Far more than just an address typed into your browser, it is as vital to your brand's online presence as the sign above your shop. Unlike the sign, however, it will potentially appear in more places and be seen by more people. So, what should you look for in a great domain name?
<>Register now or compromise later>
Business registration doesn't guarantee or reserve the corresponding domain name. New businesses should always research and register the best ideas as part of the process of deciding on a brand name. Leave it too late and you may be forced to compromise upon discovering the best ones are taken.
So, what about everyone with an established business? If your ideal choices are already taken, avoid going for one that is too similar. For example, if yourbrand.com.au is currently in use, launching your website at yourbrand.net.au will only create confusion and risk customers finding your competitor instead.
Distinguish yourself from the competition. One way is to add a relevant keyword, such as yourbrandgardening.com.au.
<>One is never enough>
The most popular extensions for Australian businesses are .com.au and .com. However, there are many others in regular use such as .net, .net.au, .org and so on.
You won't need to register every extension, but you should try to secure one or two in every territory you plan to trade (.co.uk, .net, .net.au, etc). Even if you're not trading internationally now, you don't want to be disappointed when your business expands later. Plus, you don't want others to see an opportunity to register them, exploiting your brand and even stealing some of your customers.
By redirecting all the registered domains to your website, anyone who stumbles across them will still find your business and not an unprofessional blank page or error message.
<>Brand or keywords?>
Some marketers insist that keyword-rich domain names are better for SEO, resulting in higher search engine rankings and more website traffic. However, Google has reduced the importance of the tactic in the search engine's algorithm. Instead, Google's Matt Cutts advises focusing on brand instead of keywords for better results¹.
Good marketing is about far more than just keywords and search engine optimisation. Your brand is what makes your business memorable, distinctive and attractive. Don't assume www.sydney-landscape-gardening.com.au will perform better than your business name. There are far more effective methods of improving your search engine rankings without sacrificing your brand.
Remember, including dashes to separate words can create other problems...
<>It's how you tell them>
Ever tried to tell someone a web address over the phone, only to get tangled up in a long stream of letters, dashes and dots? The best websites are easily remembered and roll off the tongue. Be concise and use simple words. Test your ideas by speaking them out loud. Is the spelling obvious? Will it fit neatly on a business card? Will you get RSI when writing it out on forms, on napkins, on beer mats?
Many of the world's biggest brands have domains between three and 12 letters long. There's a reason The Sydney Morning Herald chose smh.com.au. If your full brand name is also long and complex, try to abbreviate it.
<>Shout it to the world>
Once you've grabbed your perfect domain name, display it prominently on all marketing material. Add it to email signatures, leaflets, billboards, sides of vans - anywhere your brand appears. Used well, it will represent your brand, and customers find it only natural to type the letters into their browser.
Once they've landed on your website, that's a whole other story...
Find this helpful? You might also like:
Create Brand: How to Build a Global Brand
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Jonathan has worked within, and written about, the technology industry for many years. Before going freelance as a writer in 2012, Jonathan had worked for Netregistry (web hosting) and Ninefold (cloud computing). Jonathan has won awards for his articles on online business for Nett Magazine and his over-opinionated blog Atomik Soapbox. He continues to write for Chief Content Officer magazine.