When it comes to opening an online store, one of the most unexpectedly challenging components is picking a domain. It’s strange, because it’s such a simple concept, but requires so much thought, strategy, and planning. Getting your domain right could easily be one of the differentiating factors between you and a local competitor. It can be the key to unlocking a better search rank. It can be the best return on investment your store will ever make. But it can also be the one thing to drive your crazy.
Let’s break this down real quick.
What even is a domain? And why is it so important?
Your store’s domain is simply the name of the website. Generally, it’s what comes after the www of your website. Examples would be wikipedia.com or ricoconsign.com.
So when somebody asks you what your website is, you’re likely going to tell them your domain name.
This brings up why domains are so incredibly important to your store and why it’s so easy to get stressed out about getting it right.
We’re going to talk about how we recommend stores go about choosing a domain, some strategies our team discusses regularly, and what you can expect during this process.
Assuming you have already named your store, getting started is as simple as doing a quick search.
All domains can only be held by one registrar at a time. As the internet matures and ages, it is getting increasingly difficult to get common domains. If you think about it, there have been tens of thousands of resale and consignment stores open and close throughout the last couple of decades, and it’s likely that somebody has purchased a domain of the exact name of your store.
Perhaps you’ll get lucky. Or you’re just really clever and have a truly unique name for your business.
To find out if your domain is available, go to whois.net and perform a search. Type in the full desired domain, including the .com or any other extension (we expand on this further down). You’ll immediately get a message showing that the domain is available or already registered.
If your domain is already registered, you’ll likely get a few options to see available, alternative domain extensions. Using a domain extension other than .com is becoming increasingly common.
In fact, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, the governing body that monitors and regulates domain names and addresses), set out in 2011 to expand domain extensions to an incredibly large 1500+ additional top-level domains.
In 2017, those efforts went live and we all suddenly had numerous options for domain extensions. This is probably why you’ve been lately seeing more small businesses and startups using things like .shop, .coffee, or .io.
There are so many new options, you could even get a domain ending in .pizza or .golf.
Simply put, all of these new extensions allowed companies to get the domain name they were hoping for without making massive sacrifices choosing a domain they weren’t happy with.
With retail and consignment, there are a few that we recommend you explore its availability. Many consignment shops around the United States have similar names, and a domain extension may allow you to get a domain with the exact name of your store.
Does having a different domain extension negatively affect my SEO or online presence?
Technically, no. Google and all search engines treat websites the same regardless of the domain extension used. To them, it’s just another address to point to.
But what about presence or recognition among real people? This is where it can be confusing or make some stores nervous to pull the trigger on a unique domain extension.
For the past 20 years, we’ve been so accustomed to using .com (at least, in the United States) with every website we’ve used, that most people don’t even know that more unique domain extensions exist.
This can cause users to look up store names and use .com, thus sending them to the wrong website.
But this is a quickly fading issue. As the web grows, more and more companies are using different extensions, and consumers are adjusting pretty easily. It’s just a matter of time where a majority of websites you navigate to are using a unique extension.
Additionally, if you think about it, your website visitors are only going to get to your website in 1 of 3 basic ways.
- They will search on Google. As we have discussed previously, consignment stores have a really unique SEO advantage, and Google’s search localization will do an excellent job of sending that traffic to the correct website. For the most part, consignment stores have a very local audience, so when they search for a store name in their city, Google will almost always put the local store on the top of the search results.
- They navigate from a link. This is when somebody clicks on your store’s website from a Facebook page, an email, or any other external source. This is a non-issue because, it will always send the user to the right page, regardless of the extension used.
- They manually type it in themselves. This is the largest concern but isn’t actually that big of a deal. One, direct navigation isn’t as common as you think. A vast majority of users still use a search engine to find a small business, even if they know its name. Two, most users will realize that the website they went to was incorrect the first or second time and then remember to use the correct extension next time they type it in.
At the end of the day, choosing a unique domain extension will have little to no negative impact on your web traffic.
Strategies, techniques, and ideas to get the right domain.
Let’s assume the domain you want is already taken. Now what?
It’s really easy to get caught in a mental rut. You’ve got to force yourself to think outside of the box. With domains, there are lots of ways to effectively tweak it to still be close to what you need. Your domain doesn’t need to be the exact spelling and name of your store. While perhaps that would have been the ideal option, you have to open up our options a little bit.
The easiest way to do this is to localize the domain by adding your state, city, county, or an easily understood local term to differentiate yourself.
For example, if your store is called Simple Kids Threads and you’re located in Seattle, Washington, what if we add “Seattle” to the name? Before or after might work.
There are lots of easily generated alternatives.
- Seattle Simple Kids Threads
- Simple Kids Threads Seattle
- King County Simple Kids Threads
- Simple Kids Threads King County
- Simple Kids Threads Washington
- Washington Simple Kids Threads
- Puget Sound Simple Kids
The list goes on.
There are lots of ways this could be altered, and perhaps one of those options will be available.
Second, try using techniques like abbreviating parts, or adding words before and after. Sometimes, your name actually works really well while abbreviated, other times maybe not.
For example, if your store is called Simple Kids Threads, what if we add ‘The’ to the beginning to make it “The Simple Kids Threads.”
Combine these two strategies with a different domain extension and you’re much more likely to get an effective domain that you’re happy with.
Be careful to not intrude on competitors too much. If there is a Simple Kids Threads just a few blocks away, it’s probably not the most optimal solution to buy the SimpleKidsThreadsSeattle domain. Additionally, it’s going to obfuscate customers and leave everybody frustrated and confused.
Additionally, think about the long term plans for your store. Do you have ambitions to expand beyond your local area? Is it possible you could be opening a second location out-of-state? Depending on your branding and goals, adding a city or state name into your domain might not be the best idea.
Getting a great domain in this day and age can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you’re just opening up a store for the first time, it’s always a good idea to look at the domain options when you’re trying to name your store. Having a good domain is so important, it might be worth altering the potential name of your business to help you be more profitable and successful in the long term.
If your business is already open and you’re looking into starting a website to drive more sales, there are options and strategies out there. It’s going to take some time, effort, and strategy to get it right. Regardless, getting your store online can be hugely beneficial and quickly become one of the most profitable components of your business.