What to Know Before Buying a Website Domain for Your Online Shop

If you’re starting an online shop, you already know there are a lot of ins and outs to setting things up. Whether it’s setting up your legal responsibilities or getting the technical elements right, there are a lot of decisions to make. Choosing your shop’s name and setting up your website domain is very important, but it can actually be pretty fun. With that in mind, let’s have a look at some things to consider before you buy a website domain.

We’ll be covering three main topics in this article regarding domain names. Feel free to skip to the part that is most interesting/relevant to your situation:

Choosing a name for your online shop

Even though this can be a relatively fun part of starting an online shop, choosing a name for your brand is obviously very important. After all, it sets the tone for your entire branding concept.

Without getting into too much detail, you should keep in mind that the branding decisions you make can have an impact on how your company is perceived by your target audience. If you’re focused on a particular niche market, then your shop name should really “speak” to them.

Recommended reading:
How to Start an Online Shop: A Beginner's Guide

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some things to keep in mind when choosing a website domain.

5 Tips for choosing a website name

Before you buy a web domain, there are a few things to consider before settling on a name. Here are five tips for you:

1. Make it easy to remember (and spell)

A great shop name needs to be more than just clever. More importantly, it needs to be memorable. People need to be able to remember the name of your site when they are actually browsing the web or at that moment they remember they wanted to visit “that site”. If your name ends up on the tip of their tongue, that’s not a good sign.

There are lessons to be learned from the big boys. Look at Google, for example. Do you remember the first time you heard of Google? It probably reminded you of your childhood somehow, didn’t it? On top of the fact that they used a somewhat familiar word, it’s memorable because it’s just kind of a silly word.

Recommended reading:
The Big Branding Guide: Logos, Social Media and Much More!

Google is also a very “flexible” word, right? It’s both a noun (I checked Google.) and a verb (I googled it.). Whether it was on purpose or not, the word entered our collective vocabulary seemingly overnight. Remember all those Google-jokes that appeared in 90% of sitcoms just a few years ago? You couldn’t pay for better marketing with the biggest budget in the world!

waiter serving in restaurant

"Have you ever googled yourself?"
"Hey! This is a family restaurant!"
(Image source: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images)

Google is also a short word; two syllables, which is generally a very good thing. Apple, Nike, Sony are great examples of short brand names. Can you do it with one syllable? It’s tough, but brands like Coke, Ugg, Ford managed to do it. Generally, try to keep it under three syllables so they’re easy to remember.

It’s worth noting that spelling should be easy as well. Words like google, apple, and Amazon are easy to spell. Words like gobbledegook are a little more difficult to spell (For the record, I definitely googled the spelling for that one).

2. Check up on the competition

two men glaring at each other

Shutterstock/Just dance

It’s always a good idea to see what your competition is up to. That begins before you’ve even chosen a name. Take a close look at what they’ve done. Have they chosen any specific words that you should focus on as well. Have they missed any good opportunities? Learn what you can from them before finalising your decision.

3. Make sure the domain is available

Make sure you know that the domain is available. This might seem obvious, but the reason this point is brought up is because you’ll want to check multiple top-level domains as well (e.g. .com, .net, .info, .co.uk, etc.).

You can use Google’s tool for researching this.

If you’re very serious about this business, you might want to consider buying your domain with multiple top-level domains to avoid someone else purchasing them. The last thing you want is for someone to piggyback on your shop’s success because you wanted to save a few pounds per year.

finger pressing .com button

Shutterstock/Olivier Le Moal

Side note, if you already own a business and are considering just moving your shop to a new domain, you should check out our article on that topic:

Recommended reading:
How to Change Domains without Losing Your SEO Strength

4. Double-check social media handles

The domain might be available. However, you’ll want to be sure to check all the popular social media platforms. Having control of those social media handles/usernames is almost as important as having control of the domain.

How to Use YouTube for Your Online Shop  Videos are now part of the consumer journey Download whitepaper

Does someone own your ideal social media handle? Consider buying it from them! This might work out considerably in your favour. Check out our article on buying social media accounts:

Recommended reading:
What to Know When Buying a Social Media Account

5. Be unique

Have you ever been to Famous Ray’s Pizza in New York City? Well, the joke is on you because half of the pizzerias in New York go by that name (the other half are called Famous Original Ray’s Pizza).

All joking aside, make sure you have a name that is unique. If you name your business according to your name, then you should be aware that “Monica’s” might not only be taken, but you might get a lot of irrelevant traffic to your site, which could actually do harm to your website’s search engine ranking.

