The ultimate guide to choosing the right business domain names

18 MINS
Web.com Team

As a small business owner, a website is no longer just an option; it’s a virtual necessity. More people than ever are looking for businesses in online directories and making purchases through the internet. 

Your online journey begins with a business domain name. Let’s take a closer look at what a domain name is, how to use it, and why it is important for any business and brand. 

What is a domain name?

A domain name is a web address. This is the address people type into a web browser to access a website. A domain name is unique to a website, and once it’s bought and registered, no other entity can claim it – unless you let its registration expire.

A good domain name reflects your business and brand. Hence, it’s important to also include it in your email address – to certify your identity for your customers. 

There are things to remember when choosing a business domain name. And, in this post you will find:

  1. Importance of a domain name for your small business
  2. How to choose a domain name
  3. How to register a domain name
  4. Does it matter if your domain name is different from your business name?
  5. What to do when the name you want is taken
  6. How to buy and sell domain names and make a profit
  7. Domain name FAQs

Importance of a domain name for your small business

A domain name is the starting point of building an online presence. It helps establish how customers perceive your website. 

This begs the question: How can you put a domain name to work for your business in a crowded online market?

Why are domain names so important? 

A domain name gives your business a unique identity that people can easily recognize. It reinforces the idea that you mean business. Thus, helping online shoppers and customers see you as a forward-thinking company that is accessible online. It’s the portal for people to visit your website, learn more about your business, and purchase your products and services.

Additionally, search engine optimization (SEO) is critical to your business being found via search. So, you must aim to choose a domain name that is SEO-friendly – including industry or niche keywords to help with your site’s ranking. 

Connecting the dots: Domain names, websites, and web hosting 

Domain names, websites, and web hosts are different elements of your web presence, but they work together for people to find you online. When someone types in your web address, a web browser sends a request to a network of web servers throughout the world that is part of the Domain Name System (DNS). After a quick search, these servers locate your website address and request access to your web page. 

The server that receives this request and houses all your website files is managed by your web hosting company, like Web.com. Your web host not only provides your website a secure home online, but it also has a way of gathering data and presenting it to the user’s internet browser for their viewing. 

How to choose a domain name

Remember when Google lived under the URL google.stanford.edu? Or when Twitter was twttr.com? Neither do we! And there’s a reason for that: the old domain names weren’t catchy, clear, concise, or memorable. That’s exactly why replacing the domain names was necessary.

If you’ve ever tried searching for an available domain name for your business, you know exactly how challenging it can be. It’s no wonder – the first quarter of 2021 closed with 363.5 million domain name registrations across all top-level domains (TLDs). .com is the top choice for website owners since they’re widely used and common. It provides quicker recall among users compared to the lesser-known TLDs.

So how do you choose a domain name that both exemplifies your business and is memorable to customers? Let’s dig into the why you should and how to pick the right domain name.

Step 1: Start brainstorming and do your research 

In this stage, it’s important to have more than one choice because you don’t know which domains are available for purchase yet.

Brainstorming with family, friends, or colleagues is a great starting point. These are the real people who will be honest about your choices. 

Next, use Google to see if there are any business domain names like the ones you’re considering. If you chose saratheflorist.com as your domain and one business has  sarahtheflorist.com, it could be confusing to users. Therefore, you should ditch the former and come up with another idea.

When choosing your domain name, consider the following:

  • Does it make sense for your brand? Your domain name needs to work with the products or services your business offers. If possible, choose a domain name that includes common keywords for your industry and makes it clear what type of business you run. 
  • Is it short and simple? Avoid using a domain name that can cause confusion, such as numbers, hyphens, or other characters. Domain names made up of a long string of words and characters are going to be hard for the average user to remember. 
  • Is it clear and concise? People want things easy. So, choose something with basic language and avoid using slang. If the words in your domain name have a tricky spelling, that may result in people having difficulty finding your site. 
  • Is it creative and memorable? A unique and catchy domain name will stick out in people’s minds and set your business apart from the competition.
  • Is it unique? If your intended brand name is too similar to someone else’s, chances are people will mistake one for the other. 

