When you have an online business, you know you have a lot of competition. Customers can browse through literally thousands of online stores just like yours to find the perfect shade of eye shadow, designer jeans, hard-to-find pair of vintage gym shoes, or whatever else they want.
That means you need to do a few things to make sure buyers choose your shop and not someone else's. This includes doing some SEO work and a little marketing. But it all starts with choosing the right domain name—that is, the Web address for your site.
"Domain names are the real estate of the Internet," writes Daniel Scocco on his Daily Blog Tips, which was nominated for the Best Web Development Blog award by the Weblog Awards. "Just as a good location is vital for brick-and-mortar business, a good domain will be the cornerstone of your Web site's success."
Longtime users of Auctiva's eBay tools know the value of custom domains, which may be purchased at a discount through Auctiva. Having a custom domain makes your Auctiva Store even more marketable and, along with the built-in blog feature, helps to bring more traffic to your listings. Boost visibility even more by including your domain in automatic e-mails to customers and all of your correspondence.
You only have a few seconds to capture a potential customer's interest before he or she decides to move on to the next site, notes entrepreneur Tim Whiston.
"First impressions matter," he says.
Currently there are more than 108.8 million active registered domain names, according to Domain Tools, which keeps stats on current domains. With so many already registered, you might think it'll be impossible to find the domain that's right for your business. Then again, you never know until you try. We'll show you how to go about it.
If a buyer heard your domain name on the radio, would he or she be able to immediately navigate to your site without any problem?
Keep it relevant, keep it simple
"The right domain name for an online business would be one that contributes towards enhancing your image and towards your marketing efforts," notes Erum Zehra, editor of BizTalk4U Consulting.
Names should be relevant to your Web site and the items you sell. Irrelevant domain names will confuse potential customers. So if you sell garden products, consider using "garden, "yard" or another term associated with gardening in your store's domain. This tells customers a bit about your store before they venture inside.
It's important to keep domains simple, though, Scocco notes. He points out that many Internet users don't bookmark pages. They merely memorize domain names.
And although domain names can be up to 67 characters long, resist the temptation to use all those characters. There's no magic number when it comes to how many characters you should use, but shorter names are easier to remember. Still, that's no excuse to get fancy with acronyms you make up yourself.
If you saw the name "la846.com" or "mybubba17.com," would you know what the merchant was selling or anything about him or her? Probably not, and neither will your potential buyers.
Also be sure to avoid unusual foreign words, words with complex punctuation, strange letter combinations, hyphens, dashes and other symbols, Scocco warns. And resist the temptation to use an unusual spelling for commonly known words. For example, don't change "carnival" to "karnival." You may think it's clever, but it could cost you business since buyers will probably type in the conventional spelling.
That doesn't mean you should stop being creative, though. People will be more attracted to creative names than names they see every day.
Just be sure to ask others what they think of the name you have in mind. Ask them not only if they like the name, but what they think it portrays. Remember that you want your domain to tell customers a little bit about your store before they enter it.
"Be sure your domain name passes the radio ad test," Whiston writes. "In other words, if your target visitor heard the domain name on the radio, would he or she be able to immediately navigate to your site without any problem?"
It's best to pick a domain with a '.com' extension, since that's what people tend to type in by default
Tools ease naming process
If you don't know where to start, head to one of the many domain-generating sites such as bustaname, afternic or sedo. Here, all you have to do is select or enter words related to your business and the tools will automatically generate several possibilities. Then you simply choose your favorite and purchase it.
It's best to pick a domain with a ".com" extension, since that's what people tend to type in by default. But it can't hurt to buy the ".net" and ".biz" versions and point them to your ".com" site. For about $7 a year per domain, it's pretty cheap insurance to keep your perfect name all your own.
Google Search-based Keyword Tool is another option that will help you come up with keyword and landing page ideas. It uses your URLs to search for relevant search queries that have occurred on Google with some frequency in the past year.
You could also look at the names your competitors are using; that will give you an indication of what's working and what's not.
However, if the domain you really want is already registered, you can try buying it from the person who owns it, or adjust it slightly to create your own version. But be aware that buying an existing domain name could cost you more than creating one.
And don't forget about domain names that are about to expire. Sites such as expiredwatch.com are great sources to frequent.
Once you make a decision, though, try to stick with that domain. A constant domain shows a business' resilience and builds trust among customers.
"Selecting the right domain name is one of the most important business decisions you can make," says Michelle Howe, president of Internet Word Magic. "When you have a business online, you are competing in a global economy with millions of other Web sites."
So it's not a decision that should be taken lightly, but it can be easier than you think.