In order to have a website, you must have a web host and a domain name. But how do you know what domain to choose? Any combination of letters, numbers, and even a few accepted symbols are up for the taking but before you go get all excited and slip into let-me-come-up-with-the-most-coolest-domain-to-ever-exist-land, consider the following practical suggestions for choosing a domain name for your psychotherapy practice website:
1. Use Your Name
Private practice psychotherapists should use their name as their domain name. For example, fictitious therapist “Theresa Smith” would use “theresasmith.com”.
Over the course of your career, you may offer many different services, treatments, programs, events, or products. All of these things have something important in common: you.
Using domains that reference the location in which you work (such as austintxtherapist.com for a therapist in Austin, TX) or reference a particular project or program (like the name of your book or the name of a single program you offer) can be limiting.
Most psychotherapists use their name in their domain name. In terms of social media and their broader online identity, most psychotherapists are known by their name. Using your name as your name is the industry convention.
Following such an industry convention means you are doing what is expected by potential clients. It also shows your professionalism. You are an educated, credentialed, professional psychotherapist, not “freuddude75” hanging in a yahoo chatroom in 1998.
Using your name is also more personal. Being you will help you attract clients that are interested in working with you and not with “thegrieftherapist” or “therapyforanxiety.com”. Using catchy names can be fun but it’s neither appropriate nor authentic.
There are edge cases in which psychotherapists may want to consider using a second level domain other than their own name. These cases are likely either group practices where there will be more than one therapist represented on the website or therapists that are incredibly specialized and envision that specialization playing a central role throughout the rest of their career.
2. Use “.com”
There are a few common top level domains, including “.com”, “.org”, and “.net”. But when choosing your domain, you ought to go with “.com”.
Things are changing quickly in this area but historically, “.com” is THE top level domain. Again, go with what your potential clients might expect as throwing in a surprise “.net” or “.org” doesn’t help with predictability. Be findable via predictability.
3. Choose Something Shorter
Suggestion number three is to choose something shorter rather than longer. I know minutes ago I suggested that psychotherapists ought to use their name. However, if like my partner, Konstantinos Mavrakakis, you have a name that is long, you might consider shortening your name in some way.
So instead of “konstantinosmavrakakis.com”, perhaps he could use “kmavrakakis.com” or even “mavrakakis.com”. Last name is certainly more important to include than the first here.
In some cases a shortened version of the first name can also work – the test being if you are also known professionally by the shortened version. So instead of Christopher, you might use Chris. However, if only your husband and your sister call you “Chris” and you are known professionally as “Christopher” you might want to stick to a first initial or removing your first name entirely rather than throwing in a name that doesn’t reflect your current professional identity.
4. Avoid Hyphens, Numbers, and “Creative” Spelling
Sometimes it might be tempting to use a hyphen, number, or “creative” spelling in your domain. Typically, I see this happening when the desired domain is already taken or unavailable. However, it is best not to resort to using hyphens, numbers, or “creative” spelling by any means necessary.
The main reason for this is that you want your domain to be predictable and able to be communicated verbally. It’s much easier to say, “you can find me at chris smith dot com” (chrissmith.com) than it is to say, “you can find me at chris hyphen smith thirty three dot com. And by the way, there’s an extra h at the end of smith and the thirty three is a number, like three three.” (chris-smithh33.com).
Avoiding hyphens, numbers, and “creative” spelling will save both you and your website visitors the grief of having to explain, remember, and communicate your tricky domain.
Don’t get stressed about coming up with a catchy name or using creativity for your psychotherapy website domain name, instead, just be you.
And if your ideal domain name is unavailable, remember that it’s not about perfection. Get as close as you can without it being too unduly confusing for your potential website visitors.
What do you think? Did this article help you choose your domain? Do you already have a domain? How does your current domain hold up to these rules?