It’s a question that often comes up when business owners contemplate purchasing a new domain. Some would argue that the domain name is the most important aspect of your business identity.
Often the business owner figures he can either register a name he makes up (usually not something found in a dictionary) or go after a long tail keyword phrase or keyword heavy name that is specific to his niche and that no one has chosen to register yet.
There are proponents in both camps … and to be perfectly honest … either approach can work given the right followup and branding. The keyword proponents suggest that your domain will rank better in the search engines than a non-keyword domain name and the brandable crowd says keywords are not that important in a domain but you do have to get a name that’s short and memorable (brandable).
Here’s my take on the debate:
You make the call! As the business owner, it’s your decision and only you understand the full implications of all the secondary issues (like how much time and money you care to spend on promoting your brand, other businesses in your niche that might be similar to yours and whether there could be confusion about who is who, what domain names are currently available to register, etc.) Both domain name approaches can be satisfied with a good domain name if you take the time to be a little creative and use some free tools at your disposal.
Personally, I lean toward the “keyword in the domain” approach. Here’s why.
If you were online and had an interest in finding a local talent agency, which web site would you choose to visit: “tri-star.com” or “denvertalentscout.com”? If you knew nothing about these businesses, which would you click on first to investigate? You see, I think it’s of value to have the domain name, at least to some extent, describe what the business behind it actually does! Tri-star is the shorter name, but you don’t have a clue what that site’s about. And if there is any hesitancy, or confusion, the viewer will likely pass over sites that don’t look relevant at first glance.
Now those who think that brandable names are preferable will site Apple, Google, Amazon, eBay, and other businesses that are household Internet names. They aren’t keyword rich – but they are easy to remember. But here’s the trouble with this logic: Google and the other businesses mentioned have spent millions and millions of dollars on promoting their brands. You don’t have that luxury! Besides, all of the short one word “dictionary” names are already registered. Yes, you could buy a short name – but the cost is prohibitive for nearly all of us but the truly wealthy.
To my way of thinking, all brandable means is that the domain name is memorable, easy to say, spell and type into a search bar, and it’s something that differentiates your business from others in the niche.
Many short two and three word domains (including one or two of those words being keywords) can fit the bill. I think a two word domain that paints a picture of your business is to be considered more valuable and more brandable than some “made up” word that means nothing to the public. In my opinion, you’re selling yourself short if you resort to some funky or weird domain name that you think is brandable but you don’t have the resources to promote it heavily. What you’re not taking into account is that these kinds of names must be consistently and effectively marketed over an extended time period to ever get the needed traction and recognition.
Here’s an advantage for those who want a keyword descriptive domain name: there are free online tools available that will help you to quickly find dot com domain names that you can register right now.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: let’s say you’re a steak lover and you want to talk about all the great ways to shop for, prepare, cook, and serve great steak.
These are all great dot com names that are available – they have keywords in them and they can all be branded to differentiate your business from others in the same niche.
Brandable vs. keyword . . . these terms don’t have to be mutually exclusive when it comes to finding a great dot com domain if you just use your brain and get a little creative using some free tools that are available to anyone.
I will confess, I’m not sure about how the search engines feel about keyword vs. brandable names. You hear a lot of conflicting information and arguments on the topic in online circles like the marketing forums. I do know that when your domain is passed around the Internet in many venues, there are going to be times when having a keyword in the domain will at least alert viewers to what your web site is about – and that is a good thing.
Potential prospects will more likely click on your link if they are targeted and see the domain name “steakportal(dot)com” than if they see the name “mosdelish.com” or something else you make up.
Of course, as in most business decisions, it is totally up to you as the business owner and you will either suffer the consequences or reap the benefits of your own decisions.
When you come to the point of deciding upon a domain name, whichever approach you choose (keyword or brandable) keep these tips in mind:
- Always choose dot com as the extension. Don’t settle for anything else. Yes, I know that other extensions can rank well in the search engines. But all things being equal, dot coms are more valuable than other extensions if you are operating a commercial business. Good dot com names are available in every niche … you just have to be a little creative and use the tools available to find them. If you ever sell your business, having a dot com name will be preferable and more valuable than any other extension.
- Be as clear and non-confusing as possible. Don’t use variations of other people’s domains or businesses. Don’t use slang or industry jargon for domain names meant for the general public.
- Don’t use numbers, dashes, hyphens, or mis-spelled words in your domain name. Make the name easy to say, pronounce, and type.
- Choose a name that is short and memorable. Yes, finding great “short” domains that you can register is getting harder and harder … but just do the best that you can. The idea is to make it easy and simple for a prospect to type your business name into the search bar.
- If you are in the business of selling something, choose a name that carries authority, trust, and integrity. Avoid names like “bestmountainbike” or similar. How do you know that you really have the “best?” Anyone can make unsubstantiated business claims online.
- Don’t infringe on others’ tradenames or trademarks. Not only is this not legal, it can cost you quite a bit of money if you are slapped with a law suit because you were careless and didn’t do your research prior to choosing your domain name. Don’t register celebrity names, sports star names, etc. You could be accused of profiting from the fame of another person, even if they aren’t registering their name as a domain.
- Don’t try to be cute, too clever, or trendy with the name you choose. “Cute” and “clever” are in the eye of the beholder and often a turn-off to people that don’t think like you do. Trendy names come and go like the tide – it’s better to choose “evergreen” names.
I hope this discussion has been helpful … or at least given you some issues to ponder and consider when you choose a new domain name.
To your online business success!