As a side note, if you already have a local business and your name is in the shop name, you might want to consider including your city’s name in your domain (e.g. MonikasBakeryLiverpool.co.uk). Not only can this help with some confusion, but it might boost your ranking strength in local searches. However, aiming for a more unique name is still preferred, especially if you’re trying to build a proper brand.

Choosing where to register your domain name

 woman with a laptop sitting on the floor

Shutterstock/Luis Molinero

So, you’ve come up with the perfect brand name. Congratulations! Now it’s time to talk about domain name registration.

Note: Some hosting companies offer their customers a registration service as well, so keep that in mind. We’ve already written an article about choosing a web hosting service. However, you may want to separate these two services, so for now, we’ll just focus on website domain registration.

3 tips to keep in mind when choosing where to register your domain

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely new to the world of e-commerce. There’s nothing wrong with that! You probably don’t want to take a full risk here, so taking it step-by-step is a good idea. Invest your money wisely. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Protect your privacy and your data

If we talk about your personal information and public record, many domain registrars offer free privacy protection. If companies charge a premium for this, be careful. Additionally, if they offer to put their own details in the registry, run for the hills. This is a sneaky way of giving themselves ownership of the domain.

In regards to data, the idea is simple: the registrar should publicly state that they will never sell or misuse your customer data for marketing purposes.

Have you got questions about the GDPR?  We've covered all the FAQs Download whitepaper

2. Beware of hidden fees

Your instinct might tell you to find a cheap domain registration option. As tempting as that might be, saving a few bucks in the short-term can cost you a lot in the long-term. For example, they might try typical shady strategies like adding on extra services to your contract that you don’t want or need.

Hopefully, you are thinking strategically and are even considering what you’ll do if this venture succeeds and you have to scale your business up. That might mean you will have to transfer your domain to another registrar. Another shady business practice would be charging you extra to move your domain or making the process so difficult that you decide it’s easier to just keep things where they are (and continue paying them).

3. Check their support team

support center

Shutterstock/Bojan Milinkov

Before signing any contracts with them, research the company just like you would with any expensive online purchase! Read customer reviews and see what their past customers have to say about their customer service team. The last thing you want to do is have an issue with your site and then have a “customer service” rep try to upsell you on something you don’t need.

Recommended reading:
What is the Best E‑commerce Platform for Your Online Shop?

Buying an existing domain from someone else

There’s always a chance you’ve thought of the perfect brand name only to discover that it’s already been registered. First thing is first. Don’t simply opt for a different top-level domain (TLD). If you don’t have the .com version of the site, you’re working from a disadvantage and you might confuse potential customers. You might also run into legal problems from the company who owns the other version.

Alternatively, you have the option to buy the web domain from the owner. What you need to do is visit the website. If there is a legit and active website there, it might be tough to get a hold of that domain. However, if the page is empty or hasn’t been updated in a while, you might be in luck.

So, if you check out a WHOIS, there’s a good chance you can find some contact information regarding a given domain. However, with new GDPR regulations, it’s definitely easier to remain anonymous in such databases, but there will generally still be some contact information available.

It's important to keep in mind that your message may not get forwarded to the right people. If an administrator for the site gets the email, for example, you might end up having your email deleted or ignored. That’s why it’s also a good idea to research the company a bit and see if you can find the owner of the domain that way (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)

The next step would of course be to contact that person. Generally speaking, you should express interest in buying the domain, but don’t offer up a price. Let them come up with a number first and begin your negotiations from there.

Once you’ve agreed on a price, it’s time for the sale and transfer. We recommend using a third-party professional like Escrow.com. Just as you would do if you were buying a social media account, it’s good to use a specialty service for such transactions. The last thing you need is some funny business during a virtual sale.

Conclusion

Whether you come up with a great name on your own and register your domain or you buy someone else’s existing domain, choosing your brand name is extremely important. It’s the key to your brand identity and discoverability. If you’re just getting started in e-commerce, head to our Knowledge Centre to get some free whitepapers covering topics from SEO and social media to GDPR regulations. Of course, if you have any questions about Trusted Shops and how we can help your business, head to our contact page.

Check out our library of e‑commerce resources  From whitepapers to checklist and infographics Visit the Knowledge Centre

09/11/20

Alon Eisenberg

Alon Eisenberg has been the Content Manager UK at Trusted Shops since 2017. He graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor's degree in Communications in 2004.

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