There are many blogs all over the internet that teach you how to build an online business. They’ll tell you how to pick your niche, do keyword research, set up WordPress and start writing content, amongst a variety of other topics.
However, when it comes to choosing a domain name, many of these blogs fall strangely short. A large number of them will say something along the lines of, “Your domain name doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s a .com, write great content, and you’re good to go.”
While .com is certainly still king in the online world, the idea that your domain doesn’t have an impact on your success is simply false. I can guarantee you that if Mark Zuckerberg’s domain was TheBestFacebookAround.com instead of simply Facebook.com, his company would not be nearly as successful.
In fact, the company’s original domain name was TheFacebook.com. In an interview at Startup School in 2009, when asked if there were any mistakes he made when he started, the first thing Zuckerberg said was, “I would get the right domain name.”
Your Location Matters
Your domain is the location of your digital store. It’s the address, the land upon which your website is built. If you operated a brick-and-mortar business before the internet existed, I’d say it made a pretty big difference if it was built in a field versus a city.
Why should it be any different when it comes to digital real estate in the internet era? Certain locations are more valuable than others, and thus it is the same when it comes to domains.
Take Cars.com, for example. On the SEC filings for Gannett Co., Inc. (the company that owns the name), it was valued at approximately $872 million. You can find these filings here.
That location on the internet is immensely valuable, as are other domains that have sold for six, seven and eight figures. However, if you want to open a car dealership, you don’t have to own Cars.com to have a good domain name.
Take ours, for example: UpscaleDomains.com. Even though it’s not one word, it was exactly what we were looking for, and it conveys what we want to our visitors.
We love the domain industry, and we are constantly striving to increase the value of our holdings. When you visit us, you’re getting domain names that convey an upscale vibe, plus advice on how to choose great domains for your business. We also wanted a refreshing, professional-sounding brand that people could trust, and our name accomplished that for us.
The point of the matter is, you don’t need the best domain on Earth, but the nature of your domain absolutely must be considered when starting a website of any kind. You just have to choose one that follows a few guidelines.
8 Simple Rules
Here are eight simple rules that will help you choose a much better domain for your future website:
1. Stick with .com: The extension (or TLD, short for “top-level domain”), should be .com whenever possible. It is the most widely known, used, respected and trusted. Some caveats:
– If the .com is unavailable, the .net can be a good alternative for businesses.
– For organizations, the .org extension is usually preferred over .com.
– If you happen to be in the tech, cryptocurrency or gaming industries, one-word .io domains are great options for startups.
– If you are doing business in a particular country, the matching country code TLD is an ideal choice (examples are .co.uk, .com.au, .ru and .de).
2. The shorter, the better: In general, one- and two-word names with fewer syllables are easier to remember and type.
3. Use popular terms: The words in the domain should be widely used in culture and commerce, or at least convey that you are somebody who deserves your visitor’s attention. Consider NewCars.com vs UsedCars.com vs PreownedCars.com. All three of these names are valuable and command respect, but looking at the data, the popularity of the term “used cars” is way out in front.
While people looking for new cars will be willing to spend more money, the used car market seems to be multiples in size, which means the term is more widely used. You’ll want to consider keyword popularity when choosing a name.
Google Keyword Planner
4. Make sense: If you’re combining words for a brand, they should make sense when paired together. For example, LuxuryBeds.com and BeautifulBeds.com are both memorable and make perfect sense, but things like GiraffeBeds.com and LilacBeds.com have no immediate meaning. They could be used as brands, but you’ll have to work much harder to make yourself known.
5. Consider scaling: Think about the future. Do you think that you will eventually expand into bigger markets? If so, consider investing in a more generic domain that allows for more expansion. We get into more detail about this later.
6. Conduct the Radio Test: Exclude hyphens, numbers, unnecessary characters and unnecessary words. If you can’t say your domain without trouble – which is necessary for radio advertising – it’s probably not a good choice. Here are some examples of domains that are not good choices, followed by better alternatives:
Chicago-Car-Dealership.com (ChicagoCars.com would be better)
AirConditionings.com (AirConditioning.com or AirConditioners.com would be better)
LampShadez.com (LampShades.com would be better)
247Locksmith.com (EmergencyLocksmith.com would be better)
BestHotelsInLasVegas.com (LasVegasHotels.com or VegasHotels.com would be better)
BestWeightLossDiets.com (BestDiets.com or WeightLossDiets.com would be better)
TheRavenBarAndGrill.com (TheRaven.com would be better)
WithoutAnyFlaws.com (Flawless.com would be better)
7. Consider your budget and needs: Ask yourself, “Do I need to spend five or six figures on a one-word .com?” If you’re a smaller business with limited budget, you probably don’t need to spend that much at this time. On the other hand, if you’re a venture-backed startup or a larger company, there is a lot to be gained from investing in top-tier names.
8. We offer no legal advice here, but it is best to avoid trademarks and words similar to trademarks at all costs: Using words and phrases that are trademarked, or words and phrases that are confusingly similar to trademarks, sets you up for lots of legal trouble. Obvious examples would be “Google,” “Facebook,” “Pepsi,” “Amazon” and “Realtor,” but there are many other trademarks that exist. If doing business in the US, go to the US Patent and Trademark Office, navigate to the “Trademarks” button and click “TESS.” This will bring up the directory and you can search to see if your business name is taken. Contact a lawyer for more clarification, preferably one who specializes in domain and trademark law.
Why Does All of This Matter?
There are multiple reasons why these rules matter to the success of your online venture.
1. Memorability: If your domain is something that people have a hard time remembering, they won’t come back as often. Whether it’s too long, too complicated, too obscure, spelled incorrectly, or contains hyphens or numbers, anything that makes your domain more difficult to remember will stall growth.
On the other hand, a name that is easier to remember and sticks in people’s minds will generally get more traffic, more referrals and more overall engagement with the brand.
2. Trust: When your domain looks strange or sketchy, people won’t trust your website, which negatively impacts business growth. On the other hand, when you have a clean, professional brand with a top extension on the end, people trust you more.
3. The Radio Test: Once again, here is this important test. If you have to explain something to make people understand your domain, that explanation will follow you wherever you go and constantly devalue your brand. If someone doesn’t understand how to say, spell or type your domain after hearing it once or twice, it’s a bad choice.
4. Customer Acquisition Costs: In the case of a bad name, you’re going to have to spend more money on advertising in order to acquire customers. On the other hand, a clear and concise name will be like having a well-oiled machine enhancing your business.
5. Traffic and Email Security: Owning your core brand is essential to making sure you’re receiving all the visitors and emails that are meant for you.
6. Scaling: The more specific your domain is, the more your business will be narrowed and pigeonholed. Take one I mentioned earlier as an example: TheRavenBarAndGrill.com. It’s obvious what this business provides, but is that always best?
If the bar and grill wanted to become a fine-dining establishment, they would have a problem on their hands. They have nowhere to go, since their business is defined by their domain. However, if their domain had been TheRaven.com from the start, there would be no issue with expansion.
7. Options: If the bar closed, there is not much left that can be done with TheRavenBarAndGrill.com. However, if the bar’s domain was simply TheRaven.com, now the owner has some options available to them:
– They can start a completely different business under the name “The Raven,” since the phrase is generic and can apply to many types of businesses. Some examples that come to mind are a liquor brand, a publishing company and a record label.
– They can save the domain for a later date and let it appreciate in value over time.
– They can put ads on the website and bring in some revenue.
– They can sell the domain to someone else who’s interested in calling their business “The Raven,” either through a broker or through inbound inquires.
– They can liquidate the name to a domain investor for wholesale value.
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