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The First Step in Association Website Design: Selecting the Right Domain Name

by | Nov 11, 2014 | Industry News & Trends

Your website is the central piece of your association’s member service. But before design and content, the first step in creating your association’s website is to select and secure the most effective and relevant domain name (meaning your URL address –

The Internet is maturing, making it harder and harder to find a relevant, effective, easy-to-remember and available domain name.

Depending on your staff’s level of expertise, working with a web design partner who specializes in online marketing for associations and their membership may be the most efficient approach to selecting your domain name and creating a professionally designed association website. Take an objective, real-world look at your available, internal Internet proficiency when making this very important marketing decision.

Let’s begin by exploring the process of determining the best domain name for your association.

Start Here: The Basics

Ideally, your domain name should be:

  • Short and to the point.
  • Directly relevant to your association or membership.
  • Easy to pronounce and spell.
  • Not too similar to competing domain names.
  • Not in violation of an existing, trademarked name.

Next, Answer These Questions

  • Does your association need the or would a name plus a be more effective? Adding an action word may help distinguish your brand and make search engine optimization work more in your favor.
  • Do you have the budget to purchase a domain name if necessary?
  • Are there variations of domain extensions to set your site apart?
  • A generic .com name may be taken or too expensive to buy, is there a creative twist that makes sense?
  • Does your association have a symbol, mascot, or something meaningful to your membership that can translate into a relevant, recognizable domain name?

Then, Apply These Naming Filters

  • Brainstorm five terms or phrases that best describe your association/membership.
  • Eliminate all hyphenated or misspelled versions.
  • Establish your brand, purpose, or membership makeup in the name.
  • Consider .com or .org names first.
  • Is the name relevant or just creative?

Finally, Verify Availability and Register It, or Explore Buying if Taken

There are numerous web hosting and domain name registration companies, multiple ways to verify if the name you’ve chosen is available, and methods to find domain name owners if a name purchase is being considered.

The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) requires accredited domain name registrars to publish a registrant’s contact information and domain creation and expiration dates in the WHOIS listing database as soon as a domain is registered. If a name is taken, the WHOIS database can show who owns the name and how to reach them if buying the name is an option.

What a Branding Professional Can Help Do for Your Association

Often, association staff doesn’t have web expertise or resources are stretched thin before the naming, creation and publishing of your website even begins. One option can be to utilize the services of an experienced web professional in the selection, purchase and legal registration of your domain name. Their professional insight can help you choose the most effective website name to help maximize your association’s online marketing ROI.

What’s in a Name? Everything!

Before website development begins, before you choose color palettes or start the copywriting process, the first step is to select and secure the most effective domain name (URL address) for your site. Branding your site for success from the beginning can make your Internet presence the driving force in your association’s overall marketing strategies.


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