Choosing a Domain Name

If you have not read the first article in the “Building a Website” series, we highly suggest you read the first article on The New Website Concept before continuing with this article on choosing your domain name.

What is a Domain Name?

The domain name is your website address. Other references you may hear in the website industry have the same meaning or are similar to
“domain name” include:

  • Website address
  • Website URL
  • URL
  • Domain (i.e. excludes “Name”)
  • Registered Domain Name

How do I choose the right domain name?

There are 2 things to consider when choosing your domain name:

  • What would you like your domain extension(TLD – top level domain) to be, for example: .com, .co.za, .net, .biz, etc.
  • What would you like the name of your domain to be?

Your domain name represents your brand. But, when choosing your name, you need to consider the following:

  • The domain name may NOT be available – what are alternatives you would be happy with?
  • Is your choice of domain name relevant and / or is the name of the domain name clear?
  • How easy is your domain name to remember? Do your visitors need to be able to remember your domain name?
  • How long is your domain name?
  • How does the domain name read?

How do I check whether my choice of domain name is available?

That’s the easiest part of all and this part will take you less than 5 minutes. You can check availability domain names at various sites including the 2 mentioned below:

What NOT to do when choosing your Domain Name:

Domain names are often set up as being one word e.g. “mammothsolutions”, but sometimes if you put one or more words together, the name reads completely wrong or makes no sense and in some instances, can even be slightly rude – see examples below.

  1. www.expertsexchange.com – a very popular website that offers tips and advice on technical issues among other things. But, this is an example of a domain that when the 2 words ‘Experts Exchange” are put together as one word, the domain name isn’t particularly forthcoming.
  2. www.therapistfinder.com – a therapist website that allows you to find therapists in your area. In this instance, the domain name is 2 words, but if read incorrectly, it can be read as 3 words.
  3. www.ipanywhere.com – a website that offers IP related software. Although the name is the name of the company, when you read it out loud, it can be fairly amusing.
  4. www.penisland.net – a website that specializes in the sales of pens. Do we really need to say more about what could possibly be wrong in this domain name?

There are many others, but hopefully the examples above give you an idea on the implications of not considering how your domain name reads.

One way of solving the “read issue” is to consider putting in hyphens. For example, if we look at the domain names mentioned above, adding a hyphen in the appropriate places would make the domain name not misleading for example:

  • www.experts-exchange.com
  • www.therapist-finder.com
  • www.ip-anywhere.com
  • www.pen-island.net

Keep in mind that adding hyphens may make a domain name read better, BUT people who need to remember your domain name may forget the domain name has a hyphen in the name.

So, in those instances, we would recommend you buy both domains (i.e. domain names with and without hyphens), but use the hyphenated domain as the primary domain. If any visitor types in the name incorrectly i.e. without the hyphen, they get redirected to the hyphenated domain (this feature can be organized by your website hosting company and / or website developers).

What do I do if the domain is not available?

This is more than often the case, since the number of websites have grown enormously over the last few years.

The only option when a domain is not available is to:

  • Choose another domain name and check its availability
  • Check if the domain name that is unavailable is being used and if not, contact the domain owner (available via the WHOIS info) and offer to buy the domain. This isn’t always possible, but is always worth a try if the domain owner has not setup a website yet.

How do I know which Domain Extension(TLD) to choose?

The type of TLD is really a matter of preference. If you are building a South African website, we would definitely suggest you buy the co.za domain option. If you want your website to be a .com, that is absolutely fine, but we would still suggest you buy both the co.za, and the .com domains. By purchasing the co.za domain name as well as the .com for a South African website, you also protect yourself from potential individuals / companies buying the co.za domain name and building a similar website or a website that can compete with yours in a South African market.

All of us Mammoths are fans of the .com and .co.za TLDs. Why? Because “.com” and “.co.za” are the most widely used TLDs in South Africa, and are most likely to be typed into a browser when a client wants to return to a website.

Co.za is obviously irrelevant if your website is not for South Africa purposes.

Reputation Management:

Always try and buy negatives of your domain/company name. This is critical for good reputation management. You never know when some troll buys a domain that is www.anti-yourdomain.com or www.yourdomainsucks.com, and ends up ranking for your name in the Search Engines.

As you all may know South Africa is undergoing some power cuts and loadshedding, due to a power shortage. A great example of not-so-great reputation management is Eskom failing to buy the www.eskomsucks.co.za domain.

Final thoughts…

The selection and purchasing of your domain name is the start to getting your website going. It may seem like one of the easiest tasks during the whole process, but taking into consideration the factors mentioned above, you can see now see that choosing a domain name is important.

Remember: The website can change, the business concept can be adjusted / changed, but the domain usually stays the same. You want a domain that:

  • Represents your business
  • Reads easily
  • Can easily be remembered