Picking a great Domain Name

Picking a great domain name might be more important then you realize.

Consider the following; only one company can have toys.com, that one company then OWNS the category ‘toys’ as far as the internet is concerned. Not only would you get a lot of traffic from people typing in the word, the reputational effect that owning the category brings with it will do that company much good.

Consider on the other hand the domain Google.com. It doesn’t say anything about what the company does (its a mathematical term, but incorrectly spelled) but it’s pronoucable and short. The difference for Google is that another small broker in Austria cannot be called gnosher or frumbl (just made those up) without spending considerable amounts on marketing it. People just wouldn’t remember it, recommend it to their friends or come back to it by typing in the name. You have to burn it in people’s mind.

So, depending on the purpose of your website and your budget, you need to make a choice:

  1. Branded: are domains that are named according to your business.
  2. Keyword rich: are domains that describe the kind of service or product people are looking for.

If your main goal is online acquisition thru online marketing and search engine optimization then it makes sense to pick a keyword rich URL. Search engines love them (MSN/Bing puts lots of weight on keywords in the domain, Google puts some) and when people are searching for a solution in your area the chance is big they will just type in the main keyword in their browser bar. They also signal some brand value, if you are a plumber and have the domain plumber.com your company will be viewed as a high value company.

However, those domains are hard to come by for the main industry keywords and as such are now the privilege of cash rich companies (sedo offers some for sale) and the super niche (think green-foot-fungus-for-hikers-in-southern-america.com). For ideas on your main industry keywords you can look at google’s keyword tool.

Brainstorming on those keywords and combinations thereof can be fruitful, imagine your main keyword is ‘widgets’, then a domain like coolwidgets.com will definitely work. Especially in emerging markets (in terms of your industry) a lot of good country specific domains are still available.

Another way of getting a keyword rich domain at low cost is by coining a new industry specific phrase describing what you do, and PR’ing the hell out of it.

In the case of branded domains all the rules of a good (company) name still apply, your name needs to be memorable, short, descriptive and targeted to your main audience. This kind of domain is mostly fitted for companies that conduct business outside the web, but a considerable marketing spend and/or a purple cow will take care of that problem also (think Google, Yahoo, del.icio.us).

In almost all cases should your domain name be the name of your website/business.

Secondly, you need to pick an extension. For businesses .com and .net are most common but if you’re a local operator and do business solely in your country it makes sense to get the country specific domain. I don’t have any stats on it but in a lot of countries a kind of internationalization has been going on. Dutch TV ads, URL’s and thus also top level domains will often be completely in English and so you might want to consider using the ‘halo effect’ that a .com offers. If your doubting about a .net; take under consideration that globally .net traffic is disappearing and a good .com is definitely better in terms of type in, ppc and natural search traffic.

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About Me

Thoughts on Direct and Online Marketing in the Financial Industry. By Bart Burggraaf. Bart is MD/Partner at MGL, a London based Financial Services Marketing Agency. The posts on this blog are the personal opinions of Bart Burggraaf and not the official view point of MGL or any of it's clients.