It’s funny. Since domain names are so inexpensive (less then $10/year in most cases), people take buying and using them pretty lightly.
The reality is that the non-financial costs and benefits of a domain name far outweigh their price tag. Why do I say that?
The Cost of Keeping the Wrong Domain Name:
- Your domain name may not fit your company any more (e.g. Chuck’s Tires may now be Chucks Auto Parts) giving people the wrong impression.
- People may not easily be able to find your company because of a long or easily mispelled domain name.
- Your domain name may be seen as inferior or low quality compared to the competition.
The Cost of Changing Your Domain Name:
- Once you’ve paid for a web site, the cost and pain to move that site to a new domain name can be very high. Likewise, starting from the ground up with a new site on the new domain obviously adds a second, unnecessary expense.
- Once you have links pointing to your web site, the cost and time to redirect those links to your new web site (and the chance that you’ll miss some) are high.
- Deleting a site completely and starting over costs you dearly in terms of any built up SEO equity for that site (on that domain). I know startups that have done exactly this as they outgrew their first name or as new investors forced a name (and domain) change – lots of SEO equity straight down the drain!
- Changing your marketing materials, email addresses, and online and offline references and links to your old site is a long, painful and costly process.
Some Domain Name pointers to consider:
- Short: Make it as short as possible – obviously a lot of the best two-word domain names are taken but do your best to find a two-word or three-word name. Consider using shorter words if you use a three-word name.
- Sleep On It: Don’t fall in love with the first name you find. Sleep on it or consider a few alternatives before you make a final decision. That doesn’t mean you can’t “buy and hold” (see the next point).
- Buy Good Ones: If you find a potentially valuable name, consider buying it right away, even if you may use another name for your business.
- Unambiguous: Make sure the name is easy to pronounce and remember
- Radio Test: Does it pass the “Radio Test” – if someone heard it on the radio can they spell it? Remember it?
- Avoid Homonyms: Avoid names that include words that can be spelled multiple ways like “C”, “See” and “Sea”
- Compelling: Does is have some meaning that is relevant to your company’s business?
- Google Test: Do a search for your name in Google. What do you find? Is it competitive? Does the domain you come up with have any negative connotations online?
- Descriptive: Does it have elements that help people understand what you do?
- “Dot com”: For most business Websites, using “.com” is the best Top Level Domain (TLD). A secondary choice is “.net”. Consider “.org” for organizations. The rules are different for non-US sites where the TLD may be .de (Germany) or .au (Australia)
- Keywords: Consider including one or more important industry keywords in the domain name. Not essential but can help a bit with SEO.
- Avoid Dashes: If possible, avoid dashes. Google treats a dash “-” as a space so won’t penalize you for search engine optimization, but many people consider dashed domain names (e.g. www.my-company-name.com) as inferior to the non-dashed versions.
- “Used” Domains: Consider the secondary market – check sites such as SEDO or GoDaddy Auctions to see if there are any great names there. Also, you can check whois.net to get the contact information for names that are owned but that don’t have a site yet (some of these owners might like to sell for the right offer).
Get it Right the First Time
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Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.