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Picking a Domain Name When Choices Are Scarce

For most small businesses, the obvious choice for a domain name for your website is your business name with a .com attached to the end of it. But one simple search on any of the domain name registrar websites will tell you that is not as easy of a task as it sounds. For a variety of reasons (some of which we’ll discuss in this post), many small business owners are finding that the name of their business is no longer available as a .com.

So if you can’t get your business name as your URL, or if you are starting your business afresh and the world is your choice, what do you do? If I were writing an article a few years ago about domain names, I might have offered the simple suggestion to look for a.com domain name that is short, easy to spell and easy to remember.

That’s still proper advice. But today, with many thousands of new sites coming online every year, most of the intuitive .com names have already been registered. There are, however, two main options to find a domain name that’s right for your business at a time when .com domains are becoming scarce:

(1) get specific, or

(2) buy a domain that’s already been registered.

By getting specific, I mean you could add geography or other business descriptions to your preferred domain name. For example, the name plumber.com may not be available but OakvillePlumber.com or JoeThePlumber.com may be.

Particularly, adding geography is a great idea for small business. Consumers are turning to the web — even for offline businesses like restaurants — to do some research and find out more about the establishment before visiting. By adding geography to your website, your domain will help you to be associated with local searches. Let me give you an example. When a potential customer types “Plumbers in Oakville” into a search engine like Google or Yahoo, OakvillePlumber.com has a high likelihood of being returned in the search results.

Or, you could consider a pre-registered domain that is back on the market for resale. It is very possible to find a great pre-registered .com name for your business by purchasing a premium or pre-registered domain name. These domains will be more expensive than a new name (ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars) but depending on the name and what you intend your site to do for your business, it may be worth the investment. As an added benefit, if the domain had a website associated with it in the past, the age of your domain will also help increase your search engine rankings (search engines tend to give sites extra ‘points’ the older they are — perhaps in an effort to identify more established businesses).

One parting thought — you could consider another top level domain (this is the extension at the end of the domain name). While the number of unregistered .com names is limited, there are often .net or .biz extensions available but keep in mind, .com is still the best option because it is the top level domain most consumers associate with a web address.

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Doug Shuman, featured expert on websites and domain namesAbout the Author: Doug Shuman, Register.com [1]‘s Senior Vice President of Customer Marketing, is a 12 year veteran in the industry of marketing to small businesses. His efforts to understand what makes small businesses tick include everything from dabbling in his own start-up project to serving as a member of the National Advisory Council of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity.