No matter what your business does, your name is everything. You want one that is memorable, builds trust with your customers, and reflects who you are and what you do. It’s often the first thing people encounter and has a significant impact on your brand identity. From the BBC, IKEA and Instagram to McDonalds, Uber and Coca-Cola, it’s obvious that companies invest time and money to create, maintain and protect a unique brand name.
In this digital age, you need to give the same importance to your online domain name. This is easier said than done when you consider that, as of this month, the internet has 334.6 million registered domain names, a number that will only continue to grow. As a result it’s getting harder and harder to get the domain name you really want.
So, how do you create an effective domain name when it seems as though all the good ones are taken? How many words should you use? Should you include numbers? What about hyphens? Which extension do you choose?
Keep these three tips at front of mind to ensure you pick a winner.
1. Keep it simple
You’d be surprised how many business owners try and pack too much information into their domain name.
A domain name shouldn’t act as a description – so don’t litter it with keywords. And when it comes to numbers or hyphens, keep them to a minimum. Too many can be a little confusing and difficult to remember.
One thing we recommend is what we call a ‘radio test’. If I said the name of my website out loud, would you be able to write it down correctly? This simple question will help you avoid making a decision you may regret later. Your aim is to be instantly identifiable, easy to communicate, and simple to write down or memorize.
A domain name shouldn’t act as a description – so don’t litter it with keywords.
2. Protect yourself
With more and more domain names being snapped up, they are becoming a very valuable commodity. And, unsurprisingly, there are people who take advantage of this. Cyber squatters buy up slight variations of big brand names and hold companies ransom that want to take ownership of them.
At the moment, because your business is only just taking off, you may not be too concerned about cyber squatters, but rest assured, as your business and brand visibility grow, they will pop up.
McDonald’s learned the hard way back in the 90’s, when ‘mcdonalds.com’ was owned for several months by a reporter at Wired Magazine. More recently, tech giant Apple lost a trademark fight over ‘iPhone’ with a small Chinese manufacturer, because its trademark bid wasn’t approved in time.
You can’t really wait until you’re the size of Google before you put measures in place to protect yourself. Register your name under several variations – whether it’s a common typo – e.g. ‘Twotter’ for Twitter – that you can redirect to your actual site, or any other different alternative. Trust me, this will save a lot of money, time and stress that inevitably comes with having to buy them back.
3. Think ahead
If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur with global ambitions, you will be thinking about the future all the time. Although you may think the potential and possibilities are endless, it’s at least worth thinking about the markets you are most likely to do business in later, and make sure to secure your brand name with the appropriate country extension.
Your business may be on a local or national level for now, but with the rate at which technology evolves, who’s to say that will be the case this time next year? Invest in the future now, otherwise on the day your product suddenly goes viral in France, you’ll find out the ‘.fr’ domain name is already gone, and naturally will be for sale at a very high price. You know what they say: fail to prepare and prepare to fail.
So there you have it, a few tips to keep in mind when considering domain names. Hopefully these will help you make sure your choice is distinctive, the best fit, and sustainable. Your name is your brand, both online and off – and remember, a good name is no good unless you also have a good domain name attached to it.
About the author
Hiren Parekh is UK director for sales and marketing at OVH, the web hosting and cloud company. Since completing a degree in business computing, Parekh has spent more than ten years working for hosting and software companies.