One of the most frustrating parts of branding a new effort is picking a domain name. You’ve probably read all of the standard recommendations: It has to be short, it has to be easy to spell, only 2 syllables, and you need a .COM name. With the scarcity of available domains out there, this can be hugely frustrating. I want to give you a few out-of-the-box ideas from my client work to make the process easier, and represent your brand better.
Your Brand is More Important
Your domain is important, but in a world where people are more likely to type something in to Google than to remember an explicit domain name, your brand is more important. Branding should never be a one-off hack to click-bait people into viewing your products—it should be a core representation of who you are, what you do, and more importantly, why you do it.
If you need help developing an influential brand, I’d recommend taking a look at this article from marketing influencer Josh Steimle.
If you have trouble writing short, concise, effective, and authentic branding tag lines and marketing copy, check out this handy worksheet by Dan Pink, the author of To Sell Is Human.
Should I Use A Subdomain?
If your company already has a domain, you’re probably wondering: “Should I use a subdomain?”
Subdomains are generally considered less authoritative in search engine algorithms than top level domains. Still, there are several reasons you might want to use one.
If you have several systems for the same product or service, and you need to orchestrate them to work closely together, you might consider using subdomains. For example, if I have an e-commerce site, custom checkout app, and an admin app, that plug into the same API, back-end, or database, I might set things up this way:
- Host the e-commerce site at mybrand.com
- Host the checkout app at checkout.mybrand.com or cart.mybrand.com
- Host the admin app at admin.mybrand.com
Not only will this allow you to safely have a separate team manage each effort, but it clearly demonstrates the relationship of all systems to search engines and customers alike.
Do I Need a Separate Domain?
If your company website is managed by a separate team, or if it serves a significantly different audience, you might want to think about setting up a brand-specific website.
Also, if you’re hosting sites in different countries, you might want to think about hosting them at different localized domain names. For example, you might have a hard time remembering or typing lihaiwangzhan.cn.com but awesomesite.com makes total sense to you. The reverse is also true for your Chinese audience.
Should I Point Two Domains to the Same Site?
No. This is generally a bad idea. Google will see both domains as separate sites. Google penalizes content that isn’t original, and since they can’t determine which site is the authority, both copies will be likely de-ranked.
That being said, there are exceptions to every rule, and this one is no different.
If you’re trying to capture traffic to an old domain, a simple 301 permanent redirect will be sufficient to tell Google (and your customers) which site to look at going forward.
If for some other reason, you need to have exact duplicate content on two different domains, Google has a handy guide you can follow with several solutions and tips. My favorite methods are either telling Google not to index copies with a noindex tag, or telling Google which page is the authority with the canonicalization tag.
How To Pick a Good Site Name
First read the section above on Branding. Once you’ve read Josh Steimle’s article and have a good tagline for your business, and you’ve got your one-word pitch from Dan Pink’s worksheet, you should have a great foundation for putting together a site name, and a domain name.
I can’t reiterate enough, don’t constrain your brand to your domain name. This is why I recommend developing a site name before picking a domain name.
You’ll want your site name to come up first on Google. Search a few variants on Google and make sure you don’t have any direct competitors. You don’t want to confuse your audience, and you don’t want to be sued.
Use tools like Google Keyword Planner or Google Trends to identify high-performing keywords related to your brand. Try synonyms of the same word, or different phrases with the same meaning.
Here are a few things you’ll want to check your site name for, before proceeding:
- Is it obviously connected with your brand, and what you do, or who you are?
- Is it sellable and pronounceable? Try to avoid names with more than 2-3 syllables, or odd spelling. For instance MiSuprAwsmSyte.com might be available…for good reason. Don’t mutilate your site name!
- Does it translate well? The name YellowPages might look harmless in English, but it translates to a euphemism for inappropriate adult magazines in Chinese. Google Translate might not catch these kinds of euphemisms. Be sure to get a real live representative of your audience to confirm your site name will work.
Should I Pay For A Premium Domain Name?
While there are definitely some advantages to premium domains such as consulting.com, realestate.com, etc., chances are if you’re not already a large business these domains will cost way more than they will be worth.
First of all, most users find content by typing a search query into Google, or clicking a link in social media. For this reason, it’s important that your domain authoritatively matches your content, and that it is easy to say and type. If you have to sacrifice that to get a .COM name, it’s not worth it.
There are hundreds of new TLDs (Top Level Domains) being released all the time. The days of .COM’s artificial scarcity are over. While .COM domains still carry more weight than new TLDs, very often you can get a better domain on another TLD.
For example, if you company name is “Thoughtful Florist, LLC”, you might have to think hard to get a relevant .COM name that isn’t already taken. This results in monstrosities like thethoughtfulfloristllc.com. As of the writing of this article, thoughtful.florist is wide open on Namecheap for less than $30/year. While it’s not a .COM, thoughtful.florist would be a far more authoritative domain.
Where Should I Host My Domain?
Finally, you need somewhere to register your domain.
I need to make a quick distinction between registering a domain, and hosting a site. Many people use these terms interchangeably and confuse people.
Registering a Domain: The process of reserving a name through a licensed domain registrar. This usually costs between $3 and $50 per year.
Hosting a Website: The service of making your content available to the internet. This service typically starts at $5/month – $25/month and goes up depending on your needs.
I prefer to keep my domains and hosting separate. This allows me to switch hosts whenever I like, and gives me the most flexibility. Some hosts won’t let you use all of your domain’s DNS features, or they put in artificial restrictions to keep you using their services.
I keep all of my domains on Namecheap. Like their name suggests, they are one of the cheapest options out there, and have a relatively intuitive interface as far as domain registrars go.
Need More Help?
I started Emmert Technology, a software platform development and consulting company. We focus on making everything painless for the customer, and being their advocate in the confusing world of software. We set up marketing websites quickly and cost-effectively. If you are building a new brand and want to give it a boost, let us know and I’ll personally see to it that you are treated well.