I started getting interested in web design and genealogy at about the same time in my life. One thing that connects them both is that a name is important. A business’s name can be like a person’s name. Some people use a shortened version of their name. For example, Robert can also be Bob. Businesses must consider whether consumers refer to the store by their full name, or just a shortened version of it. Is Bob’s Supermarket just referred to as Bob’s? Where am I going with these random questions about naming conventions? These scenarios are all worthy of consideration when deciding what your domain name should be. The question to ask is “What do customers commonly call the store? If there are multiple locations, how will they respond if asked “Which one”?
When a business decides to make a website, one very important step (it doesn’t have to be the first step) is coming up with a domain name. There are many hurdles, and some of these might ring a bell: common domain names like bobssupermarket.com might be taken, or your domain name was midtowneiga.net but now you need to change to midtownemarket.net for legal reasons.
Here are a few steps I go through when researching for a store’s domain name.
1. Ask the retailer for two or three ideas from the top of his/her head. This is assuming they don’t already have a domain name. Sometimes the retailer has done some research on their own, so I listen to see what they found out. During this conversation I try to get a good feel for how much of a priority each suggestion has.
2. Don’t assume a common domain name will be taken. Type them in the URL bar and do a search. If you REALLY want the name that is taken, look at the website; does it look like it is updated often? If the answer is “no”, search for the name at whois.com. I would recommend only using whois.com if you know the domain is taken. In the past, I have done a whois.com search for a domain name that wasn’t taken, then an hour later found out it had just been purchased! I only use whois.com when I know the domain name is taken, but I also want to know when it expires. It might be worth the wait to let it expire, then try again to see if whomever owns it lets it go. Often, the domain info in whois is private. That is usually a sign for me that the owner is pretty serious about keeping their domain name and you should starting thinking of alternatives.
3. Sometimes a domain name is “parked” until the owner is ready to go live with their site. If that is the case, normally you see advertising for the registrar like GoDaddy or Network Solutions. If you want to know more, I recommend calling the company that is advertised and ask THEM to do a protected whois.com search for you.
A good indicator if a domain name isn’t taken is if you see an error message… server can’t be found kind of wording. If you see this, call your web designer to purchase, or purchase yourself.
4. If the domain name you wanted is taken, the first alternative to think of is location. If you have only one location, use the town’s name after your store’s name. If the town has a long name, use a common abbreviation. Don’t use a dash or any punctuation to separate the store name from the town’s name. If you have more than one store in town you can consider using a strip mall’s name, street name, or even a direction like north, south, or even sw. When doing this, don’t forget to consider how your customers refer to your store. Most likely your customers will use something different than what you and your employees use. I have seen a group of stores all in different towns use the state’s abbreviation. I have also seen a section of town used like “yourstoresnameoldtowne.com”. Another good alternative was a group of Piggly Wiggly stores who also strengthened their own stores branding, “gotothepig.com”. Some domains can reinforce a customer’s store brand preferences… “mystorename.com”.
Each scenario is different, as is the solution. However, I have found one seemingly easy solution you should avoid. I highly recommend NOT using a hyphen/dash in your domain name. Society has been trained for a long time to not use punctuation on a computer for naming conventions, so consumers often won’t even consider using a dash.
Some domain names come easy, while others take some time to research. Be careful when choosing your website’s domain name, maybe even ask some of your frequent customers to choose their favorite from a short list of suggestions. You might even get a new domain name idea you never thought of! Choose wisely, then go for it. Start to make your store’s mark on the web.