How To Choose The Best Domain Name For Your Website

February 1, 2012 by  Filed under: Domain 

We’ve all heard of them, but do you know what domain names are, what they can do, where you can get them, and how to use them best?

Here’s a guide that explains all.

What is a domain name?
Sometimes referred to as a web address or, incorrectly, a URL, your domain name is what a customer types into their browser’s address bar to get to your website.

The domain name consists of two parts: a top-level and a second-level. Examples of the top-level, whereas the second-level is the part that you devise, such as yourbusinessname in

The name can also be used in your email address: for example joebloggs @

What a domain name can do for you
A domain name is very often your first encounter with any organisation and, because ecommerce is more important to a business than ever, it’s crucial that it creates a strong first impression.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s flashed across a TV advert or hidden in the black-and-white of a newspaper listing, it is going to be the method of contact that most people will act on to get in touch with you.

If that name doesn’t indicate who you are or what you do in a quick and memorable fashion, people are less likely to visit your site.

Using your domain name as a marketing tool isn’t its only purpose. It can aid search engine optimisation, but it must be structured the right way (see below); and it can provide a unique email address, thus enhancing professionalism.

Where can you get your domain name?
You can choose from hundreds of sites that register them: search for ‘buy domain name’ to see just how many there are. Your decision will be determined by a couple of factors, availability being the first.

If you sell hammers, there’s little point checking whether is still available. The shortest and simplest, and often most valuable, probably won’t be available. If they are, they’ll be an extortionate price.

Don’t worry because a slightly longer and more descriptive name can sometimes pay even bigger dividends. This is especially true for businesses that have just started up or are less well known.
Include where you’re located in the domain name, or what you do can be beneficial. For example, Not only does this let potential customers know where you’re based, but the name is much more likely to be available.

You can also make customers aware of where you trade with your choice of top-level domain. Using, for instance, tells people that you trade in the UK, and it will often be cheaper than alternative.

How should you structure your domain name?
Don’t try to include your business name, your location, and what you do because the result will be too long. Pick the combination most relevant to your potential customers. Once you’ve decided this, you can structure it with or without hyphens such as or

The issue of which is best has been much debated. Hyphens may improve search engine optimisation by making each separated word recognisable as a keyword, and they prevent confusion: for example,(, as opposed to

However, a hyphenated name, although it may seem trivial, can lead to complications when spread via word of mouth. See Don’t use dashes. When you have to explain which words are separated by hyphens, the name’s catchiness soon evaporates.

There is also discussion surrounding the use of subfolders ( or subdomains ( Search engines recognise subdomains as completely separate websites, whereas subfolders are recognised as branches of a website that all come under the domain name.

And because search engines only rank two results from the same site on their first page, it can be beneficial to use subdomains for search engine optimisation. However, there are other issues to consider when choosing between the two.

The right domain name enhances your website
It might not seem it at first, but there is a lot to consider when choosing your name. One that is cleverly-compiled and structured can have a huge impact on getting recognised, building your reputation and, ultimately, increasing sales.

Peter White works for Serif, a leading UK-based developer for software and services for web designers. Serif’s web design software includes WebPlus professional website design software and WebPlus Starter Edition, which is free website design software intended for the novice user. Both come with an impressive array of hosting options and website design templates.

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