Guest post by Jennifer Tanzi (learn more about Jennifer at the end of this post)
Names matter … especially when it comes to your online business.
High atop her balcony, the love-struck Juliet laments her lover’s problematic surname, declaring, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While technically she’s right, you wouldn’t want to put Juliet in charge of your online branding efforts.
In fact, when it comes to your online business, choosing a domain name is the first big step — and truly the most critical — in securing your brand and growing your business. So what separates the good, the bad, and the ugly? Let’s take a look.
Five Tips for Choosing the Right Domain Name
TIP #1: Choose a name that attracts type-in traffic.
How can the right domain name help you increase sales? Well, say I own a pizza place in Peabody, Mass. If someone in Peabody is looking for a pizza place, what’s he going to do? Probably type Easton + Pizza into Google, right? And guess what? If I own the URL peabodypizza.com — even if that’s not the official name of my pizza shop — I’ll come up first in the search results. That’s because most search engines give priority to domains that contain the search criteria in their name (to increase your traffic even more, see tip #5).
The most effective way to ensure that you get plenty of type-in traffic is to choose a name that combines your service or product with your geography. For example, ConcordFlowers.com for a flower shop in Concord or LynnDogGrooming.com for a dog-grooming place in Lynn. You get the idea.
Now, you might pay a higher price for these keyword domain names, but it’s a smart move. Names like these promote this “type-in traffic” and prevent you from having to rely on search engine advertising or other potentially expensive branding campaigns. This makes them a huge bargain in the long run, and even the short run!
TIP #2: Keep it short and easy to remember, and ditch the hyphens.
Number two is pretty straightforward: keep your name as short as possible. For example, WalthamLandscaping.com is long enough without becoming WalthamLandscapingCompany.com, even if Waltham Landscaping Company is your official name. Even worse is Waltham-Landscaping-Company.com.
Of course, this is just a best-case scenario, and sometimes a hyphen or period is necessary. For example, say you run a jam company called Mad Hatter and there is a hat company with the same name. Well, since they clearly aren’t a competitor, you aren’t going to get into legal trouble by having the same name, but it does present a problem since they own MadHatter.com, the domain YOU want. In this case, Mad-Hatter.com is probably a smart choice.
If were my company, I might see if MadHatterJams.com were available before I used that hyphen.
Use your judgment on this.
TIP #3: Do what it takes to get a .com, but don’t forget about secondary extensions, .biz and .net.
Dot coms are the most popular extensions out there. In fact, they’re so popular that it often doesn’t even occur to us to look at the URLs extension. We just automatically type in “.com.”
The rule of thumb is this: You should own at least the most popular secondary extensions of your name, .biz and .net, but do what it takes to get a dot com. It’s worth the investment, even if you have to pay more upfront.
TIP #4: Speaking of multiple extensions, why not employ a multi-domain strategy?
It means owning more than one domain name for your business, and it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to drive more traffic to your site. Let’s go back to our pizza shop owner from tip #1 to explain.
We’ll call our owner Sal, and the name of his brick-and-mortar pizza shop is called Slices by Sal. Wisely, Sal has purchased “SlicesbySal.com.” After all, that’s what anyone who knows about Sal and his pizza place will type in if they want to go to his Web site, right?
Well, maybe, if they can remember the name of his pizza place. But what if they can’t? Or what if they don’t even know Sal and his fabulous pizza exist when their craving strikes? Then what will they do? Well, what would you do? Chances are you’d go to Google and type in “Pizza + Peabody.” And if Sal is smart, he’ll own PeabodyPizza.com along with NorthShorePizza.com (all additional domain names just redirect customers back to your site).
This means you can spend less on costly keyword search buys or banner advertising, thanks to all the free organic search engine traffic you’ll get.
TIP #5: Finally, be careful of copyright infringement (sorry cola distributor; you can’t be DietKoke.com).
Now, one final word of warning: a domain name that’s too similar to your competitor’s can infringe on copyright laws. This would include using your competitor’s name but spelling it slightly differently or using the same name but with a different extension, such as Target.net instead of Target.com.
However, as with the above Mad Hatter example, if the business that has your name is not in the same industry as yours, you have a lot more freedom to get creative.
Bottom line: Now, just like in 14th century Verona, names matter.
About the author
Jennifer Tanzi is marketing communications manager at NameMedia in Waltham, MA. website: buydomains.com