Unfortunately, the domain name she’d chosen was very close to a trademarked brand owned by Harpo Productions. To avoid this, make sure you do your research before buying a domain name and building your business on it!

    Don’t underestimate the power of a Google search and err on the side of caution. When in doubt, consult an attorney.

    Where should you buy your domain name?

    Google Domains

    There are a million options for buying a domain, but my favorite is Google Domains.

    Unlike budget services, like GoDaddy or HostGator, Google doesn’t try to offer you confusing upsells or add-ons. They offer one simple, reasonable price and your domain will come with everything you need, including a privacy shield so internet randoms and spambots can’t see the name, address, and email you used to purchase it.

    Pros of buying a domain through Google Domains:

    • No upsells or hidden fees

    • Privacy shield included

    • Lots of domain name options and alternate extensions like .life and .yoga

    • Easy to connect to Gsuite for a professional email address

    • Fewer logins to manage if you’re already have a Google account

    When you buy your domain, make sure it’s set to auto-renew!

    When I hear “help!!! My website is down!!” nine times out of ten, it’s because a domain name has lapsed. It’s even happened to me in the past! Make sure that it doesn’t happen to you by setting up auto-renewal for your domain name the moment you buy it.

    Now that you’re a domain name expert, let’s recap…

    5 steps to picking the perfect domain name (even if your name is long, unusual, or already taken). Plus a free checklist!

    In this post, we covered a lot of ground, including…

    • What a domain name is

    • Whether you should pick a personal domain name or a business domain name

    • Tips for picking a great domain name

    • What to do if your name is hard to spell or pronounce

    • What to do if your name is already taken

    • Where to buy a domain name

    Did you find this post helpful? Let me know in the comments!

    Picking a domain name is an important first step, but it’s not the only thing you need to create a website. Learn what comes next in these related posts:

     

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