The first step in getting online is getting a domain name.
A domain name is like your address on the web. Just like people need your home address to visit you, people need a domain name to get to your website. For instance, MarketingForTherapists.org is the domain name of this site, and when you type it into your web browser, your browser knows how to get you to this website.
A domain name is also part of your brand image. For instance, if I had named my website “BecomeATherapistMillionareInstantly.com”, it wouldn’t have seemed very credible. Or if I named my website “TherapyYeti.com,” it wouldn’t be clear what I was offering.
The same thing is true for your website. You want a domain name that is 1) relevant to what you offer, and that 2) has a professional feel (would you want to get counseling from someone who runs “BobTheTherapyDude.com?”)
Anyone can register a domain name. You go to a registrar (such as NameCheap.com), and pay a yearly fee (usually about $12). As long as you keep paying that fee, the domain name is yours and nobody else can use it.
Unfortunately, this means that if someone already registered your desired domain name, you can’t use it. Fortunately, I’m here to help. I’ll start by giving you some ideas for your domain name, then I’ll answer some common questions, then I’ll show you how to actually register your domain name.
How To Pick A Domain Name
Here are my recommendations for building your domain name. You don’t need to follow these recommendations if you don’t want to — if you have a great idea that’s not listed here, that’s fine. But if you’re stuck, this is what I recommend.
For A Solo Practice
- YourName (ie, JohnSmith.com)
- YourDegree+YourName (DrJohnSmith.com, JohnSmithLPC.com)
- YourDegree+YourLastName (DrSmith.com, DrSmithPhD.com, SmithMFT.com)
- YourName+YourRole(JohnSmithCounselor.com, JohnSmithTherapist.com)
- YourName+WhatYouOffer (JohnSmithCounseling.com JohnSmithTherapy.com)
For A Specific Focus
- Condition+Treatment (AnxietyCounseling.com, DepressionHope.com)
- Condition + Treatment + Location (PortlandAnxietyCounseling.com)
- Population+Treatment (CounselingForVeterans.com, LGBTCounseling.com)
- Location + Treatment (ChicagoTherapy.com, MinnesotaCounselor.com)
- Name Of Clinic (AcmeCounselingCenter.com)
Domain Name FAQs
Do I get a .com, .org. .net, or something else?
If you can get a .com with your preferred name, do that. It’s the easiest for people to remember and it has the most credibility.
If the .com of your preferred name is taken, you can try a .net or a .org. I suggest against using anything other than .com, .org or .net. Other choices tend to look unprofessional and sketchy, or are hard to remember. Bear in mind that registering a .net or .org website tends to be more expensive than registering a .com.
Should I get more than one domain name?
Generally, this is a bad idea. Having more than one domain name for your practice is confusing to potential clients. It’s also bad for your SEO, since you’re splitting your efforts across two domains instead of focusing on just one.
However, it is worthwhile to have multiple domain names if each domain name covers a website that has a clearly distinct purpose.
For instance, you might consider having one domain name for yourself as an individual (DrJohnSmith.com) and another domain name for your counseling practice (SmithCounselingCenter.com) Then you would use the first domain to post your CV, etc, and the second domain to promote your counseling center.
You might also consider having multiple domain names if you have disparate services that reach very different audiences. For instance, let’s say you offer counseling to individuals and you also offer consulting services to organizations. Having separate domain names allows you to focus your branding and content separately for each audience, rather than trying to be all things to all people. However, don’t go overboard here – if you can consolidate multiple services onto the same site, it’s probably best to do that.
As an example, I personally have three different websites – this one (MarketingForTherapists.org), my personal website (DanielWendler.com), and a website for my social skills writing (ImproveYourSocialSkills.com). It makes sense for me to have three different domains because I have three very different audiences I want to reach (therapists who need marketing help, people who need help with their social skills, and people who are interested in me specifically). But I also have domains that I’ve purchased in the past that I let expire when I realized I was fragmenting my audience for no reason.
Should I get the same domain name in both .com and .org?
If you get your preferred domain name in .com, you probably don’t need a .org. However, if you’re worried that someone might later come along and register the .org and cause confusion for your clients, you might register the .org too just to keep it protected. I don’t think this is something you really need to worry about (very few clients are going to go to the .org version of your site if you tell them it’s .com), but if you don’t mind spending the extra $12 or so per year it’s okay to get the other domain just for peace of mind.
I will say that if you register both the .com and the .org, you should only use one. The other one you can set to redirect to your main site, but don’t build two separate sites – that’s going to be really confusing for your clients.
I picked out the perfect name but someone already took it! What do I do?
Try to register the domain on .org or .net if it’s not available on .com — that’s what I did with marketingfortherapists.org.
If it’s taken on .org and .net as well, you should probably pick another name. You can either come up with a brand new name, or try to modify your chosen name slightly. For instance, if YourNameLPC.com is taken, perhaps you could try LPCYourName.com
In some cases it’s possible to buy a domain name from the current owner, but this will usually cost you thousands of dollars. That might make sense if you’re starting a group practice and you have money to burn, go for it, but you are probably better off finding a new name.
You can also hope that they stop paying to renew the domain and then you can register it when it becomes available. There are a few domains that I want that have been registered for a long time, and I have a yearly calendar alert to go check if they’re available yet. So far all of them are still locked down, but maybe one day I’ll get lucky! Of course, you’d want to start your practice with a different domain name, but it doesn’t hurt to check once a year if your dream domain becomes available.
How to Register Your Domain Name
It’s pretty easy.
First, head to NameCheap.com. I recommend NameCheap because they have good prices and good customer service. You can use another registrar if you want, though — they’re all pretty similar.
Next, type your desired domain into the big ol’ box on their homepage. If it’s available, add it to your cart. If it’s not, try another domain name until you find one that’s available.
After that, all you need to do is check out! You probably don’t need any add-ons, so don’t worry about SSL, etc. Your total cost should be about $10-$12 per year. You can pay for up to ten years at a time. I recommend that you go ahead and register your domain for 10 years — that way you don’t have to worry about it for a long time. However, if you’re not sure you’ll stick with your website, it’s okay to register your domain for just a year or two (but make sure you renew!)
How to use your domain name with your website
Once you have both your domain name and your website set up, you need to point your domain name at your website. That is something that you can do yourself by following these instructions.
If those instructions make sense to you, then great. If that help page looks like it’s written in a foreign language, then contact Namecheap support and ask them to do it for you — they’ll take care of it for free.
All you need to do is get the information from your website host about how to use your domain with their service. That information is probably on the host’s website somewhere, but again, you can just contact your website host’s support team, and they’ll give the information for you.
Going Beyond Domain Names
A great domain name is a necessary first step in launching your practice, but don’t stop there. If you want to keep investing in the growth of your practice, Marketing for Therapists has a lot of resources to help you get there. Take a look at the other free guides I’ve written:
- Launching your site. Learn about professional email, web hosting, and more
- Designing your site. Learn about web design, wordpress themes, and landing pages.
- Getting new clients. Learn about SEO, social media, therapist directories, and more
And if you want some personalized, one-on-one help, you’ve come to the right place. The Marketing For Therapists team is ready to help you grow your practice through Google Advertising, SEO, content writing, and everything in between. Just click the button below to learn more about how we can help and get started!