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What’s In a Domain Name? Is a Domain by Another Name Just as Sweet?

A brand’s name can make or break a company, so of course entrepreneurs often make great efforts when deciding what to call their businesses. A domain name is just as important to a website, although choosing it might be a more complex process.

Successful website owners know that a domain is a lot more than a website address. But a domain name represents so much more than a location. After all, most people know a website by its domain name; it represents a website’s identity in the minds of users.

“Your offering’s domain name says a lot about what it is and a misleading or cumbersome domain name will lead to customer confusion and missed sales,” SAP’s Andrew Lunde wrote. “You’d be surprised how embedded it gets into all your application code and documents and marketing materials.  Having to go back and change it is a royal pain.”

Imagine needing to type AMZ.com to find Amazon or remembering to visit GGL.com to visit Google. Seems as foolish has listing a different name on a storefront sign, doesn’t it? The simple fact is that web users are more likely to choose search results from a reputable and trusted domain. Microsoft actually tested the benefit of “premium” domains in its 2012 study, “Domain Bias in Web Search.”

In a blind test, Microsoft found that domain trust actually overrides search relevancy. For example, when the tech giant tested the search query, “one of the most common types of heart disease,” it found that users preferred genetichealth.com when the domain was not listed in search results. But when the domain was included in results for the same query, users preferred the better-known webmd.org, even though it was not as directly relevant to the search.

Recognition and trustworthiness aren’t the only facts that impact the power of a domain. A custom domain offers a company web mobility. If a company uses the domain of its web hosting service, such as HostGator or DreamHost, then the business is tied to that hosting service unless it wants to change its website address. A custom domain can be carried by the business no matter who provides its web hosting service.

“In terms of various key aspects such as SEO, and brand identity, finding the right name for your website is very crucial,” Endive Software’s Ajay Goyal wrote for SAP Blogs. “It increases the chances of being located in search engine results easily.

“On the other end, a catchy domain name leaves a long-lasting impression on customers or clients’ mind,” Goyal added. “Ensure that the domain name should be catchy, impressive, and easy to remember. Furthermore, a domain name needs to accurately reflect your brand.”

Interested in registering the perfect domain name for your business’ website? Make sure your choice meets the following eight criteria:

 

1. Simple

The best domain names area simple: short, sweet and to the point. Simpler domains are easier to recognize and remember. They are also easier to type, an important quality since lengthier names are easier to misspell. Nobody wants to end up at an adult website because of a typo.

When choosing a domain name, it’s also important to recognize misleading letter combinations that can occur when multiple words are pushed together without spaces. For example, a business named Sam’s Exchange should be cautious about the appearance of “samsexchange.com.” Notice the word inadvertently formed where the two are pushed together? It’s also best to avoid slang terms, abbreviations and extra characters that can be left out by mistake.

 

2. Recognizable

As Microsoft’s 2012 study concluded, recognition is one of the most important factors in a domain name’s success. When faced with a choice between a known and an unknown domain name, users are more likely to rely on what they know and choose the site they recognize over another that might be more relevant to their search.

But a domain name doesn’t have to include a brand name to be recognizable. If the company has a popular slogan or a well-known trademark, that can also serve as a recognizable domain name. For example, if McDonald’s couldn’t register mcdonalds.com, it could try goldenarches.com and still be recognizable among customers around the world.

 

3. Credible

A domain’s name isn’t the only thing potential customers see when visiting a website. They also take note of the domain’s extension, and it can greatly impact their decision to trust a site. Obviously, the most recognizable and trusted domain extension is .com, which also makes it the most effective choice. It is known as a top-level domain name. Still, companies might choose an alternative such as .net, .org or .biz if they want to register a domain name that’s already in use as a .com.

It’s important to understand, however, that some alternatives can have a negative impact on a website’s credibility. Even more so, sponsored TLDs like .mobi, .coupons or .jobs can send up a red flag among potential customers who are unfamiliar with these options. Sometimes there’s no good way around it, however, as available domains are continually snatched up, and new TLDs are released weekly to open up additional domain options.

Meanwhile, if someone really has their heart set on a premium domain that is already in use, they possibly might be able to purchase the premium domain from a domain brokerage service.

 

4. Branded

Effective domain names correlate with a company’s brand. Imagine the domain as a storefront. You’ll want a sign with the business name, right? Maybe add on a slogan or logo? Think of a domain name as the storefront of a website. To be effective, the domain must inform users of what site they are visiting. Who knows, customers might even associate the online brand with a physical storefront, attracting walk-in business to a location.

 

5. Unique

Any company or organization wants its brand to stand apart from the competition. A unique domain name is a good way to accomplish this feat online. The last thing a small business owner wants is for potential clients to inadvertently visit blanket.com instead of blankets.com, sending business to the wrong company.

 

6. Catchy

A catchy domain name corresponds with a recognizable and memorable domain. Think of the online brand like a song: it needs to be snappy and it needs to make enough impact that it’s remembered. Shorter domains are usually considered snappier, and if it makes an impression, site visitors are more likely to recommend the web page to others. The ideal domain name length falls somewhere between 6 and 10 letters.

 

7. Sharable

Social media can make or break a modern business. When a company has a website, its information is more easily shared across social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Websites with shorter domain names are even easier to share because users will quickly identify what the company is all about.

 

8. SEO-friendly

Can a company succeed in 2020 without search engine optimization? Plenty of time, money and effort is put into boosting a website’s search ranking, and an effective domain name can be one of the most valuable benefits of SEO. After all, plenty of web users just type a brand’s name directly int their search bar rather than typing the entire brand name and extension for the URL. How great would it be for a pet store to score the domain name, pets.com? Obviously that domain was scooped up ages ago, but the concept remains.

 

 

Selecting the perfect domain name can seem like a daunting task. After all, it’s just as important as naming a company, but more difficult to find one still unused. Still, it’s paramount for a business’ success, and we already know that adding extra characters or altering spelling in order to find an available domain can lead potential customers astray.

So how does a business select a custom domain for its website? The first step, of course, is to check if the domain is already in use – and unfortunately most of the shortest and catchiest domains are taken already. Once an unused name is chosen, it needs to be purchased from a domain registrar like Namecheap or GoDaddy.

Most registrars also offer search engines that will generate a list of available names similar to what’s requested if it’s already in use. Reserving a domain name isn’t free, either, although the registrar’s fees for unused domain names are usually minimal. The domain can be purchased and reserved for durations ranging from 1 to 10 years.

Business owners who are set on their heart’s desire, however, aren’t completely out of luck. Plenty of premium domain names are available for a fee, the cost varying based on just how premium the particular name actually is. Some might be wary of the costs, but the perfect domain name potentially could boost sales enough to counterbalance the expense.

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