Here’s a challenge for you: Try to think of a successful startup in the modern era that has a long name – say, over 12 letters – or one that is difficult to spell. It’s quite difficult. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything at all. Most of the mega-successful startups tend to go with short, zippy names that a child would have little difficulty spelling: Uber, PayPal, Bolt, Zoom, Airbnb, Stripe, Netflix – the list is endless. It makes sense on several levels: The names are easy to remember, easy to spell, easy to use in branding (designing logos, etc.,), and so on. But another consideration is their practicality when it comes to domain names.
The choice of a domain name for your website is always going to tie in with your business brand. Of course, they are often one and the same. But businesses can still make mistakes when choosing domain names, and it can have a detrimental impact on their future success. There is a huge range of options out there, including both paid-for and free domain names. Making the right choice is essential, as these days, your domain name arguably represents your business address in more ways than any physical premises.
Below we provide some practical advice:
Don’t Rush Into Things Early On
The choice of a domain name for a website is a momentous decision, so it should not be rushed. Even if your domain name is going to your business brand name + the generic domain (.com, .net, etc.), you should take the time to consider if it is right. Notice, for example, how businesses like Price Waterhouse Cooper and Hewlett Packard opt for their brand abbreviations (PWC.com, HP.com) over the longer spelling.
Keep it Simple and Reflect Your Business
As we mentioned earlier, most startups these days opt for short names. You don’t have to do the same, but it should be simple and easy to recall. If your business is called “Cakes by Karen”, then there is a lot to be gained by having a domain name like cakesbykaren.com. If this hypothetical business is based outside Boston, you don’t want to overcomplicate things by using a domain name like cakesbykarenmassachusetts.com.
Don’t Overpay and Explore Free Domain Names
The domain name biz.com is currently on sale at an asking price of $50 million. While you aren’t going to pay that much for your small business venture, it does highlight how much importance domain names have. You should not overpay. And if you feel you are being held to ransom, simply find another. Indeed, website builders will often offer free domain names, and you might be surprised as to the choice available.
Be Very Wary of Using Numbers
There are lots of dos and don’t for using numbers in domain names. The general rule is that it’s fine when the numbers have recognized meanings. For example, shop247.com or football365.net, or design360.co.uk. But problems can arise when numbers can be replaced by words, such as back2school.com (people might search for “back to school”). And the random placement of numbers can make your domain name look unprofessional. For instance, cakesbykaren33.com looks clunky.
Drop Exclamation Points and Other Special Characters
Yahoo! is one of the most recognized brands in the world, even if it is now just a shadow of what it was in its glory days of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Nonetheless, the company dropped the exclamation mark in all of its domain names (Yahoo! has a lot). The same can be said for brands like Yum! and Chips Ahoy!. Having exclamation points, or other special characters, such as ampersands (&), makes it awkward for the user and can lead to errors when typing into an address bar.
Think About How People Will Find Your Website
Back in the wild west days of the internet, we used to spell out web addresses, “Dubya, Dubya, Dubya, Dot….”, and painstakingly type them into an address bar. These days, it’s all about Google. People will find your website through a Google search, so you want the domain name to capitalize on how people actually use the internet in 2022. Generic names, such as hockeyscores.com, can be both beneficial and detrimental. The former because it might help with SEO (search engine optimization) as people will be searching for “hockey scores”, but the latter might mean it’s hard to stand out.
Don’t Settle for a Domain Name That Feels Wrong
Finally, we need to reiterate the point that the domain name is essential to your business. Think of the brands today like Booking.com or Monday.com that use the name of the business as their domain name. They do this because the website is the business. It is the gateway into your startup, the point of access for your customers. If it’s confusing, unmemorable, complicated, or awkward to type, then your customers might just go elsewhere.