How do I find the right domain name for my website?

The decision has been made: You would like to offer your products or services on the Internet or start a completely new online business. Before it comes to web design and product range, every company faces a simple but elementary question: What do I call my domain? The right domain name is crucial for traffic, search engine ranking and the image of your website.

In terms of content, form and law, there are a few points that need to be considered when searching for the perfect domain name. We have therefore compiled a guide to help you find the right domain for your online presence.

What exactly is a domain?

A domain is the freely selectable address of a company or a private person on the Internet. Each domain can only be assigned once worldwide and is part of the URL of the company website. Similar to the street, house number and postal code, it is therefore your individual web address through which customers and partners can find your company on the Internet.

A domain consists of 3 parts: the top-level domain (TLD), the second-level domain (SLD) and the subdomain.

The subdomain forms the beginning, the first section before the dot, and is also referred to as the third-level domain. Subdomains are used for the logical subdivision of the actual website, similar to a subdirectory. The most common form here is the abbreviation www (World Wide Web), which is used to control a normal web server. Subdomains can also be used to subdivide a website into different language versions (de.wikipedia.org) or to access the version of a website optimised for mobile users (subdomain m. for mobile).

The subdomain is then followed by the second-level domain, i.e. the actual name of the company website.

The top-level domain forms the final part and is a functional description (e.g. .com for commercial) or a country code (.de for Germany or .uk for Great Britain). In combination with the second-level domain, the top-level domain forms the actual domain name and is unique in the entire Internet.

 

Brand, keyword or your own name?

Before we get to the actual naming process, three types of domain names can be distinguished: The brand domain, the keyword domain and the personal domain.

Branded domain

The obvious choice for the right domain name is the actual name of your company or brand. If your company is already known to your customers offline, you should definitely make use of your existing brand image on the Internet. But even when setting up a new web shop, it is worthwhile to build up a unique brand that arouses the interest of the users. With an original brand name you have a clear unique selling point and differentiation potential – through clever branding you can set yourself apart from the competition and stay in the memory of your customers.

Keyword Domain

Another approach is the use of your offered core service as a domain name. This is also referred to as a keyword domain. Especially for companies that have specialized in a narrow product group in the long run, it can be useful to use this as a second-level domain, like e.g. www.carports-hamburg.de. Potential customers immediately see if your website offers what they are looking for and ideally your website becomes a synonym for your performance. However, a keyword domain does not bring a direct advantage for the search engine ranking, this is also confirmed by Google itself. The decisive factor is and remains the actual content. Keyword domains are particularly useful in niche markets, since generic and popular keyword domains are usually already occupied and the competition is simply too big.

Personal domain

Are you working in a consulting or freelance profession? Then it may make sense to use personal branding instead of an abstract brand name – i.e. to choose your own first and last name as the domain. Your own name as a personalized version of the trademark domain shows that you see yourself confidently as an expert in your field. You stand up for your company with your own name, which creates credibility and trust. When considering using your own name for the website, however, you should ask yourself whether the spelling of your name is obvious. As simple as it may sound: If you have to spell your surname several times during a round of introductions, a personal domain can quickly become counterproductive.

In general, there is a clear trend in the choice of domain type towards branded domains. However, you should not derive a fixed norm from this trend. There is no such thing as the right domain type. An example: When searching for shoes („Schuhe“) in Germany, both the brand domain Zalando.de and schuhe.de rank right at the top as keyword domains.

Ultimately, the only thing that matters is what goals you have for your company and what marketing strategy you want to pursue with your new domain in the long term.

How do I find the right name for my domain?

Once you have decided on a specific domain type, a concrete name is still missing. Now your creativity is in demand. Take employees, friends or acquaintances on board to brainstorm and collect initial ideas from different perspectives. Ask yourself which expectations you would like to create with your domain name with your customers.

When searching for the right domain name, you should pay special attention to its memorability. A good domain name is concise and easy to remember. Even if 63 characters are theoretically available to you, keep your second-level domain as short and uncomplicated as possible. Ideally, your customers will have internalized your domain right after hearing it for the first time. New websites do not only spread via the Internet, but also via word-of-mouth propaganda. So make sure that your domain name is easy to integrate into a conversation. Short domain names are also clearly advantageous for your future e-mail address and for printing business cards, flyers & co.

Find ideas

However, if you decide to use a slightly longer name for your corporate website, it is advisable to hyphenate the individual words. This will improve the reading flow and make typing easier. However, hyphens are quite different: if hyphens are still quite common in Germany, they are often regarded as awkward and unprofessional, especially in the Anglo-American area.

However, there is a clear consensus on the next point: Avoid umlauts or special characters. Internet users are not used to using characters such as ä, ö or æ when entering domains, which makes it much more difficult to find your website. And although umlauts are now permitted, many Internet browsers and mail clients still have major problems handling such domains. In addition, the reformulation of bspw. ß in ss opens up the possibility of international use outside the German-speaking area.

