Forbes.com recently published an interesting article by venture capitalist David Teten about domain names.
Though the focus was specifically on whether startups should spend venture capital funding on a domain name, the article was a good reminder of domain name basics (as we’ve previously posted about; see Best Website Domain Names) and provided valuable insight and domain strategies to use when the domain you want is unavailable.
The article asserts that while domain names are currently a little less important (because of mobile and apps), they are still your email identity (as we also wrote about a couple of weeks ago in Domain Email…What Are You Waiting for?) and an important part of your marketing.
A domain name can even be the difference between winning and losing companies, one of the factors that tips the competitive balance from one startup to another; for example, the stronger Mint.com domain winning out over Wesabe.com.
Why? Because a good domain name catches attention, is easy to remember, and easy to find online. It represents your company often before you have any other way to influence potential customers, investors, or even future employees.
Three main domain name factors proposed in the article are:
- Fit. This is perhaps obvious, so Teten doesn’t explain any more than to say the domain should match the business. There are, of course, different ways to “match” or “fit.” As we’ve previously written, a domain name that is an exact match or close match to your company name (assuming you’re not a startup with no previous company name) is often the number-one recommendation. Next would be a strong, popular keyword that’s associated with your business, like one of your core products or services. I would say that the domain doesn’t have to be immediately obvious but it should makes sense when you think about it. Like the Facebook domain. While “facebook” wasn’t a popular keyword and people first hearing the domain may have wondered what it was, a social network like this is kind of like a contact “book” with the “faces” (and other personal detail) of friends. So it fits.
- SEO. Here’s another push for keyword-rich domain names. If your domain name exactly matches keywords people are using to find the products or services you sell, your website will get a real boost towards the first page of search results (assuming you have a non-hyphenated .COM site). If you are lucky enough to have such a domain (or can get one), make sure you optimize the homepage for your domain name keywords. In other words, the content of the homepage should support the URL/domain.
- Linguistic Characteristics. Though we have written about certain aspects of these good domain name characteristics before (notably that you want a short domain, without hyphens or numerals, that’s easy to spell and therefore remember), some of Teten’s other recommendations about the internal sounds of domain names were new and intriguing.
No matter what your domain name means, data suggests that the best ones generally have these linguistic characteristics:
- are short
- use dictionary words
- do no include hyphens or numerals
- have initial sounds that are easy to articulate
- avoid internal sounds phonemes associated with disgust (like the uh sound in yuck and the ew sound in puke)
The bad news: If you’re going to be bidding on domain names that are already owned, you’ll probably need fairly deep pockets. Average domains are said to go from $5,000 – $20,000, with the very top of the market going in the millions.
The good news: Teten advises most new businesses to start with a free or very low-cost dot-com domain name. If your ideal domain name isn’t available but there is no website yet active at that domain, you may want to purchase a similar domain to launch your business with the goal to transition to the other domain when you can purchase it. These EarthLink Web Hosting services offer a free domain name for one year.
To get more domain name advice for startups, read the full article on Forbes.com.
When you’re ready to get started, here’s a step by step guide to choosing a new domain name with EarthLink.