What’s In a Domain Name: Why Your Domain Name is Critical to Your Business

You’re ready to take the plunge and start a website.  You have an idea.  You put together a plan to bring that idea to life.  And now you’re ready for your first step online… purchasing a domain name.  I have seen TONS of businesses, and so have you, launched on different types of domain names.  You have the premium domain name, the trendy domain name, the ‘what they hell were they thinking’ domain name, the cheaper alternative domain name, the descriptive domain name, and probably 50 more different types of domain names we could label into categories.  Picking out a domain name to put your business on is a CRITICAL step and it honestly could mean the difference between succeeding and failing, or at least significantly increase your chances for succeeding.

When going to buy your domain name you need to ask yourself a few different questions up front.

  1. How do you want to brand your business (trendy, trustworthy, humorous, etc…)
  2. Will people remember your domain name
  3. Will people remember how to spell your domain name
  4. How important is a domain name to your business plan
  5. What is your budget

I’ve seen people/companies spend nothing on a domain name (literally a hand registered domain, which was crappy for a multitude of reasons) and then spend a million dollars trying to market their domain name (since it is their business name).  What would have been smarter is if they spent $800,000 on acquiring a top of the line domain name and $200,000 to market it because a premium domain name markets itself.  Think of it like this (and this is a random made up example, but for illustrative purposes) would you rather own Beds.com and spend a ton of money on that domain and build your business there, or would you rather own TheBestBedsOnline.com and spend the ton of money trying to market that domain name and build brandawareness?  Marketing is a fickle thing, you are putting something in someone’s head today, but you need to continue doing it so that they remember you tomorrow.  With a top notch domain name you always own that premium domain and brand and you only need to spend money once to get it.

Let’s look at a real life example of how even big boy companies can fail at picking a good domain to build a business on.  You know Netflix.  Big company, tons of money, and when they wanted to spin off their dvd by mail business they decided the best brand/domain to do it on would be Qwikster.com.  What?  It is a name that can easily be misspelled, it is a name that really doesn’t align to what the business does, it is an ugly looking domain name, but my guess is they had a marketing guy who thought it looked cool and trendy.  Fail!

Let’s now look at what I did for this site.  If I could have purchased the domain name InternetMarketing.com, or IM.com, or MakeMoney.com, or OnlineMarketing.com to build this site on I would have.  If those domains were for sale I would have been looking at needing to spend 6 or 7 figures to get one of them and it wouldn’t make sense.  I’m not a big company, nor was my plans for this site a huge commercial business.  But I didn’t want a cheap $10 hand registered domain unless I found one that I considered high quality.  I searched for a while but everything I looked at was already bought.  And I didn’t want to buy a cheaper alternative that had additional words or a hypen or numbers in it.

My next step was to look at domain auctions and see if anything caught my fancy.  There were a few that seemed OK but I went with Anticareer because I thought it was brandable, easy to remember, and had a meaning to what my site would be about (please tell me you understand the meaning).  I think I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,100 (give or take a few bucks) to win the auction.  And now I had my virtual real estate to build my site on.  Some people might ask why buy Anticareer.com for $1,100 when I could have added a letter or number to the domain name (like Anticareer5.com or YAnticareer.com) and only paid $10.  It comes down to having a professional domain name, a brandable domain name, and a domain name that people can easily remember.  Anticareer provided me with all these tenfold more than the version with an extra letter or number added in.

Ok, I think I went off track on a tangent there, but getting back in line…  think about domain names like land.  If you’re going to build a gas station you need a prime spot where there’s a lot of traffic.  Even if your gas station is small, if you get that prime land to build it on right off the highway you’ll get a lot of business.  Now if you can get 3 acres of land for dirt cheap but it is in the mountains would you buy it and build your gas station there?  No, because you won’t succeed.  Domains are the same most of the time.  You need to identify who your target market is and then buy that “land” that is going to let you succeed in capturing them.

Moving on…  I haven’t touched yet on the SEO value when you buy exact match domains, EMD, in this article yet or when you buy a domain with the keyword in the domain name.  I wrote a short post a while back about EMDs which you can find here.  It really does help even though a lot of people may say today that it doesn’t carry the same weight as it did in the past.  I have some minisites where I build 10-15 pages on them.  And I ALWAYS buy the exact match domain for them or if that is not available I buy a domain name with the keywords in it.  For minisites where I don’t expect people to return to the site after their first visit.   When I’m not trying to build a brand I always still want to buy the .com version, but if it is not available I am OK with buying the .net or .org version as I find they still rank well in the search engines.  If I’m building an authority site or a site where I want people to return I always buy a .com domain.   The reason is simple, people will type “Name” and then “.com” into their browser more times than not.  And if someone else owns the .com than they will be getting your traffic.

A real life example of this is the deal sharing site Slickdeals.net.  When they started out I would guess the .com version of the domain name was not available and so they wound up with the .net version.  Fast forward a few years and they are not a very popular site, high Alexa ranking, but they don’t own the .com version.  When people talk to their friends most people would say “Yeah, I found this great deal on Slickdeals”, so their friend goes online and types in Slickdeals.com and lands on someone else’s webpage.  Slickdeals recognized this and they bought the .com version of their name and now when people land on it they get forwarded to Slickdeals.net.  I haven’t seen the purchase price of the Slickdeals.com sale, but I’d guess it was in the low six figure range.   If they bought it when they started out they probably could have gotten it for a couple hundred bucks or maybe a grand or two.  If you’re going to build a brand you need the .com domain.

And now that my rumbling, stumbling, bumbling (yes, it is football season) is done I hope you got something out of this post.  If you can afford a great domain go for it.  It is a one time expense that can pay dividends for years and years to come.

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