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 VacationRentals.com 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 ChildrensWear.co.uk or ChildrenSwear.co.uk?

A few basic rules of smart domain selection

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

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’s 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 Thingamejigeroo.co.uk, 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 Thingamejigsuppliermanchester.co.uk instead (or as well as Thingamejigeroo.co.uk) 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.

Further reading on domain names

Related Topics

Domain names

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