Frankly, your choice of a domain name isn’t quite that dramatic, but it is a decision you’ll have to live with for a long time.

Maybe, you’re starting a new company, a new brand, or have an existing brand that you’re trying to take online. Either way, you’re going to need a domain name and a website.

Domain names have a massive impact in terms of click-through rates, from search to social media results; including referring links to type-in traffic, easy-to-remember brand name recognition, and offline advertising, too. You should not ignore the wealth of places where your domain name impacts your brand and your marketing. You may have some ideas, but make sure it represents your business and describes your products or services.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a domain name to represent your business, blog, and website. Your domain name should, at a glance, tell people what your business does. For example, if you provide dog grooming services, you should probably try to incorporate “dog grooming” in your domain name. Doggrooming.com is obviously taken, but you can make it “geo-specific.” If you’re a dog groomer located in Dowagiac, Michigan, you could use doggroomersdowagiac.com. Now when people search for dog groomers in Dowagiac, you’ve got the perfect search phrase for people searching for dog groomers in Dowagiac. Also, Google will “geo-target” your website for dog groomers in Dowagiac. Big high-five!

There are millions of top-level domains that end with .net, .org, .edu, and .gov, but the most common and sought-after domain names end in .com. It’s ideal if you can get a .com address since that’s what most users are familiar with. It’s also why .com domains are often referred to as “top-level domains. (TLDs)” While a .com is preferable, there are a variety of other options, as shown above. But do void a hyphenated domain name and try to keep it easy to remember.

Consider Purchasing YourName.com

You should also consider purchasing yourname.com if you can get it. Even if you don’t end up using yourname.com for your business website, you can prevent someone else from using it and potentially confusing your clients and buyers. Once purchased you can set up forwarding with your domain registrar and direct yourname.com to your official business website.

It’s not uncommon to collect a few domain names, especially as you get started. I’m a fan of grabbing domain names if an idea REALLY inspires me. It’s typically a small investment of $15-$20 that you can choose to renew or delete each year. Pro-tip, buy, and keep your domains at the same domain registrar. That way, you know where all of them are.

How to Find a Domain Name

There are a few different ways you can search for domain names. One tool I like to use is called namevine.com. Namevine will search for both domain names and social media profiles to see what’s available. For example, to find a domain for my Discover Cass County tourism business I typed in discovercasscounty at namevine.com and hit search. Now I can see that the .com is unavailable, as are most of the social media profiles. It looks like YouTube is available, and since I actually own all these other social media profiles for discovercasscounty.com, I will grab the domain name for YouTube too. No cost involved for this.

So if you find your first domain name choices are taken, don’t despair. Another way that you can search for domain names is by going to whois.net. Here, you can confirm that your first choice domain name is already registered and the available alternatives. Whois.net will give you suggestions to see all the different variations, or you can continue searching until you can find different variations with a .com top-level domain (TLD).

How and Where to Register Your Domain Name

While you can often buy your domain name where and when you purchase your web hosting, you should buy it at a separate location. This keeps things simple if you ever need to move your site to new hosting. And moving websites to different hosting services is more common than you might think. (Note: I’ve moved my diamondeventures.com website hosting at least three times in the last 15 years.) When you’re ready to register your domain, you can choose, but take a look at top10.com to compare the best domain name hosting services.

Set Your Domain Name to Auto-renew

I have at least one or two clients a year that forget to renew their domains and call in panic when their site has been taken down. Don’t let this happen to you!

Make sure you have your domain set to auto-renew. If you don’t have an auto-renew setting, put a note in your calendar a month out from your renewal date to manually renew your domain. And, please please please keep your billing information up to date with your domain registrar and your web hosting company.

Finally, be sure to pay the extra fee for Domain Privacy. Check out my blog on the importance of Domain Privacy.