Does someone else already own your website or domain name*?
Doctors, if you don’t already have a website with your name as the domain name, or if you haven’t at least purchased your domain name, it may be too late. Lots of colleagues and clients are telling me that their names have actually already been purchased by a third party – sometimes a company – and they can’t reclaim control over the domain name they want. *Of course, the domain name isn’t the actual website – the domain name is the website address. However, a domain name that is your actual name will always enjoy a high search engine rank for the ‘keyword’ that is your name. Therefore, your domain name is an extremely important asset for your website and professional online presence and branding.
If someone else has a similar name and has simply beat you to it, that’s bad luck. And just because you have an identity, or even a copyright or trademark related to your name, that doesn’t give you the legal right to your domain name.
Increasingly, individuals and companies are buying up domain names and may have legal standing to keep them. Some are using the domain names as extensions of their own businesses and services. Certain physician directory websites appear to own a fair number of physician name URLs, for example. They display basic profile information about the physician on an active website with the physician’s name as the domain name (actually using physicianname.com instead of companyname.com/physicianname, for example). While the good news is that a physician can often still edit some of the information on that site by updating their profile within the parent company site, it’s still the company – not the doctor – who owns the website and has the ultimate control.
Worse, some buyers are simply sitting on the domain name – not using it for any purpose, but still preventing you from buying it, or offering to sell it to you for a very high price. These kinds of practices may not be legal. Cybersquatting is “registering, trafficking in, or using an internet domain name with a bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else”, according to the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999. So, while cybersquatting is actually against the law, it’s still a problem if it happens to you because you’ll have to shell out big bucks for legal recourse to get it back. Again, while there are legal and fair reasons a person or company might purchase a domain name containing your name or trademark, there are laws to protect against certain circumstances.
How can I check to see if a domain name with my name is already taken?
It’s free and easy to see if your name is already taken as a domain name. Here’s one – try typing in your name, or even a few permutations of the domain name you’d like to have, and see if it is available:
You can use any domain service to check and purchase domain names, including GoDaddy, Google Domains, and my personal favorite BlueHost. I’ve been using BlueHost as an affiliate for many years – I buy my domain names from them, they protect and encrypt my site so I can accept payments and client information safely, and I use their Pro backup and hosting service to protect my website design and content files.
What’s the best format for a professional website domain name?
There are a few key considerations. The first is readability when capitalizations and punctuation are absent. The second is the top line domain (TLD) such as ‘.com’ or ‘.gov’. I’ve had www.marjoriestieglermd.com for a long time now, and this is the format I most commonly recommend to clients (full name and MD degree, with .com). For doctors with DO credentials, I generally recommend DrYourName.com – because otherwise the “DO” reads as the word ‘do’ and it is visually confusing. For trademarks or brand names, you also want to choose something memorable, short, and easy to spell. For your own name, however, these considerations may not apply. But, as you’ll see below, there is an entirely different strategy around websites that are not named for you as a professional.
The ideal TLD has long been .com, though .org is not bad. However, .net or .co or .live and all the many other vanity TLDs are usually not good ideas because they are harder to remember and are less often used.
This is bad news for you as a professional if someone else has your ideal domain name and the .com TLD. Yes, you can grab your ideal domain with a different TLD, but it’s always going to be an uphill battle to compete against the domain.com that you wish you had. Alternately, you may be able to buy the domain from the original purchaser, but this can be very expensive, and there’s no guarantee they will sell it to you.
What if I don’t want my website, brand name, or URLs to contain my name?
Of course, there’s a big difference in search engine optimization and other digital strategy when your website name and desired domain name is your name than when your website/URL is a trademark or other brand name. So, while you can start a website with a brand name as the domain, this is an entirely different situation with a unique set of benefits, downsides, and strategy. For the purpose of this post, I’m assuming that your eventual goal is to have control over presenting your best professional self online when people search for you by name.
That’s distinct from the goal to be found by search engines when people search for a topic, subject matter expert, or leader in a specialty. We cover this in detail in The Branding Prescription course and in The Social Prescription book. In a nutshell, it’s the difference between influencing what people find about you when they are looking for information about you specifically, and influencing search engines to rank your website highly when people (who may not know you exist) are searching for ‘healthcare social media expert’ or ‘best dermatologist in Los Angeles’.
What if I don’t want a website, or don’t have plans to start a website anytime soon?
Even if you don’t have plans for an actual website, it’s worth the few dollars to purchase and secure your domain name and a few relevant permutations for at least a few years. This keeps your options open, and prevents others from either profiting from your domain name, or cybersquatting so that you can’t use it. (By the way, if it is taken, you’ll get to see who owns it, and there is always a way to contact them – although it is often through a third party proxy.) Bottom line – check your name right now. It’s free to check, and you’ll see immediately if your name is taken.
What’s the next best domain name if my ideal name is already taken?
If your ideal domain name that contains your name is already taken, grab a few suitable alternatives STAT. Again, for the purpose of influencing your online presence, reputation, and search results that are displayed when someone searches for you by name, here’s a list of good formats:
- if your name is relative short, you could try yournamemedicine.com or doctoryourname.com etc
- you could also consider adding your specialty (again, if it is short and your name is short or especially common)
If you’re not sure what to do, an audit of existing search results can help. A great place to start is by doing a google search of your name and seeing what is already in the first few pages of the search results. Since your website will serve to outrank or replace some of those results, you might want to choose a domain name or names that mirror the way your current top search results list your name.
So, take a look. If you find that your ideal domain name is already taken, please let me know, and edit this tweet to share the details and warn your colleagues:
I’ve written that you don’t absolutely NEED a website to build an effective brand online or establish a great online presence, and that’s true. But eventually, a website becomes important. Plus, it’s soooo easy to do these days! Most builders are truly drag and drop, plug and play. If you’d like a breakdown of the basic elements of websites, URLs, TLDs, website builders, and more, watch this:
And of course, for tons of videos on social media and online strategy for healthcare leaders, come check out my Facebook page, and follow for new videos and weekly Q&A!
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