When you sit down and think about it, a lot of 21st Century companies are known by their domain name just as much as they are their brand name. A lot of discount travel companies and online vendors even work their domain names into their brand messages.
This makes picking the right domain name for your brand just as important as all of your other marketing messages. As it will likely factor into your brand identity at some point, if not immediately.
What Is A Domain Name, & Why Is It So Important?
In the early days of the internet, IP addresses were used to note a specific website. However, these are a string of numbers that no one can easily memorize. So, it didn’t take long for people to start using more memorable domain names for their website addresses.
It didn’t take long for marketing gurus to realize that a memorable domain name that was easy to remember was an important component for driving people to your website. However, domain names can be registered and owned. This starts a veritable race amongst people in the know to own a swath of popular-sounding domain names. Once registered to them, they essentially owned them and if a new company wanted to use one, they had to pay for it.
It was a little bit like a digital version of staking your own gold claim. Small companies who came on line after that time who came up with a great domain name, but found it was already owned by someone else were either out of luck or shelling money out of pocket.
In time, this lead to alternatives to .com, extension like .net, .biz, and rules for when you could and couldn’t use .org. While all of these alternatives still exist today, good old .com still remains the most popular virtual street address for any company that wants its website entity to succeed.
Choosing A Domain Name That Represents Your Brand
Of course, the world of domain names, and the legalities attached to them continue to evolve. To the point that there are some critical steps to choosing the best domain name to represent your company’s brand.
Tip One: Come Up With Short Yet Memorable Names
When you’re brainstorming domain names for your brand, it helps to keep them short, sweet, and memorable. Try to come up with at least a half dozen to a dozen. Especially if your brand sounds like something that might already be taken.
Avoid using hyphens and spelling tricks to get around a previously owned domain name. Unless your brand becomes instantly popular, people are likely not going to remember these tricks, and you’ll end up leading them to a competitor’s site with a confusing 404 error message.
Tip Two: Make Sure Your Domain Is Mobile-Friendly
More than half of all online traffic comes through mobile devices and that number is likely only going to go up. This means you need to take into account the fact that mobile device autocorrect can get in the way of any attempts to get around proper spelling in your domain name. The shorter you make your domain name, and the more accurately spelled keywords in the domain name are, the less likely autocorrect is to misdirect your future prospective site guests.
Tip Three: Use Keywords That Make Sense
Strategic use of keywords is like the syrup on top of the pancakes of a well-thought-out domain name. To that point, most of the best top-performing internet brands have keywords woven into their URL.
Just keep in mind that keywords are syrup on the pancakes. While they do make the pancake of your URL tastier for site visitors, they can’t be the top priority. Planning to rework your brand’s domain name strategy around keywords is a lot like planning to serve your guests a plate of syrup without any pancakes and hoping they remember your tasty breakfast.
Tip Four: Try To Associate Your Domain Name With A Key Product Or Service
Most companies want their featured products and services to be memorable. Branding research tells us that 77% of customers make purchases based on the brand attached to the product. Adding to this is the fact that 90% of those decisions are believed to be made subconsciously based on brand associations with positive feelings.
Tip Five: Put In Your Due Diligence With Legalities & Registration
The last thing you want is to register a domain name that you’ve fallen in love with, only to receive a nasty letter from someone’s attorney because someone else owns that name already. The legal costs of trying to defend such a problem have needlessly crippled many small companies.
Thankfully, there are several websites that you can use to check the ownership of a domain name. You can also check the trademark status of a domain name by searching the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website.
WIPO is another site that you can use to check the trademark and registration status of a domain name. It tends to have better site navigation than the USPTO. It can also help you understand if your domain name is a little too similar to one owned by a much larger corporation, which could also lead to legal problems later on down the line.
Tip Six: Choose Your Extension Wisely
When it comes to extensions, good old-fashioned .com is still the king. If possible, you want to prioritize it as your domain’s extension. Though in recent years alternative extensions that are business specific have started making a name for themselves as they go in popularity. Some of these are .ai .work . health . store . accountants .business. cars etc… there are 100’s of TLD extensions available to purchase through a service like Name Cheap that more industry specific. There is no SEO benefit to these, however having one specific to your business can help you stand out. Imaging having yourname.attorney for your law firm website.
If you absolutely can’t get a .com extension for your site, you can fall back on a popular extension like .net or .biz. Though you might also be tempted by the very low costs of more obscure, alternative extensions like .xyz, .tech, .nyc.
While these more obscure extensions might be cheaper, it’s because they are less memorable except in the case of more brandable TLDs that are industry specific. They tend to only be effective if you have a narrow target market in the tech industry or your service area is limited to only New York City.
Tip Seven: Consider Acquiring An Existing or Expired Domain
Let’s say that you have a domain name in mind, it’s very memorable, it rolls off the tongue, it has at least one keyword associated with your brand and it uses the extension of your dreams. Then you check to see if it’s available, and, of course, someone else already owns it.
There are even online tools like Expired Domains.net or Flippa Domains that can help you find these domains, and give you insights on when they will expire. When it expires, you have a narrow window to purchase it for yourself. If it isn’t set to expire anytime soon, you can look up the owner’s information and contact them. Hopefully, you can negotiate a reasonable price and take ownership of it as yours and all the legal entities it comes with.
One of the potential bonuses of buying and existing or acquiring an expired domain is that it might come with its own existing users, which will give you some new leads and exposure. Just be sure to check out its traffic patterns.
If it is showing a persistent downwards trend it most likely means that it was hit by a Google penalty at some point, and Google’s unforgiving algorithm is unlikely to notice it’s under new management for quite some time.