Ideally, your small business website’s URL, or domain name, will be YourBusinessName.com. It’s catchy and easy to remember. But if your small business isn’t unique, that may not be an option for you if another business is already using that domain name. In that case, you have two options. The first is coming up with something different to put before the dot and the second is using a domain extension besides .com such as .net, .org, .me, .co or .biz. There are different factors to consider each of these approaches.
CHOOSING A DIFFERENT DOMAIN NAME
If your business is just starting out, Christopher Heng of The Site Wizard suggests that you consider changing your business name to match the the website domain you’re able to buy. This will keep customers from getting confused and going to your competitor’s website by mistake because you’re both called Joe’s Widgets. If you have to buy JoesWackyWidgets.com because JoesWidgets.com was already taken, and your business is young, it’s better branding to rename your business Joe’s Wacky Widgets.
Selecting a domain name that’s different from your business name is an opportunity to include keywords in your URL. This can be especially helpful if you’ve named your company after yourself since your name doesn’t tell search engines anything about the type of work you do. Instead of cursing your parents for giving you a common name, add some branding to your domain, as in JaneDoeMarketing.com, JohnSmithPhotography.com and SueJonesArchtitect.com.
CHOOSING A DIFFERENT DOMAIN EXTENSION
If you’re attached to your domain name, then selecting a domain extension besides .com may seem like the perfect solution. You get to keep your great company name and move on with the running your business. But .com is so ingrained in customers’ minds that you’ll need to include your .co or .me domain extension in all your marketing. Otherwise, Heng cautions, people will assume that you use a .com and go to the wrong site.
If your small business is local, then a local domain extension makes great sense. A local domain will help search engines lead local customers right to you. But make sure you’re not accidentally causing confusion like Juan Vides of TechACS, a web design and search engine optimization firm:
“Some of my clients here on Long Island, New York went with the .li domain extension to be local, but then Google thought they were located in the European country of Lichtenstein. So we had to purchase .com domains and redirect to the .li sites. You learn from your mistakes.”
IS GOING BEYOND .COM RIGHT FOR ME?
There isn’t one answer that applies to all small businesses. Consider the risks that come with selecting an alternate domain extension and decide if they’re worth keeping your ideal domain name. If you can successfully educate your potential customers to visit you at yourbusiness.biz, then it may make sense for you to go beyond .com.