A good domain name has three important features:
- It’s memorable, which usually includes being short, easy to spell, and easy to say
- It gives a user an immediate sense of the subject matter or the value being offered
- It’s brandable – it fits in your vision, values, and the voice you want to convey
You might notice that there are brands out there that have succeeded without nailing all of these factors. For example, nobody would connect the word “Amazon” to what Amazon’s website offers. And believe it or not, there was a time before a “Google” search.
A single, ambiguous term works for these companies now. But smaller firms – including local businesses and those that provide professional services – shouldn’t try to follow the same route.
As domain squatters have stolen choice .com domain names to flip them for thousands in profit, more companies turn to made-up words for a domain. But remember, a domain name is a crucial component to your brand identity: Changing it in the future may disrupt some of your digital marketing efforts.
It’s easy to underestimate the significance of the domain name, but there’s a lot of complexity in this seemingly simple task. Over the years, people have asked the New York Ave team hundreds of questions about domains, but a few keep coming up again and again.
We’re dedicating this post to answering the most frequent (and most useful!) of those questions.
Here we go …
QUESTION: Is a .com domain better than one of another kind? If so, why?
Everybody knows .com usually means a business and most have a vague idea.org is usually reserved for charitable organizations. The .edu extension is almost exclusively used for education and some might be old enough to remember .net was originally used for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and related technology firms.
Of all these categories, though, .com has consistently been the most visible. The average user, who knows nothing about you, will probably be most reassured by seeing a .com domain extension associated with your brand.
With that in mind, unscrupulous characters have bought up .com domains they never intended to use in the hope of reselling them for thousands of dollars. It may not always be possible to get an ideal .com domain, but you should explore your options before giving up.
QUESTION: Does your domain name affect your search engine visibility?
There was a time when domain names had a huge impact on Search Engine Optimization. (SEO is the science of making your website more attractive to search engines by following their content and technical guidelines and promoting your site according to best practices.)
A few years back, a domain that matched the exact word or phrase you wanted to rank for would almost always shoot to the top of the listings for that particular keyword. That meant most people searching for that term would come across such websites on the first page of results.
This proved so easy to exploit that Google has since changed it.
Your domain name continues to have a mild effect on search engine placement. But if it comes down to using a keyword-based domain versus one that fits your brand, go with your brand. You’ll end up ranking for dozens or hundreds of keywords in the long run.
QUESTION: What happens if a domain name I want expires?
Most likely, it won’t actually expire before getting renewed. If it does, it’s likely that it will get bought up by domain squatters.
A popular con nowadays is for scam artists overseas to put up a fake website, then claim your business name is being registered with authorities in China. Then, they threaten to sue you or offer to sell your domain back for an exorbitant price.
This is a big risk if you only register your domain for one year at a time and don’t pay attention to the renewal notices being sent by your registrar.
Many SEO experts speculate that domains registered for longer periods of time get more preference from search engines than those that are not. This is because the investment in the domain suggests the business will be around for a long time to come.
While this isn’t a sure thing (yet), registering your domain for 5+ years is a good move.
QUESTION: What about new domain extensions like .world and .ninja?
These are perfectly valid domain names, but use them on a case by case basis.
Recognizing that the stock of good .com domains wouldn’t last forever, international groups have come together over the last few years to create new domain extensions.
While a handful of these are regional or culture-specific, most of them – like .work, .world, and yes, .ninja – can be used by anyone. Whether you should use one depends on how it works with your brand strategy.
For example, if your business name already ends in one of these words, then it could be a perfect fit. It also works if it matches your category: For example, .work for a career coach.
If a domain feels like a stretch, it probably is.
The key is that ever-elusive question of tone: A domain that would make a luxury-based company look silly could work perfectly for a fresh, forward-looking Gen Z-focused brand. It’s all in who you want to appeal to most.
At New York Ave, we know a thing or two about domains. Selecting one that’s just right for you is a big part of our deep dive into your brand. We can help you ensure your website, content, and marketing initiatives add up to a brand your customers can trust.
To find out more or get started, contact us today.