Small Business: getting the right domain name

Building a website with your name as the Building a website with your name as the domain is a good way to improve search engine hits. Photo Credit: iStock

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Jamie Herzlich Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday. ...

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Steve Davies likes being proactive when it comes to securing domain names related to his brand and affiliated companies.

He's registered about 20 domains that incorporate his name or related names, including steve davies.com and steveism.com, which he paid a hefty $500 for.

Davies, president of Huntington-based Edge Initiatives, a small business consultancy, doesn't necessarily use all of the domains he owns, but he likes knowing they're available in case he needs them, recognizing that the appropriate domain can give him a competitive edge.

"The right domain name makes it easier for people to find me," said Davies, also chief executive of The Alternative Board in Nassau County, a membership consulting organization for small business owners.

Choosing the right domain can be difficult, especially considering there are 250 million that already have been secured.

As a result, businesses can become frustrated and often settle on a less than optimal domain name.

A recent national survey by Wakefield Research, commissioned by domain provider .CO, found that nearly half of small business owners aren't completely satisfied with their current domain name, and 55 percent believe they've lost business by not having their first-choice domain name.

Domain competition growing. Businesses need to weigh their options carefully and understand that they may have to seek alternatives if their first choice is already taken.

"Competition [for domains] is always growing," said Steve Jones, chief operating officer and co-founder of Domainate, a San Diego-based domain service and consulting company.

Jones said he is a big believer in matching your company name to your domain name because consumers will likely use it in their searches.

If it's already in use, it may be worthwhile trying to buy it.

Consult with experts. There are several sites where you can find domains for sale, including Sedo.com, SnapNames.com and DomainNameSales.com, said Kevin Lee, chief executive of Didit, a digital marketing and search engine marketing firm in Mineola, who once sold greeting.com at auction to a buyer for $350,000.

But before making an offer, it pays to consult with an experienced domain buyer, he said.

Don't just seek your company name but also possible extensions, Jones said. He has secured more than 10 domain names for his company, including domain ate.com, domain8.com and domaineight.com.

Explore your options. If you can't secure your first choice, consider alternatives. For starters, you can add relevant words to your domain. For example, if Joe's Pizzeria is taken, perhaps try JoesPizzeriaShack.com, said Jones.

Explore alternatives by adding a prefix or suffix to whatever your brand is, said Lee. "Use a modifier that's a little descriptive of your business and flows with the business name," he said. You might add "LI" to the end of your business name, said Lee.

The shorter the domain name the better, particularly given how many people use mobile devices to access the Web, he said.

Try .co option. Lori Anne Wardi, co-founder and vice president of .CO, which manages and markets the .co domain, said she's seen growth in companies using this alternative extension to .com. .CO, which has its U.S. headquarters in Miami, has more than 1.5 million domains under management after launching just three years ago. It sold 233,000 domains within its first 24 hours.

Wardi said companies could consider it as an option, noting there's a website, NameYour.co, to brainstorm domains. But Davies prefers to stick to .coms.

"I think people type in dot com," he said. He owns various site names, including edgeinitiatives.com, edgeli.com and even tallestpygmy.com.

"It's all about coming up with short memorable names people will go to and type in," Davies said.

Fast fact:

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52 percent of small business owners would change their current domain name given the opportunity.

Source: Wakefield Research/.CO survey

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