Step 2: Check your preferred domain name availability and extensions

Now that you have options for domain names, you need to see what’s actually available. There are a multitude of places you can go to do your domain search.

Most businesses favor a domain name that ends with .com, as it’s the easiest one for people to remember. Approximately 44% of all domain names use the leading .com domain name extension, so it’s very possible your first choice may already be taken. 

Since .com is the most common domain extension, it can lend some credibility to your business. It shows you’ve made an investment in your business and lends some authenticity.

Step 3: Determine cost and look at domain auctions 

Domain costs vary, starting from as low as $0.99 all the way up to thousands of dollars. The price is dependant on where the domain is purchased, along with other factors.

When considering the overall cost of your domain, you need to consider additional costs, such as yearly renewals and accessory fees. You should also be aware of any charges for auto-renewing or transfer-out fees. Always read your domain registrar’s Terms of Service so you completely understand the cost of the purchase. 

Moreover, when it comes to proxy bids, they are often accepted. This means you can set the maximum amount for your bid and then the system will automatically keep upping your bid until your maximum limit is reached. If you win the domain auction, you’ll have a specific period to claim and pay for your new domain.  

Step 4: Choose your term for purchase

Depending on the provider, domains can often be initially purchased for terms longer than a year. Review your business goals before deciding how long the registration term will be. If you have plans to change your business name or offerings at some point, locking yourself in for a decade may not make sense.

Buying domains for a longer term means that they’re locked in. This means that your competitors have no chance of buying your domain name out from under you. Some registrars offer discounts for buying longer terms, such as two or five years at a time. You won’t have to renew every year anymore or risk issues and lose your domain registration. 

If your business is in flux, or you’re unsure what the future looks like, it makes sense to purchase domains for a year or two and then re-evaluate when the time comes.

Should you choose to register only for a year or two, your number one priority must be to avoid losing your domains. Be sure to have the correct email and payment information on file with your registrar and take note of the renewal date. Otherwise, you may be putting your domains at risk. 

Although most providers will warn you when your domain name is expiring or payment information needs updating, it’s a good idea to put the renewal date on your calendar so you remember to update the payment method on file, if necessary. 

Losing your domains could potentially damage your brand and greatly impact your customers’ experience. It can also result in losing search engine placement. Furthermore, it gives competitors and other players a chance to scoop up and lock down your domains for a number of years.

How to register a domain name

Registering is quite simple once you know how to do it, and it can be done in a matter of minutes. 

1. Choose a website to get your domains from. You can register through an online presence provider like Web.com.

2. Use that provider’s website to check if the domain you want is available. If it’s available, you can move forward with the transaction.

3. At this point in the process, you might also add additional products and services to your cart. Services such as private registration, and a hosting package can be very beneficial to your small business website.

4. Pay the registration fee.


Pro Tip: When is the best time to register a domain name?
The moment you have an idea for a business, you should already take the steps to registering a domain. If someone else has the same idea as you, they can register the domain name before you do. Then, if you still want it, you will probably have to pay them for it, and domains on the domain aftermarket aren’t always cheap.


How much does it cost to purchase domains?

Domains can range from free — though always with an asterisk related to later costs — to tens of dollars to millions of dollars. There are many factors that will determine how much it costs to register, including the following:

  1. What is the TLD? The cost of new registrations and renewals is regulated by ICANN and the respective domain name registries that set the prices (e.g., Verisign manages .com/.net and Public Interest Registry runs .org). 
  2. Is this a new registration or does someone else already own it? As previously mentioned, new registration costs depend on domain name registries like ICANN and your registrar. However, if someone else already has your preferred domain, you may have to pay them extra for it. 
     
    Note: if someone else owns a domain name that violates the registered trademarks you own, you have a clearer path to securing it. At that point, it becomes a legal matter. We recommend referring to ICANN’s Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy for what options are available to you. 
  3. Are there additional products or services you need with your domains? Services like domain privacy that keep your WhoIs information private from public databases and website and email hosting may drive up your costs, but these types of add-ons usually only do so by relatively small margins. 

Did you register your domains somewhere else but would rather have them with us?

Easy. And it doesn’t cost any more than the cost of the renewal. As long as your domains have been with their current registrar for at least three months and aren’t already registered for 10 years (per ICANN regulations), you shouldn’t have a problem transferring your domain name.

