Maybe you love naming things. Or maybe you’re like me and riddled with indecision any time you need to come up with a new name. (Except for puppies — I love naming puppies!)
Either way, as a small business owner, at one point or another you’ll have to think about what you want to name your business.
Besides the initial legal considerations, there are also some practical considerations that can influence your marketing strategy. To really be strategic, you’ll want to think about the goals you’re trying to accomplish with your website.
Here are my top tips for success with your domain name (and your business name, by extension):
- Be memorable
- Tell people what to expect from your business
- Be consistent across your brand
- Rank on search engines
- Help you find local clients
Let’s dive into those!
Using Your Own Name
I often encourage people who are just starting out to use their own name as their business name. This will help you be memorable (unless you have a name like “John Smith,” it’s unlikely you’ll encounter a lot of competition with the same name). When people meet you, they won’t have to remember both your name and your business name… because the two will be one and the same!
Using your own name will also eliminate the need for extra paperwork — Though laws change by state, you can generally work as an independent contractor under your own name without filing an LLC.
Two caveats to consider here:
- If you’re working in a team or with employees, using a different business name might make more sense. By using your own name, you’re telling clients to expect that they’ll be working directly with you. Of course, you still can incorporate your name into the business name (“Melissa Breau Training Team,” as a nonexistent example). But the last thing you want is for someone to sign up to work with you and then feel like they were tricked when a different trainer shows up.
- If your name is difficult to spell, you may want to use a nickname or different business name. This is not to discriminate against names that are difficult to spell, but merely a logistical consideration. If people are trying to search for you or type your name directly into the URL bar but they can’t remember how to spell your name, they may have trouble finding you. (You could also lean into the uncommon spelling — I’ve seen some folks get creative with this.)
Make it Easy for People to Find You Everywhere
Having different names across your brand — your business name, your website name, your social media handles, etc — is not ideal. Doing so makes it tricky for people to find you. Using consistent branding across platforms will help people find you everywhere.
Before you choose a name, make sure it’s available across all platforms you may want to use (even if you’re not sure you’ll actually use them). In fact, I’d advise you to take it a step further.
Any time you think of a business name you might want to use, reserve it! If there’s a great domain name you think you might want in the future, go ahead and buy it (as long as it’s within your budget). Similarly, you can create the account with that name on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or anywhere else you might want it. Even if you don’t use them, you can get most of these for free or cheap, so it doesn’t hurt to save them just in case!
And if you don’t already own a domain with your first and last name, go ahead and get it now. If you don’t end up using that as your business name, you can redirect that domain to point towards your business website so if anyone searches for your name-dot-com, they’ll be able to easily find your business.
Be Strategic to Drive Traffic to Your Website
A lot of folks may not realize it, but your domain name is a factor in driving SEO. Even if you’re going by your personal name for your business, you should consider including “training” or “trainer” in it to make sure search engines are including you in search results that have those terms. One important thing to consider with this is how you structure your keyword — using “trainer” will only get you ranked for searches for that exact word, so you’ll be losing out on people searching for “training.”
One way to figure out which to use is to look up both versions on Google Adwords keyword planner and see which version has the highest search volume. That will tell you which is being looked up the most!
Another way to drive SEO with your domain is by including your location in the name. If your domain is www.melissadogtrainingraleigh.com, Google and others will automatically include you in the results when someone searches for “dog training Raleigh” (though how high on the list you appear will depend on the rest of your website’s SEO).
One caveat here — be wary of stuffing too many keywords into your domain. You still want to keep it short and memorable, so be strategic with what you choose.
One Last Thing
Say you picked a name you LOVE but the domain is already taken. You may be tempted to go for the same name but use .co or .us or another one of the hundreds of domain extensions available.
My personal recommendation is to find a different name. In my experience, “.com” is the best one to go with (and maybe a .org or .net if absolutely necessary). Because “.com” is the most prevalent domain extension, most people will assume that’s what your website uses. When they go to type your name in and land on a different page or a blank page, you may end up losing them.
On a subconscious level, “.com” is also associated with professionalism. By picking up a less common extension, you may be accidentally implying that your business isn’t as established as others in your industry.
And on a practical note, most browsers and smartphone extensions now have autofill or keyboard button options that automatically add “.com” to whatever you’re typing in. This makes it even more likely that they’ll try finding you with that extension.
Now that you’ve hooked them with a great domain name, it’s time to think about your website’s structure. How do you build a site that converts customers into clients? I’ve covered a lot about this in previous posts, but here’s a good next step to take.