Every website has a domain name, but what is a domain name exactly?
In simple terms, your domain name identifies your website’s location on the internet – “yourperfectdomain.co.za” Domain names are typically composed of two or more parts, separated by dots (.) The “yourperfectdomain” part, followed by the “com” or “co.za” part.
Choosing the right domain for your website is one of the most important decisions you can make. It affects your credibility, your brand consistency, your customer experience and even your future growth.
We’ve compiled all our essential tips to make it easier for you to find the ideal domain for your website.
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. Is it 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. What do you want to achieve with it?
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 in 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 about 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 something that comes across as positive.
3. Is it 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 misspellings (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. Is the domain extension available?
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 can be a challenge to find one that’s available. It’s a good plan to brainstorm a few domain extension options. Here are some other solid choices:
- f 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. Is it 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.
To find out who owns a domain, you can perform a WHOIS lookup. The WHOIS database contains information about registered domain names, including the owner’s contact details, registration date, expiration date, and more.
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.
Ready to start your online journey? Find the perfect domain name here.