When you are establishing a new website or rebranding your business with a new name, consider your domain name carefully.
What is a domain name? A domain name is unique name that identifies a website. The name of my website is “www.SusanCritelli.com”. A domain name is not case-sensitive. You can type it in with or without capitalization.
Why are you choosing the domain name?
- a personal or business website
- a website for a single purpose, for instance, to sell a book
- a blog established to help your website rank in the search engines
- a lead capture page, where someone has to enter their email address to obtain information
The answers to those questions will determine how you optimize your domain. Consider the following:
- a short name that is memorable and easy to spell. This is especially important for radio and tv advertising.
- a name based upon a keyword or phrase you are targeting
- a name that does not infringe upon a copyright or trademark
- a business name not already in use in your state
- a name you will still like in ten years
- a name without hyphens or special characters
- a .COM or country specific domain for your business
- a .ORG or country specific domain for your non-profit organization
When selecting a domain name for your business, most of the time the domain name should be the name of your business.
But if your business name is very long or complicated, you will want to select a domain name that is a short version of your business name, the name of a popular product you sell or a simple phrase describing your business.
Branding is important here and you want a short and memorable name that will stick in someone’s mind, especially if they are not able to write it down. In my opinion, memorable trumps short. I would rather see a domain name be longer if it is easy to spell and remember. One of my very earliest domain names was biggerearnings.com. It was recently appraised for about $1000. It is long to type, but it is easy to say and remember.
Who cares if your domain name is short if you always have to say “xoomlie.com – that’s x-o-o-m-l-i-e-dot-com. No, X, not Z. No, not l-y, l-i-e.” Not exactly radio friendly. And if you are trying to explain it on the telephone, they will hang up on you before you get to the end.
Always go for a .COM or a country-specific domain extension, like .CA or .CO.UK, for your business.
If you have many customers in a particular country, you may wish to add the country-specific extension. This will help your search engine rankings in that country. It may reduce your overall ranking, but since your goal is to sell products or services, if you don’t do business in Asia, it doesn’t matter if people in Asia can’t find your website.
Use a .COM extension if the majority of your business comes from the United States. The country-specific extension “.US” never really caught on, and it brands your website as an “also-ran” that was unable to obtain the .COM. You want your domain name to convey authority in your niche. In my opinion, the only exception to this was the clever use of .US in the domain name of the popular bookmarking site del.ic.io.us – but even that site is now known as delicious.com for obvious reasons.
Do not use .NET or .INFO, or any of the other domain extensions, if possible. Most people are lucky to remember the name of the domain and they will usually assume it is a .COM when guessing the rest of the address. You will lose a significant amount of traffic to the .COM version of your domain name, and if you have a major competitor at that location, you will be handing them your traffic.
The only kind of website that people expect to see a .NET address is an internet service provider, like verizon.net or optonline.net. Avoid it if you can.
Another element to avoid if at all possible is a hyphen or other special character. “marketing-tips-today” ends up sounding like “marketing-dash-tips-dash-today-dot-com.”
Your domain name can enhance your brand’s reputation, or damage it.
You can have an amazing site and an amazing product or service, but if your domain name is risque, sarcastic, or an inside joke that is not easily understood, you can offend your customers without even knowing it. What seems plain to you may be interpreted in an unexpected way by your customer. Guard your brand carefully.
PS – if you have not purchased your own name as a domain, you should do that immediately if it is available. Since much of your marketing is tied to your domain name, you don’t want to lose that traffic when you switch gears. You may not always be selling widgets or arch supports forever, but you will always be YOU.