If you’ve been running a small business for a while but you’re yet to take it online, then the chances are that you don’t have a domain name for your company. If you want to properly market your business and send people to a hub that’s packed with information about your products and services, then you should purchase a domain name as soon as you can.

A domain is a name that people will type into their browser bar when they want to visit your website. In our case, MuffinMarketing.com. The shorter and more memorable you can make your domain name, the easier it’ll be for people to find your business online. Before you head off and buy a domain name, we’ve rounded up five important things that you should consider first.

Is the dot-com version available?

There are hundreds of domain name extensions to choose from. The most popular include .com, .co.uk, .net, .org, .info and .biz, but local extensions such as .london and industry-specific extensions like .photography or .tech are also becoming more popular.

The truth is that the more people who set up their business online, the fewer dot-com domain names you’ll have to choose between, so it’s important you act fast and secure a domain name that works for your business.

From an SEO perspective, there’s no benefit or penalty for having either a dot-com domain name or one of the newer extensions, some argue that .com, .edu and .org domains tend to rank best on search engine results pages (SERPs) for competitive terms.

But it just could be that these domain extensions rank higher because they’re the most popular – indeed, with Google itself confirming that new extensions carry no more or less weight than more popular ones.

However, if you want as many people to find your business as possible, then it makes sense to stick with a .com or .co.uk domain name because they’re the most commonly-used and most likely to be remembered. Use a website such as Namecheap or GoDaddy and see what’s available.

Is your name too similar to a competitor?

Before you buy a domain name, you should make sure that it’s not too similar to one of your competitors. For example, if you want to buy BestWeddingDresses.co.uk but the dot-com version is already trading as a wedding dress company, then you could lose out when people type in the incorrect extension.

Similarly, if a competitor has a similar name to yours, then you need to make sure that your domain name isn’t going to lead people to the wrong website.

If you’re concerned that your domain name is too similar to a competitor, then play around with different ideas. For example, you could use [businessname][industry].com, or remove the industry entirely and have a shorter domain name that only includes your business name.

There are so many options to consider when it comes to choosing a domain and millions of combinations, so playing around to find the right one is the best approach to take.

Is the name easy to spell, read and say out loud?

Whether you run a bricks and mortar store or you trade exclusively online, a domain name that’s easy to say, spell, write and pronounce is important. Word of mouth can help bring new customers to your website, so the simpler you can make your name, the better.

Shorter domain names are often considered superior because they’re catchier, easier to read and remember, and they take up less room, so you can use them on your printed marketing materials like in brochures, magazines and business cards.

The biggest disadvantage of short domain names, however, is that they’re more competitive and likely to be registered already, so you may have to be experimental and play around with names and phrases until you find one that’s available.

Does the name accurately represent your business?

It’s all well and good using your own name or business name and location in your domain name, but if it doesn’t accurately represent your business, it’s not going to work.

The key to a good domain name is clarity – with Muffin Marketing, for example, our industry is included in our name, so our visitors already have an idea of the content they’re going to find when they land on our site.

This doesn’t always have to be the case, however. Vague domain names and business names that don’t represent the business or niche can work well and help you to stand out and become more memorable. Just take Moonpig and Funky Pigeon, two of the UK’s leading card websites.

Moonpig is proof that your business name – and domain name – don’t have to be relevant to your niche or industry.

Neither mentions their products or services in their domain name, but both stick with you because of their unique, easy-to-remember name. The reason both of these companies are so successful, and their domain names are so well remembered, is that they’ve invested in extensive advertising campaigns, so be prepared to back up an unusual or unorthodox domain name by promoting it and justifying your actions.

Are other extensions and handles available to protect my brand?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a one man band or you’re growing your business every month – it’s important to plan for the future and protect your assets.

Domain names and social media handles are no exception, and having a consistent brand across every network can help customers find you easily and increase trust and conversion rates. So, it makes sense to buy a domain name that has the appropriate social media handles available for consistency.

Use a website like namechk, which scours the internet and checks to see whether your name is available as .com, .net, .org and .co.uk domain names, and shows which social networks and online services have your username available.

Register as many as you can to protect your brand, even if you’re not planning on using them just yet, and consider buying multiple domain names with different extensions, directing them all back to your main dot com address.

You may even want to consider purchasing additional domain names to boost your website’s search engine optimisation and drive more traffic. For example, if a competitor closes down, you could buy their domain name and direct their traffic to your website.

Wrapping up

By purchasing a domain name and setting up your own website, you’ll be able to grow your brand online and have a dedicated hub where you can share news and content as well as let people find out about your products and services. Don’t delay; the sooner you get yours up and running, the sooner you can begin working on a digital marketing strategy and start making money online. Good luck!