How to Find a Domain Name for Your Startup
Tech startups come in various forms: From simple online stores and blogs to biotech companies battling the issues plaguing our world. All of them have one thing in common: they use the Internet to promote their work and products. Finding the right domain name for your tech company assists in building up your brand and reputation. This leaves to one question: Which domain name works best for your startup?
Which Domain Extension should I pick for my startup?
Choosing the right domain extension is a strong signal in reaching your target audience. Having a quality domain name shows commitment to the business and brand. A domain extension depicts the following details regarding a website and helps in getting the attention of potential website visitors and clients:
- It tells whether it's a business website or a non-profit website;
- It clearly depicts if the website is associated with a company, organization, or an educational institute;
- It is related to a particular location.
So let's look into more details about some commonly used domain extensions for startups:
What does .io stand for?
.io was introduced as a TLD (Top Level Domain) representing Indian Ocean Territory as a domain extension. Later on, it popularly grew as people saw IO as a synonym for "input and output' and broadly represents tech companies. Many tech-related businesses and websites have adopted this domain extension.
So if you're looking for an ideal domain extension for your tech start-up, .io might be a good choice for you. You can get a .io domain extension for your website much more easily than .com as fewer domains are registered with .io. It’s easily available and costs less as compared to .com and .co.
Should I use .co?
.co is often used for "company” or “corporation". This domain extension has a much wider scope and can be used for a variety of niches, companies, non-profit organizations, and commercial businesses. It has now become the most favorite extension of bloggers, freelancers and website developers for their websites.
.co is the top-level domain for Colombia but also used for company websites. Often .co is used as a cheaper alternative to unavailable .com domains. This being said, there is a risk of confusing .co with .com. Additional clarification is always required when spoken on the phone.
.com: The Premium Domain
.com is without a doubt the most known domain extension. It originally stood for "commercial" or "commerce". Being quite an old domain extension, it's now being used more broadly. Most of the businesses and companies around the world use .com-domains. It's the first choice and therefore much harder to find a good domain name with this extension.
.com generally doesn't lose its value over time and it's still an expensive, top-ranked domain extension. On the other hand .com extension has certainly got a few limitations and restrictions. If you're not getting your desired domain name with this extension due to any limitations, you can consider using a less popular extension instead.
What does .org mean
A .org domain extension is used by organizations. These organizations are mostly non-profit and not intended to conduct business. It's an ideal choice for NGOs, educational, information, or resource-based websites.
.org extension also sounds quite professional and is equally good for generating traffic similar to .co or .net. Although it's not as popular as .com, the extension still has its place in the online space.
Despite being recommended for non-profit organizations, .org has no such legal restrictions. Hence, a profit-earning company or organization can also go for a .org extension as an alternative to .com if they like.
.org vs .com
.com is an extension for commercial or profit-making companies, whereas .org is mostly used to represent non-profit organizations. .org-domains are open for any use-case and there are no restrictions on this extension. You can usually get it much easier and at a relatively low price as compared to .com.
Therefore, if your startup is commercial or business-related and aims at selling goods or services, .com would be ideal for that. In case you're planning to launch a website for your non-commercial organization, then you should go for .org.
.co vs .com
If you're conflicted in the choice between .com and .co domain extensions for your startup, there are a few basic things to keep in mind. First of all, .com domains come with a much higher price tag. On the other hand, .co domains suffer from the need to ensure the spelling is correct; people usually jump to ".com" in their mind.
.net vs .com
While .com generally represents a business and can be used for any sort of website or blog, .net on the other hand is a more specific domain extension. As the name suggests, .net is good for networking or internet-related websites. This domain extension typically helps in creating your company's first impression as a service provider in the field.
So if you are in the telecommunication business, hosting or similar, then .net could be a suitable alternative to .com.
With this, your choice for a top-level should be easier. Below you will find a convenient way to check any domain names you might have in mind:
How to find out if your chosen domain name is available?
Once you've selected the right type of domain extension for your startup, you'll need to find out it’s availability. The form below allows to check the availability of your chosen name:
Although some of the domain extensions might be available, they may have additional restrictions to fulfill. This being said, you can still register them after meeting all the requirements. These are a few examples of such restrictions:
- Not all the domain extensions are unused. You might need to purchase your desired extension (more below)
- If you need a country extension, you might be asked to submit the required documents as proof of your location/business registration.
- For some countries or use-cases, you might need to submit proof of its existence.
With this, you might still have questions left open. Below you will find answers to commonly asked questions around domain names:
Do My Business Name and Domain Have to Match (exactly)?
It is not a must for them to match but it certainly helps. It pays off to follow the above mentioned Gold standard. If one hears about your business and tries to search online for it’s website, you would want them to land on your website without any hassle. Getting it wrong can confuse a potential customer or worse — they may end up on your competitor's website.
Should I Buy the ".com"-domain for My Startup?
For startups in the tech space, a .com domain can be worth quite a lot of money. Regularly, quality domain names matching the business name change hands for multi-million-dollar prices. Whether or not this is the right path for you depends mainly on your business and budget. While it also shows potential users that you are serious about your business, the time and money might be better spent building and promoting your products.
Can I Use a Trademarked Name as Part of My Domain Name?
If your domain name includes a trademarked name, then you are generally at risk of infringement. It's highly recommended avoiding this as it potentially hurts your business in the long run.
Instead of using brands, you can try to replace the words with more generic words — e.g. “car” instead of “BMW”. This way you keep yourself on the safe side as well as making it more future proof by being a little more generic.
Should I Buy Multiple Domain Extensions for My Company?
Owning more extensions does not necessarily increase traffic. It's not recommended purchasing several low-quality TLDs to “own” them all. People don't just type words with “.com” anymore in the address bar. Even if they do, modern browsers redirect them to their default search engine.
Only quality domains with actual traffic are worth the expense. If you get a chance on an often mistyped version of your business name, it might make sense. In this case, grab the opportunity and redirect the new domain to your page. For these redirects use 301-redirects on exact matching paths.
What If My Domain Name Is Already Taken?
If your domain name isn't available anymore because someone registered there are a few options. If the domain name is taken you can try the following:
See if an abbreviation works
An abbreviated version may not be the perfect way to go, but it can be effective in certain cases. Such an alternative is particularly useful when most of the general names are already registered. If something like “JackAndJaneStore.com” is not available, then you can try “JJstore.com” or “JackJaneStore.com”.
Try a Catchphrase
If abbreviation doesn't work, then you can go for a domain name that contains a catchphrase or slogan. “HealthFirst.com” is an example for this approach.
For a local business, the phrase should consist of the location name to make it SEO-friendly, like “HealthFirstChicago.com”. Focus and take your time to go through the options and choose wisely. As mentioned above, if you limit your name too much, you might limit your potential market.
Check if it is for Sale
Make sure you visit the domain to see if it shows a “For Sale” page. This is more common than you might expect.
Alternatively, you can visit domain trading platforms such as Sedo and Flippa to find out if your desired domain is listed there. When you search on Startup Name Check, it usually shows you if a domain is for sale in the results.
If you don't find your dream name listed for sale you still don't have to give up. You can always contact the website owner and see if it is for sale. A website like whois.sc can help you trace the owner. If the “privacy mode” is switched off, whois provides the needed information to reach out. Hunter might help as well to find a contact email address if whois is hiding the information. Contact the domain owner via email to check out the possibility of a purchase.
You should be closer to finding the right domain name for your business by now. If you still have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
If you are still running your project under a "code-name" or simply are unsure about your business name, you might find this guide to identifying a great business name useful. Afterwards it's highly recommended to check if your name is actually available.