Choosing the right domain name and extension for your WordPress website is absolutely vital to the long-term success of your business. In this post, we’ll explain all the factors you need to consider to make sure your choice is the best one.
What are domain names and extensions?
All internet users will be familiar with domains names and extensions although you might not know the technical terms for them. Right now you are visiting eUKhost.com. The domain name is the name of the website: eUKhost and the extension is .com.
You can call your website’s domain anything you want provided it is over three letters long and only contains numbers, letters and hyphens. Extensions are used to help identify the type of website, such as .com (commercial), .org (organisation) or .gov (government).
Finding the right domain name
Far too many businesses put too little effort into thinking about the domain and suffer for it later on.
Buying a new domain further down the line and transferring content is not going to help if people have linked to your existing website already, so it is important that you get the right domain at the start and stick to it.
Before choosing your domain, there are a number of considerations which you need to make which we will cover in the next few paragraphs.
Naming your website after your business
Although most businesses will usually want to name their website after their business, this is not always straightforward nor is it always going to be the best solution.
If you’re a plc or limited company, your business name should be unique; however, if you are a sole trader, you might find there’s another sole trader elsewhere in the UK with a similar name and that they have taken your domain name. In which case, you will need to choose an alternative.
Another problem can come with the length of your name. If, like many legal or accountancy firms, your business name is a string of surnames, it might not be practical to use as a domain; pwc.co.uk is much easier for customers to remember and type than pricewaterhousecooper.co.uk.
Names that will rank highly
One of the main considerations to think about when choosing a domain name is the ability of your website to be found on the internet and its potential for ranking highly.
To do this, it is always advisable to think about the search terms someone would use to find your business on the internet.
Let’s imagine you are a building company called Smith’s Builders that operates locally in the Derby area. If someone in Derby was looking for a local builder, they would search for ‘builders Derby’ or ‘Derby builders’. It would be much more beneficial for your website, therefore, to be called smithsbuildersderby.co.uk instead of just smiths.co.uk because the keywords are part of the name of the website. When finding the best sites to show in search results, search engines would see the relevance of your website just from the domain name.
This, of course, is not essential and for certain types of companies is not suitable. Other factors such as branding and corporate identity need to be taken into consideration.
Researching key terms for your domain name
If you are going to use search terms in your domain name, it is important to do some research to see which are the most popular. Subtle differences can have big consequences.
If you sell hen coops, for example, you would benefit from knowing that far more people search for chicken coop than hen coop, so chickencoop.co.uk would be far more likely to generate business than hencoop.co.uk.
There are several online tools you can use to help you find out which search terms are the best to use in domain names. The two main tools are both available from Google. One is Google Trends which lets you compare the number of people searching for different terms with line graphs.
The other is Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
This tool is used mainly to help businesses plan their advertising campaigns on Google and to use it you have to have a Google account and an Adwords account. However, both are free and you don’t need to buy any Google advertising to use it.
The Adwords Keyword Planner lets you find month by month search volumes for different keywords or phrases and can let you drill down to see similar keywords which other searchers are using.
As you can see from the graph above, our coop company would benefit greatly from using the domain chickencoop.co.uk instead of hencoop.co.uk as the term ‘chicken coop’ has over 90,000 searches a month compared to 590 for ‘hen coop’.
Whilst there is little difference in the meaning of the words, there is an enormous difference in their usage on the internet and only by researching keywords can you find this out.
Finding the right extension
Getting the right extension for your website can be just as important as getting the domain name right. Until fairly recently there was a very limited choice in what extension you could use.
The main extension is, and always has been, .com, which is mainly for the websites of commercial organisations based in the US or for non-US businesses who want to target a global audience.
Besides .com, the other main choice was the country extension. .co.uk for the UK, .fr for France, .de for Germany, etc. Choosing one of these domains, means that you are telling search engines that your target audience is located within that country, what is called geo-targeting.
Choosing a country domain does have implications for your website. A co.uk domain may rank highly in the UK but is unlikely to feature highly everywhere else. If you are a UK based company wanting to sell internationally, then it is not the most appropriate extension for you.
If you do only trade within the UK, then it does have its merits. UK internet users have a far greater trust in websites with co.uk extensions than any other.
The other principal choices in the past were .org, for non-business organisations, like charities, and .net which has always been preferred by internet companies. In addition there was the government extension .gov or .gov.uk and the education extension .edu or .ac.uk – however, you can only get these extensions if you are a genuine government or educational establishment.
In recent years, however, the number of extensions has exploded. .co and .uk are becoming popular replacements for .co.uk and .biz can be used as an alternative to .com for small businesses. In addition, there are hundreds of new choices available which makes it quite difficult to choose.
When it comes to a choice, you have to choose one that matches the type of company you are, the reputation you want to have and the trust and value your customers have in that domain extension.
Perhaps one of the benefits of these new domain extensions is in helping you to rank higher for specific search terms. So, for example, vets might do better with a .vet extension and physiotherapists might benefit from .physio.
Choose more than one domain extension
The cost of buying a new domain is not that expensive and if you value your business or brand name then it has always been advisable to buy all the top level domains for that name. If Smith’s Builders Derby become a leading building company and they only owned the smithsbuildersderby.co.uk website, then another building company can easily buy smithsbuildersderby.co and use Smith’s reputation to make money for themselves. This is known as ‘passing off’ and, although illegal, it does take place.
It’s not been unknown either, for unscrupulous fraudsters to do something similar and build a cloned site and steal payments and credit card details from customers who thought they were at the legitimate site.
To protect your business’ online reputation, you should at least buy the .com and .co.uk versions even if you never use them.
Buying a domain
You can buy domain names from most web hosts and it’s a fairly simple process. The domain name belongs to you as long as you keep it registered and you will need to pay a small fee to do this. Most companies do this over a one or two year cycle.
The cost varies depending upon the domain extension and the host.
Before buying a domain, you will need to see if it is available. You can do this now by searching the eUKhost domain search tool. Simply type in the name of the domain you want to register (not the extension) and it will tell you if the name is available and if so which extensions are available for that name.
If the domain name you want is not available there is always the possibility that it is for sale. If you do a search for the website name you want and the result says that the website is unavailable it could mean that the owner is looking for a buyer. Domain names which are for sale can usually be found at domain marketplace sites like Sedo.
For more information about registering a domain, visit the eUKhost domains page or call us on 0800 862 0380. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.