8 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Investing in Domain Names
…and how to avoid them
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” — William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Comedian Deidre Fidge made this Shakespeare quote above a bit closer to reality in an article about babies’ names, adding « even if the rose was named Weird Stinky Feet ». Fun, but if you are honest, would you walk into a shop called « Weird Stinky Feet » looking for roses? Or search for « Weird Stinky Feet » online? Or go to WeirdStinkyFeet.com to get some flowers? It’s kind of ironic that someone who made a mark in history for their ability to use words so beautifully would say that. In reality, Juliet was referring to the fact that if Romeo was not Romeo, to say from the family Montague, they would be able to be together since the only thing stopping them are their family names. So in their case, the name was an issue. The name was a burden. The name was carrying the history of conflict between the two families and stopping the young couple from being who they wanted to be together. Too bad we don’t choose our own names and can’t « rebrand » when we don’t like them. The good news is, with a business you can.
So what’s in a name? You could say to some extent names are what makes us human (bold statement, I know but bare with me). Every word in every language is a name — the name we gave to something that we see or experience. As we developed languages got richer and richer and so a Name now is what carries all the qualities, history, and expectations for its owner and it communicates those to the world. Today this is valid more than ever since in most cases people hear or read names before they get to see or experience the person, business, service, product behind them. There are numerous studies on how the name you give to your child affects their life, you can even pay someone to come up with a good name. People who’s name is easy to pronounce get higher positions at work. Kids with strange names get into more trouble due to the fact they are treated differently and find forming relationships harder than their peers. If your last name is closer to the top letters of the alphabet you are more likely to get better education according to another study. Clearly, your name is not everything, but it does have a huge impact on your success. So why do people forget that so often when getting a domain name for their business?
Now, for the exercise, we are going to assume you have already done a good job of naming your business (or at least better than some of those epic fail cases). If you are still in the process of choosing one, this article is for you too (could even argue it is more so for you). Let’s look at some mistakes to avoid when picking a domain name for your business.
Thinking about the domain name too late
Your domain name is a long-term asset, think of it that way and treat it accordingly. It is not a small detail, it is not the job of your web developer, or the neighbor, or your teen trying to be helpful. Over the life of your company, your employees, your clients, your business partners, investors, advertisers are going to be pronouncing it, spelling it, typing it countless times. You will have it printed on stationery, promotional materials and merchandise. It is really an intrinsic part of your identity so choosing it should not be left to chance and should not be done at the last minute. You don’t have a name for your business yet? Great. This is about the right time to pick those together. Do you have some in mind? Perfect. Read on.
You may want to check the FAQs on WIPO’s site, the US Patent and Trademark Office, as well as read about UDPR. In human language, shortly put, domains are digital assets subject to Intellectual Property laws so you should make sure your chosen domain name does not infringe a registered trademark. If you skip that step you risk at best having your domain taken away from you and worse than that (yes, there is worse) — you can get sued for damages. Besides, nobody likes copycats.
Dashes, numbers, extra words
It’s safe to assume that you are going in business for a long time. Years. Decades if you do well and if you are absolutely exceptional even more than that. Imagine your domain name pronounced over and over and over again. On the phone, on the radio, on a tv spot. Dash? How many people will remember that? « Get », « Weare » or adding descriptive words that are not actually a part of your business name just so you can get a domain name that is available. Look at that price chart for tv spots. Even at $100k for a 30-second spot (that’s wishful thinking since they start at around $200k but let’s say you get a good deal), that’s $3333 per second. It takes a second to say « dash ». That dash is gonna cost you quite a bit over the lifetime of your business on that alone. Same applies to radio ads. Numbers can be confusing, is it « 5 » or « five »? There are cases where your actual business name contains numbers (think casinos) so you want to match that but in general, it is really not advisable.
