Domain Name – Easy to get but long-lasting value (or damage)
For a small business, a domain name is one of those things that’s easy (and cheap) to get but that you’ll be stuck with for a long time. If it’s a good name, that’s a great thing – it will be visible and prominent on all of your marketing collateral, both offline and online. It will be part of your email address, your email footer, on your business card and in anything that you communicate regularly to potential clients verbally and in writing. For all of these reasons, it’s important to take the time early in your company’s life to select the right domain name (see related post on “How to choose a domain name”). If you’ve already been around for awhile but realize you have the wrong domain name, it may not be too late, especially if you haven’t marketed much online and are just getting ready to make a big push. There are ways to upgrade the quality of your domain name and to properly transition from the old to the new. The more online promotion and marketing you’ve done, there harder this can be, mainly because you may have lots of links that will be going to your current domain and it’s various pages (see related post on “Good times to select a new domain name”).
What your domain name does for you..
As I mentioned above, your domain will become an essential part of all of your communications, so get it right. Here are some ways that a domain communicates important messages to your potential customers and to the search engines (which are keys ways many customers find you). I’ll use an example of a fictitious company throughout so you understand what I mean (example: Crystal Paint Company).
Reinforce your Branding
Your domain name is an opportunity to establish and position your brand in the way you want to. Many small businesses think they need to select a domain name that most closely matches their company name. A name such as crystalpaint.com would be fine if it was available. Many times it’s not, so people go for crystalpaint.net, cpcompany.com or crystalpainthouston.com. These are okay but do miss some opportunities to position the brand a bit. For example, how about Crystalknowspaint.com or PaintbyCrystal.com.
Show your company’s Personality
Many small businesses have very bland Websites and very bland domain names. Even if you’re selling to the corporate market, you don’t need to be 100% personality-less! For example CPInc.com may sound very corporate but it’s very boring and if the Website was stodgy too, it really won’t differentiate your business. Many people settle with acronyms or initials – these limit your branding opportunities, don’t show much personality and also (see below), can sometimes be hard for people to remember. In the business-to-business or corporate setting, how about Crystalpaintpros.com or CrystalBusinessPainting.com. For a more consumer-focused market, Crystalknowspaint.com, paintbycrystal.com, CrystalPaintKids.com or how about a functional name: FunPainting.com or Paintwithus.com, etc…
Show your Professionalism
Your choice of domain names also communicates your professionalism. Using dashes (e.g. Crystal-Paint-Company.com) can sometimes look like a second-choice domain (because without dashes wasn’t available). There is a pecking order to the extensions (what comes after the name). Dot com (.com) has the most cache (and most people think .com when they start typing an address), .org is find for non-profits, .edu is used for schools. If we look at business, .com is best, .net is an option (but not ideal) and the rest (e.g. .biz, .us, .bz, .tv, .cc) are not preferred unless it fits with your business (e.g genericTVcompany.tv).
Also, using acronyms or initials (cpc.com) is okay but very dry and also can be seen as a second- or third-choice domain. Cutting words short or using made up or sound-alike words looks unprofessional (e.g. OfficialEncy.com (for an encyclopedia company) or Paintkidz.com (for our paint company)).
Provide a general Understanding of Your Business
If possible, while still keeping it short, it’s good to give an indication of what your company does. Most the paint examples above are attempts to show that. A domain name such as Crystalcompany.com would not do that.
Help you be Easy to Find
A name that is memorable, can be spelled, doesn’t sound like another word (e.g. if you hear it on the phone or radio) and doesn’t have an obscure extension (e.g. .com.bz or .gs) will make your company easier to find. Would you rather have people think of your company as easy to find and remember or hard to find and remember?
As I mentioned above, the name such as CrystalPaintHouston is not bad because, for a local business, this shows that you are truly local and not some national company that happens to have a local campaign or local branch. Also, this can help you in terms of rankings when people use search engines (e.g. “paint store in houston”).
Contribute to your positioning with Search Engines
There’s some debate about domain names and how they help your site rank in search engines. There are some that feel that having a keyword in the domain name may help a bit, that including location may help with local searches and that having your company in the domain name only helps if you’re a big brand. You can keep these things in mind but if you optimize your name based on the above ideas and have a good site with relevant content (articles, blog posts, product information, press releases), your name should have little impact, either positive or negative on the search rankings. The ranking will be determined by what you do with your site and company and what other sites decide to link to your site.