Tip: If an umlaut is an integral part of your brand name, it can be useful to additionally buy the domain with umlaut and link from it to your main domain. In this way you avoid potential misuse of your brand name.

Last but not least, you should pay attention to an unambiguous spelling so that there are no mistakes when typing. If search engines often make up for typos, a name that is too complicated makes it difficult to call up your page directly.

What to do if my domain name is already taken?

Once the apparently perfect domain has been found, however, the next problem quickly arises: the name has already been registered. With 333.8 million domain registrations worldwide, including 16.3 million under the domain extension .de alone, this is not surprising.[1] For example, you can quickly find out whether your desired domain has already been registered on the United-Domains website. If this is the case, you have to be creative again. One option is to add keywords relevant to your company to your desired name. Imaginable here are for example hometown or home country or further concretizations, like shop, app or service. Of course, you can also turn the tables and slim down your domain with an abbreviation. In order to find equivalent alternatives, synonym pages can help.

Vary your top-level domain!

A particularly popular trick to secure the desired domain after all is the variation of the top-level domain (TLD). The generic TLDs .net and .org are popular alternatives to the .com and .de classics. Since a large number of new domain extensions were introduced in 2013, so-called newTlds such as .shop or .coffee have become increasingly popular.

Particularly unusual domain names are the result of so-called domain hacking: In creative word games, such as craft.beer or ausgezeich.net, the TLD becomes part of a term or phrase. By juggling with combinations of brand name and TLD, you can create original, funny and imaginative domain names that are often still free and immediately catch the eye.

But here you have to pay attention: For search engines, only the part before the TLD, the sub-level domain, is of importance. This could lead to disadvantages in the ranking. In addition, a combination such as Sear.ch can lead to unwanted geotargeting on a Swiss target group due to the country-specific ending.

Also make sure that the TLD appears trustworthy and does not deter your users. Some domain extensions are particularly popular for spam traffic and should therefore be avoided. In the analysis by the security experts at IBM X Force Research, in addition to the generally popular TLDs, .ru,.click, .top, .xyz and .link stood out in particular.

So before you get too creative with the ending of your domain, it’s worth thinking about a variation of your second-level domain.

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Which legal bases must be observed?

In addition to content and form, the legal situation is also important for domains. A domain name represents an asset and its buyer basically has the right of ownership. At the same time, the domain holder is liable for any legal infringements. If trademark rights are infringed, a deletion by injunctive relief, a warning with costs or in the worst case a lawsuit can follow. Before registering a domain name, it is therefore always important to check whether any existing name, trademark or title rights are trademark or title rights have been infringed.

As a general rule, brand names that are subject to a risk of confusion may not be used. This explicitly excludes the following points as domain names:

  • City names or license plates
  • State institutions and parties
  • Names of foreign companies and brands
  • Personal names
  • Titles of (known) magazines, films, books, software etc.

Trademark law is also violated not only by the exact copy, but also by the modification of a popular domain through common typing errors (e.g.: Goggel.de instead of Google.de). So-called domain grabbing, the purchase of a domain for the purpose of blocking or later sale, can also be illegal as unfair competition.

In addition to such deliberate misuse, most companies run the risk of an accidental infringement of rights due to the large number of trademarks and domains. Therefore, especially in the case of larger companies or commercial projects, it may be advisable to conduct an additional examination by a lawyer in addition to your own search.

If two parties actually have the same company name, trademark or civil name, the principle of priority applies in favour of the person who first registered the domain. The exception is a widely varying degree of recognition. In current case law, the more prominent party is usually granted the right to use the domain on the basis of „outstanding reputation“.

How do I buy a domain?

If you have legally secured your desired domain name, nothing stands in the way of an acquisition. The basic principle here is: first come, first served. If the domain name you want is still available, you can purchase it from a registry such as 1und1.de or Strato.de. There are usually separate organizations for country-specific top-level domains: in Germany, DENIC eG is responsible for all .de extensions. The registration of such a free .de domain costs €9 in the first year. However, if your desired domain has already been registered, it is still possible to purchase it by means of the Provider Change Request. If the domain holder agrees to the purchase, you are the owner of this „expired domain“ and bear your rights and liability. Before buying a „used“ domain, make sure you check how it was used before: Is it legally harmless? Are there already any associations with the domain that might be harmful to your company? The costs of such a purchase are then negotiated individually with the seller.

Conclusion

So you should devote enough time to finding the name for the domain of your corporate website. Juggling with combinations, a lot of creativity and a certain amount of stamina are required here. We therefore hope that our guide will help you find your ideal domain name.

But always keep in mind that even a seemingly perfect domain name is only as valuable as the website behind it. Even if you couldn’t get hold of your favourites – with good performance and the right marketing you can make your domain yourself the top address on the net.

 

[1] https://www.verisign.com/assets/domain-name-report-Q12018.pdf