How do I choose a domain name?
Choosing the right domain name for your website is a crucial step to launching a successful business online. From natural SEO ranking to online reputation, brand image and much more, everything is influenced by the domain name you choose to reserve.
There is always the option of transferring a domain name to a new digital identity, but it is best to start off on the right foot and choose a name that fits your website design.
Through 9 tips and tools, find the perfect name for your website, select the best extension, and register your new domain name.
Choose the right domain name extension for your project.
A web address is a combination of a domain name, i.e. a set of words representing your online brand (e.g. mywebsite), and an extension (e.g. .com, .uk or .org). The combination of these two elements constitutes your website’s URL. The extension reflects the type of website, its geographical location and/or its objective, commercial or otherwise.
Among the thousands of domain extensions available on the web, the most common are .org, .com and .net, as well as geographical extensions like .uk and .eu.
To choose the right domain name extension, you need to understand their advantages and disadvantages.
Pros and cons of .com, .net and .org extensions
Currently, more than 50% of websites worldwide use the .com extension. This type of extension is called a generic top-level domain (gTLD), which means that there are no geographical restrictions.
This extension was originally created for international e-commerce websites, but is now used by all website types. Non-profit organisations and NGOs also have their own domain name extension: .org.
The .net extension is the third most popular extension, and an alternative to .com. It is an abbreviation of network, and was originally intended for internet service providers and hosting providers such as OVHcloud.
It is important to note that mobile browser interfaces do not favour websites with a .net domain — they will instead auto-suggest the .com extension directly on their digital keyboards. This means that if you opt for a .net extension, smartphone users may end up accidentally visiting a competitor’s website.
National, local and specific extensions
The creation of a .eu domain name is reserved for residents of the European Union. The .uk extension ensures that UK-based web users have access to adapted content, even when it exists in several languages.
ICANN, the authority that regulates domain names worldwide, has authorised the creation of nearly 1,300 specific extensions since 2012. Some of them indicate a location, such as .london and .paris. Others specify the theme of the website, such as .travel and .sport.
For some, these extensions are less expensive than .com and .net. They highlight a specific brand.
Choose a memorable domain name.
Web addresses have a major impact on a brand’s image and visibility. Internet users rarely use their favourites. From memory, they enter the name of the website they want to visit in their browser’s search bar.
Your digital identity is built around your website, which is why it is important to put as much care into choosing a domain name as you would when registering a trade mark with the IPO, for example.
Register a domain name
Choose a domain name that is easy to pronounce and write.
If your domain is easy to remember, it will be searched more often by users than a domain name that is complex or difficult to spell. This is why so many companies use their own brand name as a domain name. Some even buy several similar domain names with different spellings or extensions to prevent others from misusing them.
You can also redirect several domain names to your main website to guide users, so that they can reach your website, even if they do not have the right extension.
It is useful to note that you can host multiple websites on a web hosting plan, even if not all of your domain names are registered with OVHcloud.
Pick a short domain name.
The shorter a domain name is, the easier it is to remember. Web users will easily find you if your name contains less than 12 characters, with no numbers or hyphens.
Why 12 characters? Because beyond anything more than 12 characters (or 3 syllables) is difficult to memorise and spell. A shorter domain name is also quicker to type out on a smartphone or tablet, even with a small keyboard.
The maximum length of a domain name is 63 characters, i.e. a full sentence. Some special characters are accepted by extensions such as .fr. We advise against this, however, because:
- Web users are not used to using special characters, and will search for the website without using them.
- Adding special characters to the domain name causes problems with URL encoding.
- Your graphic communication will be less effective, especially when printing paper or creating visuals for social networks.
A website name must not just be be a combination of words — it should be an acronym, a brand that will become a benchmark in your area of expertise.
Going back to basics is a great way of ensuring you have a memorable domain name.
Choose a domain name to suit your brand.
Your domain name must reflect the concept of your website, your brand, or the topics covered by your articles. It should evoke a clear idea of your company or the products you market, if you have a merchant website.
In the case of e-commerce, semantic value comes into play. eBay, for example, represents its search bar purchase mode. At a time when online sales were mainly sorted by category, with search filter systems only beginning to emerge, their company name set them apart. As for Cdiscount, the inclusion of the word ‘discount’ in their domain name highlights their low prices.
Check that a domain name is available.
Before purchasing a domain name, you will need to ensure that it is available. OVHcloud offers a domain name verification service. Its dedicated page shows the availability results for various extensions, from the most common to the most specific. With this method, you can identify at a glance which website names are available, and at what price.
Check the availability of a domain name
In some cases, the domain name you want may already be owned, but available for sale. On the OVHcloud website, it will then appear in the results with the “secondary market” label. You can buy it at the price displayed by the website owner.
Check the history of a domain name.
Even if a domain name is free or available, it may have already been used to create a website. Its renewal is not automatic, and its right of use is limited over a period of one to ten years, depending on the contract terms. Once the renewal period has expired, the website owner will be offered a renewal. However, some domain names are abandoned in the event of business downtime, forgotten renewals, and similar circumstances.
As a result, non-renewed domain names are regularly available for purchase from registries.
The history of these websites may be beneficial. Sometimes they are redirections (links and anchors) from other webpages, which generates traffic. Before buying an expired domain name, check if it has a good historical reputation — or on the contrary, if it has been blacklisted by Google and other search engines.
In the latter case, it is better to choose a domain name that has never been used, find a commercial name, or find a new keyword to highlight.
Reserve a domain name.
If you would like to use a domain name, you can reserve it with a registrar. Often, this reservation process is managed by web hosting providers like OVHcloud. They are accredited by official bodies, which include Nominet for .uk sites, EURid for .eu domain names, and ICANN for .com, .net and .org.
Choosing a domain name often goes hand in hand with choosing a web hosting plan, and possibly a content management system (CMS). This will help you create a website linked to this domain.
Reserve a domain name
Communicate using your new domain name.
The reputation of your future website is partially dependent on your communication. To raise awareness of your new domain name, update your email address and its signature. It is easy to get an email domain from a web hosting provider.
Please keep in mind that you will need to set up an email redirection from the old address to your new one, so that you do not lose any incoming emails.