Location, location, location. For domain names, as in real estate, having the right address can make all the difference. Web traffic, branding, expectations, and recognizability all can depend in large part on the digital storefront that is your domain name. Choosing the right domain name can be a daunting task, but here are some tips to help guide you in the right direction.
Before customers see your layout, content, and branding, your domain name is the first impression they have. Convoluted strings of incomprehensible prefixes, varyingly successful attempts at niche humor, and over-acronymed domain names can all send customers packing before they even open the page. This means that several things must be considered when making the selection.
The first is expectations. When a customer sees a name like billreducer.com, they have one expectation in mind: this website is going to help me save money by reducing my bills in some way. Choose a name that is going to let customers know from the moment they read it, what they are in for. If you run a company that provides office supplies, consider options like OfficeSupplies.com or OfficeNeeds.com, regardless of your company name. Both examples establish what is available at the site and hone in on the kind of customer you are looking for: individuals, whether personal or business, that are looking to purchase office supplies. Just as importantly, make sure your domain name sets expectations that you can fulfill. Choosing a domain like OfficeDreams.com suggests that your company remodels or redecorates offices, the word “dreams” suggesting a service instead of a product.
Next, make the domain name memorable. Customers will find your website URL on flyers, newsletters, search queries, and other websites so making the address stick is key. Consider the domain Lifehacker.com. Potential visitors will look at the address and think, “how does one hack life?” The combination of life, a rather un-technical, haphazard venture, and hacking, a highly skilled, potentially sneaky way of shortcutting tasks, leaves a lasting and curious impression. Memorable domain names are often short, clever, and avoid trendy humor, hyphens or numbers. The longer or more complicated the domain name, the less likely it is to stick.
Establishing a Brand
Intellectual Property (IP) has become a jealously guarded asset of many businesses, so your domain name should respect any potential copyrights. With the frequently nebulous nature of IP laws, you can never be too careful. In fact, in 2007, the University of Wisconsin pressured an Iowa school district over the similar shape of the two brands’ “W” logo. Research competitors in your market, paying attention to local, national, and even international firms, and consider whether or not your idea could be construed as a copyright violation.
Once the legal considerations are taken care of, realize the opportunity that your domain name functions to brand your organization. Since most individuals will search for a company on search engines if they cannot remember or do not know the URL, your domain is displayed before the browser can even render your carefully crafted logo. It may be tempting to simply use the name of your business, but remember that domains act as a first-impression for your products and information. Consider what your domain says about your company, its goals, and its ways of doing business instead of whether or not it simply identifies your business.
For this reason, make your domain name unique. If your goal is to make a lasting impression in those who glance at your organizations entry in search results, being one-of-a-kind is an asset. Avoid following trends in lingo or industry. Names like LOLshirts.com can make your business seem unprofessional while HTML4designers.com can leave you wishing you had given your address a little more thought. The key is to look at your competitors and your corporate identity, and decide what will make you stand out, for a long time to come, while respecting your integrity and company image.
Play the Game
Internet search is based on a framework of keywords and phrases when indexing addresses and sites. For this reason, these rules should be respected when choosing an address. Moz.com recommends brainstorming keywords related to your organization and using these in shaping your chosen name. For example, a butcher’s shop might name meat, butcher, smoked, cured, savory, friendly, and service as descriptive keywords for his/her business. An appropriate name might then be SavoryService.com or TheSmilingButcher.com. Either domain respects the fact that search engines work off of such keywords when indexing and fetching information for users, while providing a description of what customers can expect in the process.
Besides respecting the algorithms of popular search engines, your business should understand that good domain names come at a premium. The past several years have seen a veritable gold rush of URL purchasing for providers, meaning that most domain names you might want are already owned, therefore, and come at a price. An infographic by Domain Name Sales reveals that there are 138 million registered domain names on the Internet with only 5-10% of those in use. In addition, premium domains ran an average of $20,000 in 2011, including names like PersonalLoans.com going for a whopping $1,000,000.
The important thing to remember is that your domain name is as much a part of your identity as your company logo and products. Think of your URL as your storefront; a chance to set expectations and brand your organization. Respect search engine protocols, copyright, and be prepared to make an investment in your company when you finalize your purchase. Remember, even with all the money you spent on marketing and advertising, a simple line of text could be what hooks your next customer.
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