A lot of your business success sits on your domain name: it’s how your customers find you, it reflects your brand and it can determine how successful your online traffic is.

There is a lot riding on the domain name, so it’s important to get it right. Let’s break the process down into smaller steps.

How do I choose a domain name for a website?

The name should be a true representation of yourself and your business, but there are a few things you can do to help it perform well online.

Keep it as short as you can, bearing in mind that shorter domain names tend to be more expensive.

Altering existing words or removing vowels can be helpful. For example, Flowerbx works better than Flowerbox for the florist business. If you were to type ‘Flowerbox’ into Google, you would find articles and photos of flowerboxes and the business itself would be buried, whereas Flowerbx is the first result on the search engine.

‘Shorter domain names tend to be more expensive’

Another alternative is to go the way of Google or Häagen-Dazs and make up a completely new word. Once again, it does well from a search engine perspective as it’ll likely be the first result.

Which domain extension (.co.uk, .com, .uk) should I use?

When we’re talking internationally, be careful about translation. Check the name you want to use doesn’t mean something else in another language. Similarly, check that the words in your domain name won’t merge and give the domain itself another meaning.

Charities should be using .org.uk, UK sites have .co.uk and personal websites and blogs look great with .me.

If you want more than one, there’s no limit to the number of domain names you can register. In fact, registering multiple domain names helps to protect your core domain name (try .net or .uk). It’ll also stop users being sent to competitor sites.

How do I check if that domain name’s already been taken?

Web domain registration services tend to have domain name checkers – like this one – that let you see whether a domain name is already in use.

Be warned: the more popular the domain name, the more expensive it’ll be. Price is also dependent on the provider you go with and which domain name extension you choose.

If the domain name that you’re after is taken, the registry is likely to suggest alternatives. For example, if I type in bike.com into the UK Domain, it says that the .uk, .co.uk, .org.uk and .me.uk forms of the name are taken. However, it will return alternatives under each extension like bikeonline.uk and mybike.org.uk.

If you use a website builder, most include registering a custom domain as part of their package.

What do I do if somebody has the web domain I want?

Your first and best option is to go with a different domain extension. Let’s say bettybakes.co.uk is taken – you can opt for bettybakes.uk or bettybakes.net.

Alternatively, try a variation of your desired domain name. For example, bettybakes.co.uk can become bettysbakery.co.uk. Just remember that it must be easy to recall and difficult to misspell, so avoid something like bbakes.co.uk.

If another option simply won’t do, find out who is already using your domain name. You can do this by using Nominet’s service, WHOIS.

Once you’ve tracked down the owner, you can make them an offer. They may be reluctant to part with it – particularly if they know how valuable it is. Expect to be hit with a mega asking price and be prepared to haggle.

Your last bet is to wait until the domain name expires, particularly if the person who owns it doesn’t seem to be using it. The owner will be notified when it’s close to expiry and once it does, they will be given 30-45 days to renew it.

What if somebody has used the same name in the past?

If they don’t want it, owners have the option to make the domain name available for general registration or put it to auction.

Be careful – there may be a reason why the domain name wasn’t renewed. Perhaps it was too difficult in terms of SEO and was never found by users, there may be legal reasons not to renew, or it could’ve been banned by Google, so it won’t rank at all.

‘Be careful – there may be a reason why the domain name wasn’t renewed’

Many registrars also offer a domain name brokering service so that you can track domain names and when they expire, allowing you to swoop in when they open up. The broker can purchase the name on your behalf, if you prefer.

How do I buy the domain name?

Auction hosts will have protocols in place for making payments and transfers, so refer to their customer service team or FAQ section if you’re not sure.

It’s a similar story if you want to buy a domain name outright. The registrar will guide you through the process and the name will be yours. A standard fee will normally include a purchase fee and a yearly renewal fee – it will possibly involve a set-up fee as well.

Or if you’ve approached by the owner directly, you can make transfer and payment arrangements between you.

When you’re buying a domain name, be aware of legal implications. There is no established domain name law, but you enter into a contract with a domain name registry or reseller when you sign up. Dispute resolution policy can be used if the registry or reseller rules that the domain name you bought was purchased maliciously, such as buying it to sell to a competitor at an increased price.

This article was brought to you in partnership with the UK Domain.

Further reading on website domains

Why choosing the right domain name matters

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