Choosing your business's Internet domain name is an important decision, and it's one that's hard to change later. Careful thought is necessary to get it right the first time. Here's how to choose the right business domain name

How to choose the right business domain name

Top level domains

The first question is what you want for your top level domain (TLD). If your business primarily targets an Australian market, using the .com.au domain tells your potential customers that. (Technically it's a second-level domain, but you register under it the way you'd register under a TLD.) If the domain you want isn't available in .com.au, the .net.au domain is practically equivalent.

The .com TLD is the most widely recognised domain. Everyone things of it first. Its downside is that it doesn't say anything specific. It's used for all kinds of purposes, all over the world. The .net TLD is close behind in recognition, and it serves a similar purpose.

The domains .org, .org.au, and .asn.au are reserved for non-profit organisations. A for-profit business that uses one of these domains will confuse people, and its right to the domain could be challenged.

Several country-level TLDs serve double duty as niche domains. Television and video-oriented domains like to use .tv, even though it properly refers to the tiny nation of Tuvalu. Domains that deal in computer tech sometimes use .io. That technically belongs to the British Indian Ocean Territory, which has fewer people than many small towns. These are fairly well-known, so they can be reasonable choices.

A lot of TLDs were created as niche domains, such as .casino, .cafe, and .vacations. The trouble with these is that they don't have high recognition value. Someone hearing "example.cafe" might wonder if it's supposed to be "example.cafe.com" or something else with a more familiar TLD. They can work if you're targeting a specialised audience that already knows about the domain.

There's nothing wrong with using more than one TLD, but one of them needs to be your primary domain, with the others redirecting to it. Registering multiple domains is actually a good idea, to help bring in people who remember your domain incorrectly.

How to choose your own business domain name

The TLD is the easy part. The real question is what to call your business's unique domain. There's no algorithm for the best choice, but here are some points to consider:

  • It should be a name that people think of in connection with your business. The most obvious choice is your business name, but it could be your chief product or service. Make it a "brandable" name, one that people will distinctly associate with your business and nothing else.

  • It should be short and easy to remember and type. If people remember it wrong, or if it's easy to make spelling errors, people might end up at some other site or get an error message.

  • It should be pronounceable. You're hoping people will spread the news about your domain by word of mouth. People need to be able to spell it right when they hear it. Numbers are problematic, since people won't know whether they're digits or spelled out.

  • Avoid dashes and other punctuation if possible. They're confusing and hard to enter correctly. Hyphens are OK if you they're the best way to make your name unique or avoid problems, but avoid any other punctuation.

  • Avoid confusing names in general. Try to not to pick a name that's easy to misspell. If your business's name is inherently hard to spell, you can register common misspellings. For instance, if your business is Smyth Widgets, swallow your pride in your name and register both smithwidgets.com.au and smythwidgets.com.au.

  • Be careful of double-entendres. Jamming the words in a name together without spaces or punctuation can have unintended consequences. If your company's name is Queenscliff Arts, use a hyphen in the domain name, please.

  • Check for trademark issues. If the name you pick infringes on a trademark, you could have to give it up and might even be stuck in a big legal battle. When in doubt, check with a lawyer.

Think carefully, but don't take too long. A good domain name can be grabbed up quickly.

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