How to pick the perfect domain name for your online business
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. For example, camillefarey.com
A business domain name. For example, jurilogical.com
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.
A great domain name makes it as easy as possible to find, remember, and share your online business.
For example, amazon.com is a fantastic domain name. It’s short, memorable, 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?
To pick a perfect domain name, aim for these 5 things:
Easy to spell and type into a browser
Avoids short words like “and” “a” or “the”
What to do if you’ve got a long or unusual name
First of all, I hear you! My name is spelled “Camille Farey” but pronounced “Cami Far-ee.” Most people think it’s “Ca-meal Fairy” and it can take a bit of explaining to get it right.
The silver lining? If you’ve got an unusual name, you can probably claim your domain before anyone else does! Here are 5 tips to help…
Buy a domain that features only your first or last name
Consider using your middle name
Pick a business name that’s not yourfullname.com
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!
A real-life example: faiven.com
When I started working with my client Faiven Feshazion, an Eritrean-American actress, 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. Bingo!
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. Now that’s a result!
What to do if you’ve got a commonly used name (or a name that’s already taken)
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.
If yourname.com is taken, it’s ok. Here are 5 tips that’ll help…
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
If you’re a local business, try adding your city to your domain name. For example, janesmithnyc.com
Add your industry to your domain name. For example, janesmithphotography.com
Use your middle initial in your domain name
Think outside of the box and create a business name that’s not yourname.com
A real-life example: lauracohen.art
When I started working with my client Laura Cohen, we knew we needed to use her name in her website’s domain. Laura is a multi-media artist and uses her website to apply for grants and residencies and announce upcoming shows.
The problem? Lauracohen.com was already taken because there’s more than one Laura Cohen in the world.
So, I started experimenting with different domain extensions and came up with lauracohen.art, which was perfect!
There are a million options for buying your domain name, but my favorite is Google’s Domain Services, domains.google.com.
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.
As an extra bonus, Google domains are a snap to integrate with Gsuite email services for business.
If you use an all-in-one platform like Squarespace that offers domains, I STILL recommend buying your domain through a third-party like Google Domains.
If you ever decide to switch platforms in the future, it’ll be MUCH easier if your domain is separate. It’s usually a little bit cheaper this way, too!
It’s a little bit of extra set-up to connect a Google Domain to a Squarespace website, but it’s very simple to do and well worth the extra 5-10 minutes of your time.
Pro tip: make sure your domain is 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.
When buying your domain name, do your due dilligance to make sure it’s not in use or trademarked by another company.
In a Facebook group I’m in, I recently saw a 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.
The moral of the story: make sure you do your due diligence 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.
So, which is better for your online business, 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 an effective domain name using the tips above.