If you’re planning to build a business online, one of your biggest challenges will be attracting potential customers.

You can create a highly optimized site full of rich, informative and relevant content, which meets all of the ever-changing criteria or the search engine algorithms. Meanwhile, you can invest thousands in building a highly visible and recognizable brand, to make your business into a household name.

Or, you can give your business a serious leg-up by investing in the right domain name.

Why is your domain name important?

There are three reasons why your domain name really matters.

Getting found

When potential customers are searching for services just like yours, they’re going to search using keywords. Identifying those keywords and using them strategically in your web content—page titles, meta data, headings etc.—will help you rank highly in the search engine listings.

While all that is still important, having your top keyword as your domain name can help you leapfrog up those rankings. Think of your domain name as your online ‘real estate.’ Businesses with the best ‘location’ are more likely to be spotted and attract trade than those hidden in the backstreets (in this case, on page two of a search listing).

Getting the click

Appearing at the top of a search is important, but it still doesn’t guarantee a click. What turns a search listing into a click-through is credibility.

The more closely your domain name is associated with the services you provide, the more credible and relevant your business will seem—for example, if you’re in the business of selling garage doors, your ideal domain might be ‘garagedoors.com,’ while ‘buyagaragedoor.com’ would be far less likely to attract click-throughs, even it if appeared at the top of a Google search for ‘garage doors.’

Getting remembered

Repeat business and social media recommendations are the lifeblood of most online businesses. The easiest way to make sure customers remember who you are and where to find you is to have a domain name that they simply can’t forget. Which, again, means a name that tells people exactly what you do.

A domain name that achieves of all of these three objectives will bring you more clicks, and the chance to convert more customers, make more sales and bring in more cash. You will, of course, still need to work hard to convert site visitors into sales and build customer loyalty with great service.

What makes a good domain name?

As explained above, you need a domain name that clearly and simply explains what you do. The most generic domain name—‘garagedoors.com’ in the example above—is known as the ‘category killer,’ because it is the very best possible option for a business within that category.

Category killer domain names tend to have a very high value, largely because they have serious ‘click authority.’ This is all about credibility again. When customers see a name like ‘garagedoors.com’ they assume that the business that owns that name must have been around longer than anyone else (how else would they have secured such a great domain name?) And a business that has been around for a long time must be doing something right…

If your business services a specific region, you might find that a domain name like ‘garagedoorslosangeles.com’ would be even more effective at attracting local customers than the generic category killer. Showing that you are a local business helps to build consumer confidence.

Dot com domain name extensions are best as these have been around the longest and have the most associated trust with them.

You may be offered websites with other extensions such as .tv, .net, or .biz, but these have very little credibility and are rarely worth investing in.

How to secure your domain name

It’s likely that the category killer domain name for your sector is already in use. Powerful alternatives like the ‘garagedoorscalifornia.com’ option might be available though, and with a little creativity you can still net yourself an excellent piece of online real estate.

When you think of a good name, conduct a quick search to see if there is already a business using it. If not, you’ll need to visit a domain registry like Uniregistry, where you might find your chosen domain for sale. Some domain names can be bought for as little as $9 a year.

If your domain name isn’t in use but isn’t for sale, a quick visit to the relevant Who Is database will reveal the owner, so you can get in touch and find out if they’re willing to part with it. (Be careful not to use a business email address to contact them, as the selling price is likely to be much higher if they realize how important the domain name could be to you. Some domain names trade for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

If you can’t afford to buy the domain name, you may be able to negotiate with the owner to rent it—be sure to get an option to buy later though, so you don’t lose your business when the rental period ends!

Investing in a great domain name can have a dramatic impact on your web traffic and customer recognition, which can catapult your business growth. And your domain name will remain a valuable asset you can sell later if necessary.

Note: be sure to renew your domain registration every year—if you let your registration lapse, someone else will be able to snap up the name.

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Shaun McGowan
Shaun McGowan is a digital strategist and entrepreneur who has utilized his expertise to grow multi-million dollar businesses from the ground up. His philosophy is “domain name first; business concept second” premised on the firm belief that any successful business can be developed with the right online “real estate.” He famously rebranded his company from Beep to CarLoans.com.au. His current business Lend is a finance website that helps small businesses get access to the funding they need.

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