Skokie, IL—Naming a company’s Web site isn't easy. The length, whether to use hyphens, the spelling and more are important considerations.URLs help brand the business and its message and is so important that Todd Pauli of the Shelton Group, based here, suggests choosing one at the same time firms pick their company name. “Check the domain availability as you brainstorm business names,” he says. “For stores, it often helps to combine a store name and a keyword or regional qualifier.”

In addition, he suggests companies stay away from a generic industry name. “Consumers are much more likely to remember your URL if it relates to your business in a logical way,” Pauli says. Sometimes it might make more sense to use a longer name that has a ring to it instead of an uncommon abbreviation that people might forget.

Importantly, try to keep your Web site’s name meaningful and clear. Pauli adds, “Using words with possible alternate spelling ‘Gray’ and ‘Grey’ or slang words that are known by a limited audience or have a limited shelf life should be avoided.” You may want to avoid using numbers, too, since consumers may be unsure of whether to spell it out or use the digit.

If your favorite name isn’t available, don’t hyphenate it, since Pauli says hyphens are not natural for people to use. You might try adding a prefix such as “the” or “my,” but if you decide or have to do so, don’t forget to always promote your Web site with the prefix.

You also have to tie your brand to the right domain whether it is going to be .com or any other top-level domains. The options for new .com sites are very limited today. So, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) developed a new generic top-level program that is intended to “increase competition and choice in the domain name space.” What are your options?

  • Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) and Generic Restricted Top-Level Domains: These domains are recognized by the ICANN and include .com, .net, .org, .biz and more. .com names reign supreme in many experts’ view.
  • Sponsored Top-Level Domains (sTLD): These domains are sponsored by private agencies or organizations, which establish and enforce the rules for eligibility. Examples include .organic, .gov and .edu. “While the new domains may not be mainstream at this point, there is a strong possibility they will grow in popularity in the coming years,” Pauli said. See this month’s grocery news on page 16 for more on .organic.
  • Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD): All ccTLD are approved by the ICANN and are highly recommended for companies that are only located and do business in a specific country.

Since domain names don’t cost a lot to register, Pauli recommends “companies investigate the list of new domains and consider securing industry-specific domains that contain the terms in their current .com URL.” 

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2015(online 1/12/2015)