Few posts ago, I briefly tackled psychology behind company names, noting that they should be somewhat of an advertisement themselves. Well, the same goes for domains, especially considering the fact that now a great deal of advertising and promotion activities take place online. From this point of view, a domain name is no longer simply a company’s virtual address, but a factor that determines the pace of its online expansion.
Of course, the general idea is to get a domain name that makes it easy for web users to relate a URL to the actual company, organization or brand. However, you also want your domain name to leave a permanent impression on a user, regardless of the channel via which he or she encounters it for the first time. Be it an online ad or an organic search result, a simple thing such as a website URL can make all the difference.
This is why you need a great domain name; a domain name that tells a story and makes the following aspects easy.
Online authority building
With 3 billion websites out there, it’s already quite difficult to stand out from the crowd even with the most revolutionary idea. And, let’s be honest, it’s even more difficult to do so with a domain that is inappropriate, non-transparent or, in some cases even ridiculous. Here, I’m partly referring to the trend of –ifying company names, which Chris Johnson analyzed over the last few years to conclude how worryingly popular it is (seriously, Knowify?!).
Now, some people may find such names catchy and memorable, but they may become a problem for a serious online authority building strategy. After all, chances are your brand is catering to multiple audience groups and regions, all of which need to be able to recognize the main idea or mission from both the company and domain name. Moreover, companies need to position themselves as relevant and credible sources of information, especially when their primary targets are entrepreneurs, who may not be interested in linguistic creativity of a domain such as Knowify. Of course, the product behind may be a great, feature-rich SMB suite, but this is hardly visible from its name.
Growing brand recognition
Just like in authority building, a domain name is a cornerstone of a digital branding strategy. If you’re trying to attract a person to your online store, a blog or whatever else that has value for your business, you need to entice them with something tasty and memorable.
The tastiness and memorability is also achieved through an adequate domain name extension, which can give a specific tone to the brand or an individual campaign. An example of such a form of branding is Coca Cola’s online campaign that moved from a generic .com domain to promote the values behind their “we smile” story. Similarly, personal brands can find a .ME domain particularly convenient for protecting their online identity, as is the case with some notable figures such as Chris Brogan and his cbrogan.me.
For businesses, on the other hand, .ME provides an opportunity to simplify content sharing with a short custom URL. The best examples for this practice are certainly Google, Facebook, WordPress, GoDaddy and Time, all of which registered a .me domain (g.me fb.me, wp.me, go.me and ti.me) for URL shortening purposes. This way, they are able to protect their brands, encourage more shares with a catchy URL, and at the same time further strengthen their brand recognition.
SEO and online marketing
SEO strategy and a domain name choice always went hand in hand. In the early stages of SEO development, webmasters tended to chose exact match domains to boost their search results. Of course, once this started going beyond the reasonable use of keywords, Google started frowning upon such techniques.
Nevertheless, it’s still a good idea to insert a keyword in your domain if it is relevant to both your business and your users. In fact, an earlier study showed that online users are more likely to click an online ad if a generic name is associated with it. In their examples, a generic name such as DivorceLawyers was able to generate 298% more clicks than a non-generic name such as VladimirLaw.
On the other hand, brands that are already well established in the web world are also more likely to drive clicks than new companies in the same niche. This is primarily because they have already gained a reputation of a reliable resource, which automatically makes their domain name a preferred source for specific search results. Furthermore, branded anchors also generate increased click-through rates on third party websites, which is another way this element influences your digital presence.
Domain name changing hurdles
Clearly, the aspects described above are all equally important for your brand development and none of them would matter much if you could just easily change your domain name after you figure out it doesn’t really work. Although a domain name doesn’t have to be permanent, changing it can be a real trouble even for well-established brands. Rebranding, for example, necessarily involves a migration to a new domain and should follow Google’s guidelines to avoid a serious drop in ranking positions.
Sometimes, companies may decide to change only a part of their domain name or the extension itself, but this doesn’t make the process less exhaustive. Domain migration, therefore, is something you want to avoid at all costs, which is why you need to consider all these aspects before making a long-term commitment to a single domain name.
That being said, brands need to understand that choosing a domain name is a decision that can significantly affect their future digital strategies and that requires a specific plan. This is why premium domain names and company naming agencies are typically a good investment for those who can afford it. Those who don’t, on the other hand, need to consider how they can get a brandable name on a low budget, but still retain the possibility to develop it over the years.