Does it matter if your domain name is different from your business name?

With just about every business worldwide boasting a website these days, it’s gotten a lot more difficult to find the domain name you want. 

Of course, the ideal situation is to have your domain name match your business name. If you’re just starting your business and haven’t decided on a business name yet, you may even want to adjust your business name to match available domains. For example, suppose you were planning to name your business Elaine’s Flowers, but the domain name for that business name is taken. Instead, you change your business name to Elaine’s Flower Co. if the domain name for that new business name is still available.

The situation is a little trickier if you’re the owner of an established business but are just now getting around to creating a website. When you start your search for domains, there are a couple of situations you may run across:

  • YourBusinessName.com is taken, but the owner of the domain is not currently using it. You may be able to buy it from them. Do a WHOIS lookup to find contact information for the owner of the domain and/or for their domain registrar. Contact the person and see if they are interested in selling the domain.
  • YourBusinessName.com is taken, and the owner of the domain has built it into a website. If you’ve trademarked your business name, have been in business for a while and there’s a good chance people could confuse your business with the other one, you may have a legal case for getting control of the domain name. Keep in mind, however, that this can be expensive and time-consuming, so you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it.

Changing your domain name in the future can be costly and time-consuming, so make the decision carefully. Once you’ve chosen your domain name, protect it by using a domain registrar that offers domain-locking services. This protects your domain name from unauthorized transfers or hijacking, ensuring that the name you’ve worked so hard to come up with stays yours.

What to do when the name you want is taken

Earlier, we discussed what makes domains great for your business – from keyword inclusion to geo-targeting to finding something that fits your brand and is easy to remember. It’s like striking gold when you come up with a domain name that includes everything you need. But with hundreds of millions of domains already registered, there is a strong chance that the name you want is already taken. So now what do you do? 

Make minor changes

The first thing you need to ask yourself is if you can make minor changes to the name and still have it work for you. Can you adjust the geo-target? Can you swap the order of any of the words in the name? Can you use a different domain extension? 

Try adding a word to the name to see if it’s available. For example, if you want sarabakescakes.com and it’s not available, you could try something like sarabakesgreatcakes.com instead. You could also choose a name with a more well-known extension like .co or .net.

There are always emerging trends in the world of domain extensions. Even though most people would prefer the .com extension, it is worth looking into .net or .biz versions of the domain name you want. Some of the current ones gaining traction are .tech, .health, and .photo. Keep yourself up to date on what’s becoming popular, especially in your industry.  

Determine if the domain name is active

If you don’t feel comfortable going with a different variation of the name you want, you have options. First, you need to find out what is happening to the name in question. Type the name you want into your web browser to see if there’s an active website and online business. If so, the owner will not likely be open to selling it to you, and you should consider letting go and choosing a new name instead. 

If there is no active website, it’s very possible that the owner is just sitting on the name until it expires, or because they know they can make money re-selling it. In these cases, you can use a domain name aftermarket service to get more information about it, and possibly get it as your own.

Backorders 

If you have some time to wait and don’t feel the need to aggressively pursue the particular domain name, placing a backorder would be the best idea. This means that you will get your aftermarket service to secure the name for you if it expires. Oftentimes, online service providers charge a fee for this. If another person or several people also placed backorders on this same name and your domain name aftermarket service acquires it, you then go into a private auction, and the name goes to the highest bidder. It’s a good idea to think about the maximum amount you’re willing to pay should it go into auction or require you to make an offer to the current owner.

Make an offer 

Chances are, if you went through the process of picking the perfect name and discovered that it was taken, you’d rather not wait to see if it gets renewed by the owner, to acquire it. You can make an offer to purchase the name outright from whoever owns it. However, contacting the owner can be time consuming. Even though you can often look up the domain owner’s information on WhoIs, the information may be outdated or could be masked through a private registration service. So, carefully think about. 

Additionally, a domain name owner may not take a random email from a stranger seriously or may never see it due to spam filters in their email. It’s best to use a professional domain name broker to navigate through the contact process and see what the asking price is for the domain name. 

