Choosing a domain name for your business can be a daunting task. Research the subject and you’ll be hit with a landslide of opinions, often contradictory. There are, however, two points that most people agree on:
1. Pick your domain before you launch your business. This is especially true if your market niche has lots of competition. Research your domain before you commit to a business plan.
2. Don’t wait too long if you like a domain. While you’re researching, you’ll likely come across a couple of domains that attract your attention. You might be tempted to wait, since you haven’t finalized or refined your business plan. Don’t. Because once they’re gone, they’re gone. And you might end up having to compromise with a less ideal domain name.
There are further questions ahead you will encounter in the process of finding the right domain:
Q. Which TLD (top-level domain) is best?
A. If you’re a juggernaut in the business world with a big name to promote, the answer is dot-com (.com). If you’re a small time business struggling for search engine positioning, the answer is still dot-com. People do disagree on the value of a dot-com TLD. Some assert that dot-coms have no particular value in the search engines, which may be true.
However, the fact is, if you haven’t yet seared your brand on the collective brow of the planet, dot-com makes you easier to remember. If you give up on dot-coms, then in some deep dark place inside, people will remember you as “that hard-to-remember URL with the ending that isn’t dot-com.” What’s worse, if you pick an otherwise memorable domain ending in dot-net, .us, or whatever else, some of your traffic will end up at that competitor who snagged the dot-com version of your domain.
Now for the controversial stuff. Which is best: the “keyword” domain, or the “creative-genius, snappy and brandable” domain?
KEYWORD NAME VS. CREATIVE-GENIUS BRANDABLE NAME
A Keyword Name is the boring, workhorse kind of domain. You see them everywhere. They bristle with hyphens: “buy-my-best-shoes.com.” Or “super-duper-accessories-store.net”. On the face of it, they’re hard to brand. They’re hard to remember. They’re really hard to even spell correctly all the time!
On the other hand, a Creative-Genius Brandable Name is the sexy kind. The successes are sparkling: eBay, Google, Amazon.com. You can shout these URLs across the room and the other guy will probably get it right. But note: the dot-com road is littered with hip, snappy business who failed to brand their product successfully, or get listed high in the search engines.
Regardless of which type you choose, don’t play guessing games. If you go with a keyword name, use a search tool to determine what keyword phrases people are searching on.
If you choose a brandable name instead, test it out on a variety of real people first. Pay attention to their reactions. Reserve your domain early, since brandable domains go fast unless they’re very unique.
In the long run, both types of domains can work for you, especially if offline marketing is an option and you have a knack for branding. Overall, though, the keyword domain is probably the easiest path to success for the small-business owner.