This is the first of a series of posts about building your online presence and branding.
I think every business, regardless of whether it is full or part-time and whether it is small or large, should have a web presence. To stake your claim to your unique spot on the web, you will need a domain name.
If you have an existing business, it may already have a name. The problem these days is that, more often than not, you will find that the domain name that matches your business name has either already been taken by another business or someone has squatted it and has it up for sale for a few hundred or even thousands of dollars. Unless you are willing to pay this premium price, you may have to make a compromise like changing the name of your business or adding a descriptive word to your domain name. To avoid such potential pitfalls, if you are launching a new business, you may not want to name it until you have found the right available domain name.
If you are setting up a new company, you should always register the domain name before you announce the formation of the company. Otherwise, the likelihood is high that a professional squatter will snap up the domain name and offer to sell it to you.
I believe that .com domains are still usually the most desirable for businesses (and .org for non-profits) because most people are familiar with them. Of course, because of their popularity, .com domains are the hardest to come by. Even though there are very successful business with the .net extension – Behance.net comes to mind immediately – I would not register a .net domain if someone else already has the .com or .org. Behance.com redirects to .net, so they don’t face the problem of losing traffic or business to a different website.
While a domain name like fastestdrones.com may let your potential customers know exactly what you are selling, zippydrones.com is imminently more memorable and brandable, and given the choice, you should pick the latter.
In general, shorter, memorable domain names are best. You can make up words or word combinations but you should make sure that your domain name is easy to spell. Don’t insert a silent “p” in your domain name because it is cool.
If you are out of ideas, you can brainstorm with trusted friends and collaborators to come up with the best domain name for your business. Keep in mind that it may take days to find one that you like that is available.
Fortunately, those of us whose ideal domains names have already been snatched up now have many gTLDs (generic top level domains) to choose from. For instance, we went with .studio for this website. You could say that we didn’t heed our own advice when picking this domain name. After all brooklydesign.studio is on the longer side and it isn’t exactly a catchy name. On the other hand, it is memorable and Brooklyn is cool. Clearly, we will have to work hard at branding in order to not be mistaken for brooklyndesignstudio.com. I secretly worry that an email meant for [email protected] may instead be sent to [email protected]. This fear is not unfounded. My business partner owns brooklynfilms.com and he sometimes finds emails meant for a known Hollywood director and producer who owns brooklynfilms.net in his catchall email account.
If you cannot get .com, you could go with .co. The danger here is that .co domains can more easily be mistaken for .com but if you are up to the challenge, you can build a memorable brand around this TLD.
Another option is to do what we did and take a look at all the new gTLDs that are now available.
Also, all countries and many cities have their own TLDs and quite often there is no requirement that you or your business should be domiciled within the particular geographical region. Many of us have used bit.ly but did you know that .ly is Libya’s TLD. Do you have a profile at about.me? Well, .me is Montenegro’s TLD. The United States has .us which worked well for a while for the now defunct delicio.us.
If you are based in New York City – like us – and know that your business will have a local focus, you may want to register a .nyc domain. Please keep in mind that these alternate TLDs may be more expensive to register and renew than a .com.
Not all domain registrars can register all TLDs. So if you want .me or .ai, you may have to google to see which registrar you should use.
The hosting company you pick may give you a year’s worth of free domain registration. So it may make sense to sign up for hosting while you purchase your domain name. Also note that your domain registrar and hosting companies can be two different entities.