Know your limit

If you find yourself in the position of having to buy a domain name from its current owner, you need to think about what it is worth to you. Domains that someone already owns can cost a bit of money, and only you know what you can and cannot spend on a name. Set your limit and stick with it. Keep in mind that there are tools out there to help you determine the value of currently registered domains, and they take several different factors into consideration. In this regard, it can be most helpful to have a domain name broker to help negotiate a fair price on your behalf, based on fair market value. 

Yes, it’s a frustrating position to come up with the perfect domain name for your business and finding that someone already owns it, there are options to consider and steps you can take to get the domain name you like!

How to buy and sell domains and make a profit

While most people are familiar with the term “house flipping,” they may not be as well-versed in the phrase “domain flipping.” In layman’s terms, “domain flipping” means the buying and selling of a website domain (web address) for a profit. Done right, buying and selling domains can be a lucrative side hustle or small business. 

The most expensive domain name ever was business.compurchased by RH Donnelly for $345 million. While you can guess that this is far from the norm, there are ways to make a profit buying and selling domains. Here are some domain-flipping tips to get you off to a successful start.

Understand the value

A domain name is much more than just the website address for a company, organization, group, or individual. It’s an important part of a business or personal brand.

Domain names help people remember websites and serve as representations of a person or company online. A web address can be as important as the website it’s associated with – it’s a highly valuable asset. 

Manage expectations 

Buying and selling domain names can be fun and profitable but you should know the risks of domain investing. Keep things in perspective and have the right mindset. People are making a living buying and selling domain names, but the selling of high-priced domains is rare. Don’t expect to make a lot of easy money. 

Narrow your focus

When buying domains for resale, start by focusing on industries you are familiar with. It is much easier to sell domains you know would be valuable to someone in a specific business category. While many .com domains have been registered in virtually every category, there are still many extensions available. 

Domain extensions like .app, .io, and .club help to increase your options. Do you know a lot about pets? Try registering animallovers.pet. Are you interested in real estate? Look for something like homebuyers.realeastate. Focusing on industries you care about and looking beyond the .com options is a great way to start.

Think big, start small

Domain flipping is probably a side gig for you right now. You can only invest what you can afford to lose. Slow down and take some time crunching the numbers. Whether it is buying and selling domains or another enterprise, you need to know your budget. This can sometimes be hard to pinpoint, but over time you will learn the value of domain names based on what buyers are willing to pay for them. While you are thinking big, start small. Use your best judgment and register a few names to see how well you can market them. 

Do your homework 

People who are experienced in domain flipping, also known as domainers, develop an instinct for calculating a domain’s value. They can look at the price tag of a domain and tell you if it is undervalued or overvalued. In an industry that requires several skills, this one is probably the most important. To develop the instinct for calculation, do your research and become familiar with the process.

Check out NameBio, which has a database of more than 500,000 domain sales. They also have an app called The Domain Game. It provides you with a domain and you have to guess whether it sold for three, four, five, or six figures. In addition, you can look into domain valuation companies like DomainIQ and Estibot, so you can get an appraisal to use as a reference point.  

Rely on proven resources

Most people in the domain game say there is a learning curve when reselling them. Learn from others in the domain space and ask them questions. Most domainers are happy to help. Check out DomainSherpa, which is a great resource for new domainers. Forums such as WebHostingTalk.com and NamePros.com can also help.

You should also check auction platforms like SnapNames and NameJet, which offer more popular extensions. While these may come at a higher cost than a normal registration, they also offer a higher potential return, making them a better option for domain investing.

Purchase a domain name for your small business

Whenever you’re ready to purchase and register a domain name, Web.com has you covered. But we don’t stop there, more than being a proven domain name registrar, we also offer solutions that help fortify your online presence – from a drag-and-drop website builder, web hosting, email hosting, search engine optimization (SEO) services, and eCommerce options to improve sales and brand loyalty. 

Register a domain name right now! It’s fast and easy. After helping over 3 million organizations get up and running online, we are recognized as America’s favorite small business online resource. We understand your challenges and we’re always ready to turn them into opportunities. Through our portfolio of online solutions, our expert team is always here for you and your business – let us know how we can help.

  • Web.com Team

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