Not getting a .com domain
There are so many fun new extensions out there and it is true you are more likely to get your desired exact match domain name in a new TLD (Top Level Domain). Is that the best option though? Searchmetrics analyzed 100,000 domain names to find that 75% of all links go back to.Com domain names. That means trust in SEO terms. And if you are completely honest, you know when someone dictates a domain name you instinctively end typing .com at the end. Go run a search for anything on your chosen search engine and see on which page is the first not .com domain you get. If you have your location shared you will likely get the local domains of international businesses (more on that later) and .com’s. I just ran a search for « dog collars », I am stopping at page 8 (which nobody ever gets to but let’s) with one .net and 2 .org domains (the .org are Wikipedia and Cambridge dictionary, so good luck competing with those). 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies have chosen a .com domain name for their business. Do we need to say more? One day, maybe it won’t matter but today it does. And it has done for the past 20 years.
Choosing a domain name that is not future-proof
This point actually applies to your brand name too (as do most of the points listed in this article). Say you have a great product, stick with dog collars since I used it as an example above. It is what you’re good at, what you love, it’s gonna be great. Where do you see yourself in 3 years? In 5 years? Say you do great, everyone loves your collars, people trust you and love your brand. They don’t want to go to other brands for their dog beds, dog food, dog toys. You actually have the cash, experience, market share to expand to many other products. Did you have the word « collar » in your name? Too bad. So now you’re in for a rebrand. Or launching another brand where you start from scratch? Another online shop? Another domain? Which one costs less? Which one is less likely to affect the trust you already built with your customers? Changing all the stationary, site, print materials? Think big, think ahead. Don’t put yourself in a box before you even started, the bigger you get (which is the goal), the harder and more expensive it will be to get out of that box.
Not looking for ways to have your perfect name
If you could have any domain name, literally any, what would you pick? Don’t go for what’s cheap, what’s available, what you already had, « anything would do », add a dash, add an extra word. This is your business. Your reputation. Your future. If you don’t feel it should be the best it could be then you shouldn’t be doing it at all. It won’t last. Ask yourself those questions — Is this what I really want? Is this what I really believe is the best choice for my business? If not then put a plan together of how to get what you really want. Remember, behind every business, there is an actual human being, so there is always a chance and a way to have a dialogue. Your desired domain is taken? Check, who owns it? Do they use it? Is it for sale? Maybe it will expire soon? Is the owner open for partnership? What about the lease? What about staged payments? If you were to open a restaurant and you know just the right spot for it in town, you know it is going to make all the difference to how your story develops, you wouldn’t just go « oh well, I can’t have it » and get a place in a distant quarter where none of your target audience is. You will try and negotiate and find ways. It’s the same here. With the difference, you are looking for the perfect spot on the internet, not in town. And that’s a lot more competition to get ahead of.
Not protecting your perfect name once you get it
Do you know Apple owns over 24 000 domain names? Pretty much all the possible ways you can spell « Apple » are covered. 1pple, axple, zpple, appule, wwwapple…the list goes on. The better you do the more people will try to copy you, steal your traffic, scam people using your name and reputation. And even though it is obvious you’re not going to go out and buy 20k domain names on day one, $5-$10 per year for a domain name is cheaper than a ruined reputation and trust or/and court cases and lawyers. So as you grow do make it a point to monitor how people get to your site and acquire the relevant names. Same applies to geo domains, there are different theories about whether having local domain extensions has an affect on SEO but in all cases, if you’re going global then you are best securing those as well as you expand.
Not being creative
A domain name is your address online. But not only. Think outside the box. Be creative. What else can you do with a domain name? Have you recently checked your internet speed on Fast.com? It is a service offered for free by Netflix. The site has an Alexa rank of 1,181. Literally, it is the 1,181th website worldwide by popularity. That is huge given there are over 1.8 billion (this is how it looks 1,805,260,010 as a number) websites online and still counting. There is the discrete Netflix logo and link to it on the bottom right. So think about it, how much would that cost in advertising if they had to pay for it every time someone clicks through or sees their logo? On top of that, what do you think happens when you’ve paid your Netflix subscription, you’re watching your movie and it keeps crashing. You blame Netflix. It could be your internet provider but how do you know? You check your speed. Smart, isn’t it. And that’s just one example. You could be next. Be creative.
I hope this will be of use to you in the process of getting your perfect domain name. If you have any questions, need any help or just want to chat with someone about the process, book a free consultation on MarkUpgrade. We are always happy to hear from you.
Written by Tatiana
Originally published at MarkUpgrade.com.