What’s in a (domain) name?

When getting your web site up, one of the most important factors is your domain name.  Choosing that domain name may not be as simple as you think.

When getting your web site up, one of the most important factors is your domain name.  Choosing that domain name may not be as simple as you think.

There are lots of little factors that go into choosing your domain name. Your domain of choice might not be available, your business name may be difficult to spell, or you may choose to go with a top-level domain (TLD) that your clients aren’t expecting. All of this can lead to confusion for your potential customers.

You might be asking yourself “why does it even matter?”  Aren’t most people going to simply Google your business and click on the link?  And this is true to a certain extent however there are times when this won’t be the case.

Why it matters

There’s an old marketing term called the elevator pitch.  Basically, it’s the ability to sell your business in the average length of time it takes to ride an elevator with someone.  (Around 30 seconds.)  Part of this pitch involves telling people how to find you.  The easiest way is to have a domain name that’s easy to remember and doesn’t need explaining.  Let’s break this down.

Let’s say your company name is ‘Local Pro Painters Inc.’  The simplest option would be to pick a domain like ‘localpropainters.com’.  But what happens if this domain is already taken?  You might be tempted to throw in the ‘inc.’ part of your name and go with ‘localpropaintersinc.com’.  That makes sense, right?  But what if people don’t realize that Inc. is short for incorporated?  What if they try to go to ‘localpropaintersINK.com’?  Now you’re having to spell the I-N-C part of your domain name out wasting valuable time on a short pitch that could be better used to sell your product or service.

Well then you say, let’s just go for an alternative top-level domain.  (The top-level domain refers to the extension after your name. Normally .com or .ca) How about ‘localpropainters.co’?  Are your potential customers going to know the difference between the .co, .ca, or .com? Even worse, what if your competitors own the .ca or the .com?  You could be inadvertently sending your potential customers right into the arms of your competition.  

Another time this gets tricky is when your potential customer will only see your domain name for a short time like on a bus stop ad or a billboard.  Customers need to be able to quickly glean all the information they need to find you.  If your business name is difficult to spell or you have a .co or another alternative top-level domain, they could easily misenter the address and end up in the wrong place.

So what can you do?

One solution can be to have multiple domain names that go to the same place.  You could have your company name followed by a different top-level domain, or perhaps a top-level domain that actually completes the name as we do with tallack.media.  Using this domain in the elevator pitch would be foolish because we’d have to explain it but in print or online it makes sense.  It’s short, to the point, and there’s no getting it mistaken because it’s right in front of you.  So what do we do for the elevator pitch?  We have another domain name that points to our main address.  RedDeerWebDesign.com.  This is an easy-to-remember domain we use whenever we need to tell someone how to find us verbally.  This domain is a simple redirect to our main site.

Other considerations

Even when someone is searching for you on Google, your domain name will still appear.  An address like ‘localpropainters.myfreewebsite.com’ can look rather unprofessional to potential customers. If you’re cheaping out on your web site, what else are you cheaping out on?  

Don’t forget the email address.

Anyone can sign up for a free Gmail or Outlook email address.  There are millions upon millions of these addresses used.  Getting one even close to your business name can be a challenge and even if you do, it’ll still have the tell-tale @gmail.com or @outlook.com extension.  ‘[email protected]’ simply does not look as professional as ‘[email protected]’. There are many ways to get an email address at your own domain.  There are free options like email forwarders (which you’d point to a Gmail, or Hotmail address), affordable basic email services like RackSpace, and more expensive but full-featured online office solutions like Google WorkSpace and Microsoft 365.  Your web host should be able to help you get started with any of these options.

The bottom line is your domain name matters.  Don’t take shortcuts to save a few bucks.