www-webaddressIn order to have your own website or blog where you control all aspects of design and content, you'll need to purchase a domain name, such as mypractice.com.

Buy your domain name at a registrar such as Godaddy and others listed here. All domain registrars use the same database coordinated through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Thus, when you are searching for a domain name that has not yet been taken, it doesn't matter whether you search at GoDaddy or at any of the other registrars. You will get the same information from all of them, as to whether a particular domain name is available.

Choose your domain name carefully and wisely. Here are some guidelines.

Choose a domain name that identifies who you are or what you do

Your domain name can be the same as your practice name. For example, if your practice is Neighborhood Counselors, you can use that for your domain name: neighborhoodcounselors.com.

To make it easier to read, you can capitalize the words: NeighborhoodCounselors.com. Browsers do not distinguish between upper and lower case in the domain name.

Another option - especially if you want to brand yourself by name - is to use your own name, such as MaryJaneDoe.com or MaryJaneDoeMSW.com or DrMaryJaneDoe.com. If your name is hard to spell, consider that people may get a "Not found" page if they don't type it exactly. A partial workaround is to purchase common misspellings of your name and set them to redirect to the correct site if someone happens to misspell it. (See below.)

Make your domain name search-engine friendly.

If your domain name contains keywords that people enter into search engines, your site will rank higher in the search results.

Let's say you practice in Springfield. You can use the domain name springfieldtherapy.com.

If someone types into a search engine: therapist springfield, you will likely be among the first hits in the search results.

Because Google can often detect where a web searcher is located, your springfieldtherapy.com site has a good chance of ranking high in the search results if the person lives in or near Springfield, even if they don't type the town name into the search engine.

The domain name springfieldtherapy.com has two things going for it - geographic location and a commonly searched keyword, therapy.

Another way to use keywords: If you provide a specific type of treatment, or if you specialize in treating a certain type of problem, consider getting a domain name containing a keyword describing your technique or the problem you treat. Examples: AnxietyClinic.com, EMDRbuffalo.com, HelpingKidsAndFamilies.com.

Get a .com name if possible.

.com is the most popular and most sought-after suffix. If you search for a .com domain and it's taken, but the .net version is available (e.g., springfieldtherapy.net) think twice before buying it. You'll be setting yourself up for perpetually being confused with the .com version owned by someone else.

Alternatively, if you do buy a .com domain name, resist offers to buy the .net, .biz., .us and all other suffixes. Domain registrars will offer these as protection against someone else grabbing them up and competing with you.

However, unless you need to protect a brand or a trademark, you probably don't need to spend the money on other versions of your domain name. Suppose you own springfieldtherapy.com. It is unlikely that another mental health professional will want to buy springfieldtherapy.net and the confusion that would accompany it.

Buy several domain names

If you have one website, you'll use one domain name. But it's a good idea to selectively purchase additional domain names for the following reasons:

If your domain name is often misspelled - Suppose you set up a website in your own name, say DeirdreLeidenberg.com. Having lived with that name all your life, you are by now familiar with the many possible misspellings of both your first and last name - e.g., Diedre, Dierdra, Deidre, Liedenberg, Lidenberg, Lidenburg, Lidenburgh, Lydenbirg, etc. Of course, if you bought a domain for each possible combination, the costs could add up. Thus, just stick to the most common misspellings.

Once you purchase a domain name you have the option of redirecting it to another domain that you own. In the above scenario, let's say you purchased the misspelled domain, DiedreLiedenberg.com. Someone who types that into the URL window of their browser will automatically be redirected to your actual site, DeirdreLeidenberg.com.

For words other than proper names, see this list. You'll notice that psychology and psychological are not on the list. Neither of these words would be considered common (except by mental health professionals) but the spelling is complex, and therefore subject to typos. It's best to avoid using these words in your domain name.

If your current domain name is geographically bound - Springfieldtherapy.com is a great domain name if you're located in Springfield. But what happens if you move to a different city? Consider getting alternative non-geographic domain names that describe your practice.

If you are considering developing a niche or specialty, or writing a book - At some point you might want to develop a new website or blog in addition to the one you use for your current practice. Thinking ahead, purchase domain names and just park them.

Buy your own name as a domain

For common names, the domain is probably already taken. If your name is Jim Williams, you're out of luck for jimwilliams.com. But drjimwilliams.com is available. So is jimwilliamsmsw.com.

Even if you don't plan to use it for your website, purchase your own name as a domain. That way it is off the market, and others cannot use it to deliberately harm you. It is unlikely, but not impossible, that a disgruntled client could buy your name as a domain and set up a website to misrepresent or trash you. For this reason, you might also consider getting the .net version.

Be careful about how the domain name might be read

In domain names, where words run together, make sure that they cannot be misinterpreted. Here are some real examples:

therapistinabox.com could be read as "TheRapistinabox.com."

penisland.net is the site for Pen Island, not what you might think on first reading.

And kidsexchange.net is not a gender reassignment site. They help people buy and sell used children's toys and clothing.