If you're going to sell your crafts online on your own site, you'll need to invest some time choosing the right domain name and then protecting that name online. These tips will help you make smart choices for your website and retain control of your business name on your own site.
Registering your domain name is simple and inexpensive, and it should be a big priority as soon as you've chosen your company name even if you don't plan to dive into selling your crafts online right away.
If the URL for your company name is available, grab it IMMEDIATELY!
If you have already established a name for your business, and the URL is not taken, consider yourself extremely lucky, and register the domain while you can before someone else takes it.
If the URL of your business name is not available online, you have a couple of choices. You can add a descriptive word (for example, "studio") to your URL. Alternatively, if your business is new, and you haven't fully committed to your company name, you may want to consider spending more time brainstorming business names, so you can choose something that does have an available URL.
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Consider registering variations of your domain name so another company can't claim it and cause confusion. For example, if your url is yourcompanyname.com, you may also want to register the urls yourcompanyname.net and yourcompanyname.org. You can point these additional urls to your home page, and prevent competitors from registering a domain that is very similar to your own.
Look very closely at your domain name before you register it, particularly if you are using two or more words together. Sometimes, when words run together in a domain name, they can cause unfortunate changes to the perceived meaning of the words. Ensure the words work together, and they don't form any unfortunate new meanings.
Clearly .com is the top level domain of choice in most situations; however, it can be a big challenge to get a good .com domain name that is not long and convoluted. You may want to consider using .net or .org or, if your business has a local focus you may consider the extension that corresponds with your country, such as .ca for Canada.
Two caveats if you decide not to use .com:
It can be extremely tricky to find a good .com domain name, but it is certainly not impossible. Unless you have a good reason for choosing a different extension, don't give up on .com until you've made a real concerted effort to find a .com name that fits.
A short, snappy, easy to pronounce and easy to remember domain name is good for humans and it's good for search engines.
I learned this lesson the hard way with this site. Way back in 2006, when the internet was a different place, and when I knew very little about naming a website, I decided to name this site inspiri-art-and-craft.com. (Ugh, what a terrible name! I cringe just looking at it now. Don't even ask me what I was thinking because I really don't know.)
In 2014 I bit the bullet and invested the time to change the site over to its current domain name. When I was using the old name, it was terrible trying to tell people offline what the name of my site was. I'd just hand them a business card because the site name was impossible to communicate. The current name is much easier to communicate, understand and remember.
Also, do try to keep the domain short. About 10 characters is ideal. That can be very difficult to fulfil. My own domain name is longer than that, it's not a hard and fast rule, just a guideline, but it is still reasonably short, meaningful and easy to communicate and remember.
Be very wary of using hyphens in your domain name. At one time, hyphens in a domain name wouldn't hurt you, and it opened up options if the unhyphenated URL you wanted was already taken. When the perfect unhyphenated URL was taken, you could simply add a hyphen between words and voila, you have your (almost) perfect domain name available to register.
Today, there is some evidence that too many hyphens in a domain name could hurt the site's search engine rankings. Plus, hyphens are hard to communicate when you want to verbally tell someone your URL, and with more people surfing on devices with small keyboards, like smart phones, the hyphen becomes quite irritating to have to type. So make every effort to avoid hyphens.
It used to be important to try to include a keyword or keyword phrase relevant to your site's topic in the domain name. That is becoming less and less important. If you can include a single word that helps customers know what your site is about (i.e. soap if you make handmade soap, jewelry if you make handmade jewelry, etc.), plus a branding word (such as your company name), it may help, but don't sacrifice a short, slick, memorable domain name in order to stuff in a bunch of keywords.
At this point, there are enough URLs that have been purchased, built into a website, promoted, abandoned and made available again for sale that you need to be wary of a domain name's history before you commit to using it.
Why does it matter if a URL has been used in the past? Because you need to be sure you aren't using a previously used URL that might have earned a bad reputation with the search engines. You don't want that bad reputation to follow your site around and drag down your online business. For example, bad links to your site can hurt your rankings. So, if the person who previously owned the URL you are considering built all kinds of bad links to that URL, those links might still exist, and they might end up hurting your site even though you had nothing to do with building them!
You can look up the URL you're thinking about using on archive.org to see if there's a history of any pages built under that domain. If pages have been built in the past, you'll know it's not a brand new domain.
You can also use the site majesticseo.com to find out if there are any links from other sites already pointing to that URL. If you find your domain name has been used in the past, and does have links pointing to it already, tread very carefully. There could be hidden problems created by the previous owner that may end up hurting your site.
Be wary of "domain name front running" when you check to see if a domain name is available. Domain name front running is the practice of monitoring people's searches for URL availability, and then registering that URL before the person who searched for it has a chance to register it. I have never experienced this racket, and I don't personally know of anyone who has experienced it, but I have read a few stories about it happening.
I can't comment on how common this practice is (or even if it still happens) or who does it, but I am wary of it any time I'm researching domain names. When I want to check if a URL is available, I avoid typing that URL into just any random URL checking site. I'm careful to use a site that I trust and has a good track record. I have always used betterwhois.com to check whether a site is registered or not, and I have personally never encountered a problem with this site.
As soon as you've decided on a domain name, register it before you mention to anyone! Even if you are deciding between a couple of domain names, register both of then just to protect them while you are deciding which to use. When I made the change from this site's old domain name, I found 4 URLs I liked before I was ready to make a final decision. I registered them all just to keep each option open. It costs about $10 to register a URL for a year, and, in my opinion, it was money well spent.
Once you've registered your domain, protect it. Do be aware of the renewal options you've selected. You can register your domain for one year or several years, and you can choose automatic or manual renewal. If you chose manual renewal, be sure to renew before your registration expires, and if you choose automatic renewal, do ensure you maintain an active credit card on your account so there's no problem with the automatic renewal.
Domain name registrars are very good about emailing reminders that you need to renew a domain, so do ensure emails from the company you use to register your domain are coming through and not getting filtered into your spam folder.
I would never use any product other than Solo Build It! (SBI!) for building an online business. They are far more than just a domain registrar. They show you step by step exactly how to build a successful online business. Solo Build It! is the reason why I know how to choose a great domain name (including the tricks about checking a domain's history, and keeping it short to please search engines), and they are the reason why my site gets far more traffic than most sites online.
There's a lot to know about building an online business, and, unfortunately, there's a lot of junk information online. Solo Build It! gives me the correct, research-backed information and saves me from wading through all of the junk so I can focus on building my business.