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Choosing a domain name

Give your website a name that's professional and easy to remember

A domain is the home of your website - like www.yourname.com. According to Verisign, in 2004 domain name registrations across the globe hit 64.5 million names. If you don’t already have a great domain name, you need one, and fast.

Even if you have no intention of having a website yet, a domain name is worth securing. Crucially, owning a domain name gives you instant access to the appropriate email addresses for that domain (yourname@yourname.com). This is important if you want to create a professional perception of your business from the outset.

"Networking is about building relationships, and we all need as much help as we can with those precious first impressions," says Christopher Hill of Programatic Solutions Ltd.

"Presenting a consistent brand image helps with that first impression. A Hotmail address is free, so using this for email may be seen as cutting corners to save a few pennies, as well as promoting Hotmail rather than your own service or product. Using your own domain name email addresses will contribute to building a solid impression of you and your products or services."

And with the low cost of domain names, there is no real excuse for not having one, especially if you are serious about your business.

Attention to detail

"I currently buy domain names for �8.50 for two years and email / web hosting for �20 per year," says Tom Crellin, MD of Skill-IS Ltd. "At these prices, I really cannot see any justification for using a Hotmail or ISP email address in business. It just says to me that this person has not bothered to think things through or research and therefore leads me to doubt their attention to detail."

Free domain names, such as www.yourbusiness.someone-else.co.uk (where you get a name that bolts on the end of someone else’s) have the same turn-off effect.

What's in a name?

How do you choose a name that people will remember? After all, the right domain name will attract buyers, increase visibility and inspire trust.

Use different domain names/websites to target specific niche audiences.

Peter Mulcock has found that operating multiple niche sites works better than having a broad range in one store. He sold 100 trampolines in 2 months through www.trampolines4fun.co.uk when it opened in October 2004, whereas it took www.classic-leisure.co.uk the whole summer to sell a hundred. Peter has several other sites, including www.classic-lawns.co.uk, and with a combined turnover of around �800,000, he's glad he secured a niche domain for each product.

Keep it short and memorable.

"Short memorable brand names are effective, especially if relevant to the personality of a business brand," says Cheryl Rickman, author of The Small Business Start-Up Workbook. "For example, creative branding agency, SNOG, have a fantastic brand name and personality. It captures their youthful, funky exuberance. Other good brands with memorable names include The Feel Good Drinks Company along with Google, Virgin and Amazon."

Short and snappy domains work well. What's more, short domain names are less likely to be misspelled and more likely to be remembered and passed on via word of mouth.

"Bear in mind the brand personality of your business, what you offer, your USP and consider the implications of being listed alphabetically too," advises Cheryl.

Use your company name, own name or a relevant solution-related name.

"Brainstorm domain names that solve a problem," suggests Tom O'Brien of PDQProspects.com. "For example, if you were selling an arthritis remedy and you identified a niche for customers that wanted lasting arthritis relief then you could register the domain www.lastingarthritisrelief.com."

Or, you could opt for a name that describes the products or services your company provides (e.g. www.financialservices.co.uk). Either way, your name will help drive targeted traffic to your website if you take this approach.

Taken already?

You can search availability of domain names at the registrar you intend to purchase it from, or direct from the UK registry. If your chosen domain names aren’t available you can either go back to the drawing board, or approach the owner of your dream domain to see if they will sell it to you. It’s worth seeking legal advice first, although a direct and honest approach often works.

To ensure plain sailing:

Check the availability of your domain name before committing to it. This may seem obvious, but it has caught out other companies in the past.

Avoid using trademarked characters.

Register various suffixes (.org, .net, .co.uk) to avoid others registering your name with a different suffix.

Know when your domain registration is due to expire and renew it in good time.

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What next?

Nominet UK maintains the authoritative database of domains ending in .uk. Their website has information about how to register a domain, and a list of agents who can register a domain for you.

Sometimes it pays to buy your domain name and web hosting together. Read our information on hosting.

Our advice on choosing a good business name could help you choose a catchy domain name.

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