What’s in a domain name? A lot more than people give it credit for, in my opinion. Your domain name is not just an address for your website. It is that underestimated sliver of opportunity that brands can take to set themselves apart from their competitors and not risk getting lost in the overcrowded space of business marketing. Moreover, given how much of our marketing initiatives nowadays are playing out on the digital landscape, your domain name is among the most important marketing tools you have in your business toolbox.
What does a domain name do for your brand?
1. Builds brand recognition
A domain name that matches your company name, as well as other properties such as your social media handles, goes a long way in reinforcing your brand name and maintaining consistency. This is particularly crucial for small or new businesses that are trying to gain recognition in a highly competitive business environment. This is the reason why I strongly suggest entrepreneurs think about their domain name and check its availability at the same time as they’re conceptualizing their company’s name.
2. Communicates your purpose
When your domain name includes words that are relevant to your industry, they become more meaningful to others as they communicate something about what you do, especially when people are unfamiliar with your brand.
In today’s fast-paced world, people prefer to know what they’re getting into rather than trying to guess what your brand is all about. Not everyone will have the patience to scour page after page on your website or read lengthy “About Us” write-ups and this is where a communicative and descriptive domain name can play an important role in marketing your business. For example, www.learntocook.online is a lot more descriptive than www.gettsdough.com.
3. Creates a forward-thinking image
Every business, whether it is a digital agency, a global multi million-dollar corporation, or a local store, needs a website. A high-quality website with a premium domain name strengthens your business’ online presence while establishing you as a forward-thinking, digitally-savvy entrepreneur. For example, consider www.insurance.online.
Moreover, people, these days are able to differentiate between premium domain names and those acquired for free (such as companyname.webhost.com). While the former communicate an image of a well-established business, the latter may make you come across as unprofessional.
4. Builds credibility
With cyber crimes becoming more rampant by the day and so many spurious web addresses making their way into our browsers and mailboxes, people are more cautious than ever before deciding to click on a URL that they are not familiar with. Your domain name is the first step towards building a credible online image for your business.
When domain names include familiar brand names or indicative industry-specific words, they give a sense of assurance and security to visitors. And, this credibility is the first step towards establishing a long-lasting relationship with your customers. For example, www.betterskin.online is most probably a website about skincare.
5. Makes your brand more memorable
A short, descriptive, and straightforward domain name is easier to communicate, remember, and type, enabling more and more people to find your site. There will be several instances where you’ll be communicating your domain name verbally and simple domain names are less prone to being misspelled or remembered incorrectly. Your domain name plays a significant role in brand building.
6. Boosts your marketing efforts
Your domain name is not just visible in your URL. You want to add your domain name to all of your online brand properties as well as offline marketing collaterals. Whether it’s your social media accounts, a TV advertisement, a spot on the radio, a billboard, a print ad, a flyer, an article written about your company on a content website, a booth at an event, or your business card, your domain name graces them all. The right one creates the right impression for people coming across all of these properties, helping you garner more traffic to your website, earning more leads, opening the door to more relationships, and finally resulting in greater conversions and/or sales.
How to pick the right domain name
1. Keep it short and simple
Lengthy domain names are harder to remember and also look clunky and unsightly. The ideal length of your domain name should be two to three words and not more than 20 characters. For instance, compare these two hypothetical domain names:
Both communicate the same thing but the former is quite a handful (and mouthful). People can easily get it wrong by jumbling up the order of the words, or spelling it incorrectly. The second one, on the other hand, is crisp and clear ,and will be easier to remember. Simplicity is key.
2. Practicality over creativity
Well-established and renowned brands can get away with domain names that feature quirky brand names and tag-lines. But the playing field is unfortunately not level and newer brands need to rely more on simplicity to create trust among potential customers. While I recommend that all entrepreneurs put on their creative hats to come up with domain names that help you stand out and intrigue consumers, I also urge them not to get carried away.
Domain names that are too witty or cryptic will be off-putting for most people, and lack long-lasting brand appeal . Nobody is looking for a challenge when they’re trying to find something they need online. Simple and straightforward is always the way to go.
3. Use relevant keywords
The jury is still out on how effective exact-match domain names are for SEO. For instance, if your domain name is www.customecakes.online and your anchor text its back-linked to “custom cakes store”, this will probably send positive signals to search engines about the relevance of your website.
Although, it has been established that Google treats all domain names the same way in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings. Whether or not exact match domain names help in SEO, I still recommend that a business incorporates their brand name and other relevant keywords in their domain name.
Google trusts people and people trust credibility. A domain name that is clean such as www.customcakes.online exudes confidence especially when compared to a cryptic domain name such as www.learnall-aboutcustomcakz.com.
Also, keyword-rich domain names help establish your niche and make your domain name more meaningful, building a degree of trust in your business.
4. Steer clear of complicated elements
Let’s face it, for the most part, modified spellings (kewl, boi, gal, gurl) seemed cool only when we were teenagers. In the professional world, they simply don’t make the cut. URLs that use syntax, numbers, or hyphens are also ambiguous and more prone to being misspelled. To avoid confusion, I suggest brands stick to good old, short, and simple words.
Keeping things simple also makes your website seem more credible and less spammy. For instance, consider these two domain names for a hypothetical design firm called Fine Lines Inc: www.finelines.online and www.f9linez.com. Which one would be easier to remember, have long-term viability, and enhance your brand?
5. Do your research
Finding the right domain name can be a grueling process while acquiring one that best suits your business can often be an expensive affair. After going through all the motions, the last thing you want is to be stuck with a domain name that has already been taken or is protected by copyright laws. Getting embroiled in a legal battle can be costly and will most certainly result in you losing out on that domain name. But, even worse, it will cause irreparable damage to your business’ reputation.
Before you finalize anything, do thorough research on a global level to ensure that the name you are about to acquire is free of trademark or license protections. This is also a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with such laws to learn what protection they offer you internationally, nationally, and locally.
6. Keep an open mind
There are thousands of domain names being registered worldwide every day. As unique as your domain name might be, there is a high chance that it has already been taken. In such an instance, you might have to pay a high price to acquire that domain name or you may have to let it go altogether.
Before you choose to do either of these things, I recommend you consider new domain extensions. Over the last decade or so, more than 1,200 new domain extensions have emerged that are more industry-specific, such as .tech, .store, .online, .press, .site and .space. Being relatively new, they are easier to acquire than traditional domain extensions and also make your domain name more meaningful and contextual.
What do you do when you have finally decided upon the perfect domain name? Register it as soon as possible! You don’t even need to have your website ready in order to buy the domain name. I suggest you do it before someone else beats you to it. Moreover, once you have a domain name ready to go, it may even motivate you more to work towards creating that website content that you’ve been procrastinating about for so long about. And do not be afraid to buy more than one since they are most often not costly… I own many I am not currently using, but have them either to document a past idea, or for future endeavors.