Not every successful website has a great name, but if you don’t it leaves you with a lot more work to do. Attracting website traffic requires a mix of online SEO and old-fashioned marketing. That means your content must make sense to Google and be memorable for human beings.
Do You Need a Keyword?
At one time, people believed it was vital to have a keyword in your domain name – so if you sell tomatoes, your ideal name would be “tomatoes.com”. However, if that was ever true, Google stopped paying attention long ago. There simply aren’t enough unused domains left with strong keywords like tomatoes (yes, there is already a tomatoes.com), so Google will never penalise you whatever name you choose. People, on the other hand, will often try “tomatoes.com” if they are looking for online tomatoes, and if they use Google they are more likely to click a link that resembles the product they want. This could be a big advantage – so big that tomatoes.com have bought up the similar domain name “tomatos.com” and pointed it to the same website.
There is a partial way around the lack of available domain names that incorporate keywords – you can create your website in a subdomain. For example, snap up “galore.com” (yes, it is still available at the time of writing – check on names.co.uk), and keep all your website files in a subdomain called “tomatoes.galore.com”. Using subdomains, you can always insert a keyword whichever domain name you register.
It will help your branding if you use the same name for your business and your website.
Registering Your Domain
There are many websites offering domains. Some are first level registrars, while others are ICANN accredited resellers (see https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/reseller-2013-05-03-en). Avoid obscure resellers who may be less trustworthy and more expensive. Use a well-established company and always register your domain in your own name.
You don’t need a ready-made website. Your hosting company will help you connect them later.
Buying a Domain Name
Although everyone seems to talk about “buying” a domain name, you actually can’t. Domains are leased, and you have to make regular payments to keep them. The advantage is that disused names eventually become available again – and there are sites that specialise in this.
If you have billions in the bank, you can also “buy” a top-level domain (the suffix part of your website name). Only big companies do this (Airbus, Amazon, Barclays). Nobody is sure why.
Does Your Top-Level Domain Affect Your SEO?
There are plenty of online experts telling you that a “dot com” gives you an advantage over a “dot uk” or “dot info”. Google says it treats them all equally, but if you use a country code (like dot uk), it is more likely to think you are in that country. For most SMEs that would be a good thing, but not if you sell goods internationally – because you are likely to score lower in search engines outside the UK.