Can a domain name make or break a business?

Abby Hardoon discusses the factors that should be considered when selecting the right domain name for your business.

While the reported $35 million price tag for may have become the stuff of legend, from a business perspective, somewhere along the line, the numbers would have been crunched showing that to be a viable investment.

Undoubtedly, online business is booming. Almost 150 million domain names are currently in use and daily Google searches alone are estimated at around three billion. With many of us now having 24-hour web access through smartphones, tablets and desktops, any need, want, desire or inane query can be answered all-but instantly and competition to get this consumer attention is ferocious.

So in an effort to stand out in a very large and noisy online crowd, how important is having ‘the right’ domain name and can it make or break a business?

While there’s no definitive answer, a well-chosen domain name can undoubtedly have an immediate impact on a new businesses and the wrong one can make it almost invisible.

There will always be businesses that prosper when their domain is open to interpretation. Is that or

A few basic rules of smart domain selection

Keep it at home: For businesses operating in the UK, a suffix is important. dominates UK searches and favours UK-specific sites over others.

RelatedChoosing the right domain name for your business

If you’re looking to go global with a business, having the internally recognised .com suffix is also a must. For those inspecting your business from afar, there may well be a negative connotation associated with having only a local suffix.

Keep it short: At risk of stating the obvious, the easier a domain is to remember and spell correctly the better.

Keep it simple: If it is possible, register the company name as the main URL as this is what people who are looking for your business will try first. If the business produces products, invest in any product name domains in case these ever require their own standalone websites.

Keep yourself to yourself: For writers, artists, photographers, etc where a personal reputation in a chosen industry is what draws customers, having a firstnamelastname domain is the most ideal. With almost 130,000 domains being registered daily, though, most common names will be taken. If so look at adding the industry also or hyphenating the name if all else fails.

Keep clear of misspellings: Any name which can easily be misspelled will divert and frustrate those looking for you. Online consumers are inherently impatient. If necessary look at buying common misspellings of the domain and pointing them to the main website.

Keep the brand safe: In order to guard against any potential brand infringement, it’s worth considering purchasing your domain portfolio (all suffixes) as comprehensively as possible.

When importance of rank supersedes brand

For consumer-facing businesses that attract the majority of their web traffic via word of mouth, the short, catchy and easily memorable domain is ideal. However, for those looking to scoop the majority of their traffic from Google, different considerations may well take precedence.

As an example: I am a Thingamejig supplier with a factory in Birmingham and my company is known as Thingamejigeroo. If I register, although I have a domain that directly matches my company name, I’m not necessarily going to be found easily by people searching Google for Thingamejigs. The free Google keyword tool can be used to clearly show how many people are searching for Thingamejigs and exactly the keywords they’re using when doing it. By spending some time analysing the keyword search trends of these potential Thingamejig customers, I may well find that by registering the domain instead (or as well as I’m able to take advantage of a higher Google rank for this large body of existing traffic which is already clamouring for Thingamejigs.

Mastering your domain

A domain may not be the defining factor in business success or failure but it certainly has a part to play. The nature of each individual business, how it operates and what it hopes to achieve online will dictate how significant and valuable the company domain will be.

Related: Protecting your online presence: Domain name disputes

Make your domain name your main aim

Stefano Maruzzi from Internet domain registrar and web hosting company GoDaddy gives some pointers on choosing the right domain name for your fledgling business.

The Internet Matters report by McKinsey showed that companies using the internet with a high intensity, grow twice as a fast as those with low intensity. Your online presence is vital if you want to reach the internet’s global consumers. The UK thrives online, where its 250,000 plus online retail businesses export more than the rest of Europe’s e-retailers put together.

Starting a small business online can sometimes be the equivalent of staring at a blank page, hands ready at the keyboard. It’s daunting in that you face the task of filling the page, yet exciting that your ideas are ready to be welcomed by a new, wider world.

Like writing on a page, before you start it is a good idea to have an outline – a short-term and long-term plan on what needs to be achieved, what you need to do to achieve it, and when you need to do it. The ‘zero moment’ is the domain name choice: everything starts from a good, memorable online address, it’s what customers will type in the browser.

The online world is one that is constantly changing and keeping your business up to date can seem like an intimidating task. Setting up your business’ online presence is one thing, but maintaining it is another. It’s important to take it one step at a time; even the process of establishing your business online will help you learn simple ways of keeping it updated.

The first thing you need to do when moving online is to secure a domain name for your website. Domain names are a way of users identifying your business online – a tag used in the grand catalogue of the Internet.

For example, is immediately identifiable as a website that focuses on the grooming of pets. In addition to that, the .uk extension (an indispensable portion of the Internet namespace) clearly indicates it is a UK-based business transferring positive values and attributes (more on extensions further down). Those who search for websites about pet grooming will see a result for, which consequently drives traffic to the website.

Whilst there will be other businesses with similar names, there are ways to alter your domain name to keep it distinctive. Opting for may mean that no one else has this domain name, but it could be confusing and difficult to remember. Simplicity is the rule to follow.

Making your domain name more specific won’t necessarily hamper search results. For example, if your pet grooming business prides itself in the quick turnaround of immaculate animals, you could get more specific with Not only is this more unique, it also advertises the added value of a fast service.

Uniqueness is now made even easier by the recent availability of a number of domain name extensions. The extensions of .com or can now be replaced with more specific options, such as .photography or .jobs. For the pet grooming business, you could opt for or These again imply added value to the business, inserting a sense of urgency and quality respectively.

Another use for domain name extensions is to pinpoint your location. Using .london lets customers know that you operate from the Capital, perhaps adding a sense of prestige. More importantly, it’s another thing that sets your domain name apart from similar businesses. As a rule of thumb, registering two or more domains for a nascent business seems a wise thing to do. (keep in mind the Internet namespace is case insensitive) is a good start, but what about and Owning in your portfolio these three domains will help ensure no one can claim a similar domain name as long as you keep the registration active.

Domain names are a crucial starting point, so it’s easy to assume that they come at a high price. However, they can actually be very inexpensive – some cost as little as 99p per month with an annual purchase. A small price to pay for the ability to open your business to a worldwide audience.

The great thing about domain names is that you don’t need to have set up the business before securing one. If you have an idea that may materialise into something in the future, it’s worth securing a domain name for it now. This simple step will help you feel like you’ve started the journey of your business becoming a reality, and motivate you to take the next steps.

Stefano Maruzzi is vice president of EMEA at GoDaddy.

Further reading on domain names

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