With recent economic changes we are seeing many new small businesses starting up, but unfortunately far too few of them are giving proper thought to the web and their website before starting.
In these digital times very few businesses can exist without a web presence, even less have the advantage of starting out new, so they can pick the best web presence possible.
If there is any chance you are going to need a website, then our advice is, picking a domain name should be part of your business plan (and before your register/commit to your company name).
Your web domain
Firstly, your domain name does not have to be your business names, although if building trust is important it may help you look more trustworthy. Having your company name in the domain is also likely to help people (who know your name) to find your website, there are some that would argue this is important.
Whether you use your business name or not, your domain name should be business related (especially for a new business where your business name has no existing business kudos). What we mean is, gone are the days where Bloggs and Sons will work for you, if you are wine merchant, something relevant needs to be in the name, e.g. BloggsFineWines.co.uk (this is important for SEO in the future, it also makes it instantly clear what your businesses is).
Watch out for name errors too, like AllenDown also reads as AllEndOwn (just the first I could think of), there are many rude versions out there (Remember you will not be able to use the CAPs in many real life examples).
Your next consideration is your location and your market.
If you are a UK based company selling to people in the UK, and you don’t expect to expand outside of the UK, then we would recommend a .co.uk name (or one of the variations that are UK based domains, although we recommend finding a .co.uk). If in the future you may expand outside the UK, I would recommend registering a UK and .com if possible (.com are usually much harder to find, but easier to find now than later).
If you are going to sell in the EU, get an .eu domain.
Going worldwide, or outside the EU, try and get a .com
Obviously if you are going to sell specific items to specific countries, you may find it advantageous to register domains in each country. But please note some countries are harder than others to register in, and some may require a registered national to register in that country.
Dashes and underscores are best avoided, unless you have a name that can be read in different ways.
Most of the good short ones are gone, but try and keep it a reasonable size, failing that register two domains, one for the website, and one for emails (that auto forwards to the website).
Try and be Unique
Lastly if at all possible avoid registering a domain name similar to your competitors, it could work as much against you as it could for you. It is best to be out there with your own brand and identity.
Make sure there is no one on a similar domain that you could get confused with, or could offend your customers if they visit the wrong site.
It would be wise to register in addition to any .co.uk etc the major domain names too, like .com, assuming it is available (but be careful when registering multiple domains that you don't create duplicate content i.e. have the same website on different domain names).
Failing all that, if you need help ask an expert on domain registration.
Written by Stephen Allen, Technical Director, Titan Websites.