When Hetzner rebranded to xneelo, one of the biggest tasks we had to accomplish was finding the right name – and the right domain. Our parameters were clear: it had to be available as a .com, no more than three syllables, and it had to be abstract so that we could make it our own. No easy task! We learned a lot during the journey to xneelo, and have compiled all our essential tips to make it easier for our customers to find their ideal domain.

Why the right domain name is so important

Your domain name is often your customer’s first interaction with your brand. If the domain doesn’t match your brand, or if a brand only has a Facebook page and not a website, it lacks credibility. Your domain name will also be added to all your marketing material – online and offline. Choosing the right domain name is a long-term investment in your brand.

5 things to consider when choosing your domain

1. On brand

Make sure your domain name is relevant to your brand, and professional. Before you commit to a company name, make sure that it is available and that another brand isn’t using it – or something similar. Ideally, you want something memorable and easy to spell or people won’t be able to find you easily. If it’s available, register it!

2. Creative

It can take ages to find the right brand and domain name. When you’re brainstorming, use different sources to get ideas. 

    • Internal brainstorm: get your team involved creating ideas – there are no dumb suggestions!
    • Customers: ask a select focus group if they want to contribute ideas or which options they like.
    • Use an online tool like Wordoid or Panabee that gives you made-up words that sound natural.

It’s helpful to set some boundaries so that you’re as clear as possible what you want the domain name to achieve. Do you want your domain name to represent your company, a brand within your company, an event or a product? Where is your target market? How much are you willing to pay for your domain name?

Once you have a few ideas, shortlist them and ask your team or customer focus group to vote for their favourite. Also, ask strangers what they associate the name with. You don’t want a brand name that consistently makes people think of something negative…

3. Simple 

Remember that you want your domain name to be easy to type and say. You may need to explain it once to your customers (pronounced “x-nee-lo”) but you don’t want your customers to consistently get your name mixed up or spell it wrong. A few key points:

  • Don’t use hyphens and numbers.
  • Don’t use double letters or deliberate misspelling (switching y / e / i in common words). This may get you a .com domain, but it will also mean you’ll be sending customers to similarly spelt websites, and they won’t be able to find you.
  • Do make it easy to pronounce so that people can visualise it when you say it. This makes it easier to remember and type in a browser, and easier to say over the phone. Domain names are like surnames: think of Smith vs Smythe. Which is simpler to spell?

4. Available domain extension

Now that you have your ideal brand name, the next question is whether it’s available… As you’ll know if you’ve tried to buy a .com domain, it’s a challenge to find any available in 2019! It’s a good plan to brainstorm a few domain extension options. Here are some other solid choices:

  • If you operate exclusively in South Africa, use .co.za
  • If you’re local to one city, consider .capetown, .durban or .joburg 
  • Choose .africa if you operate throughout Africa
  • .co is often seen as the alternate for .com
  • If you are an NPO, you can register a .org or .org.za

Don’t forget to think of social media as well – it makes sense to choose a domain that is available as a social media handle.

5. SEO-friendly

The final thing to consider when choosing your domain name is how it will be seen by search engines. The domain extension signals which region the website is in – so a .co.za website could help rank the site in South Africa. When possible, it’s also a good plan to include a keyword in your domain. 

Domain not available? Here’s what you can do.

If you’re convinced you’ve got the perfect domain name but it’s not available, there are three things you can do.

1. Buy the domain name from the current registrant

Buying a domain name is a legitimate marketing expense, and having to buy a domain is a common business practice. As long as you feel it’s a fair price for the domain, there’s no harm in paying for it.

2. Prefix or suffix the domain name

If the domain you want is too expensive, or an international company has the same domain (but a different enough product to avoid confusion), you can always add a verb or noun to the beginning or end of the domain. 

Verb: godomainname.com or buydomainname.com

Noun: domainnameapp.com domainnamemag.com

Region: domainnamesa.com domainnamecapetown.com

3. Choose an aligned domain name

If your brand name is taken, you can always use your company slogan or motto, or a unique sub-brand name. 

So there you have it: a few helpful tips for finding the right domain for your business. Once you have it, you’ll need to register the domain name and set up your web hosting. And then it’s time to share your brand with the world.