Choosing a domain name is one of your most important business decisions. There are basically three types of domains:
- Keyword Domains (Generic)
- Company Domains (Branded)
- Mixed Domains
Each has its pros and cons. Let’s examine each one separately.
Keyword Domains (Generic)
Keywords are terms that describe what you do. They are also the words people usually type to find companies like yours in the search engines. Keyword domains became popular a few years ago, when the search engines gave great importance to the domain name to rank pages. Thus, domains like ‘boston-web-design-company.com’ or’ loose-weight-in-7-days.com’ became popular.
Those domains are terrible from a branding perspective. Nowadays, they are also losing their search engine appeal, as search engines have improved their algorithms and are giving more importance to other factors, like the number of quality links pointing to your site.
Company Domains (Branded)
A branded domain is basically your company name with no other word associated to it. For example, if you own a web design company called Praxis, Inc., your domain name would be praxis.com. Branded domains are usually short, memorable and easy to use in printed materials.
On the other hand, a branded domain doesn’t say what you do. For a large company with deep pockets (think Yahoo! or Apple) that won’t be a problem, but the small business on a budget must think of ways to better leverage their domain name for brand recognition purposes.
And that brings us to the third alternative.
This is the option that I recommend for small businesses. To create a mixed domain, you have to combine your company name with a keyword. For example: ‘praxiswebdesign.com’.
That will give you the best of both worlds: brand recognition and keyword strength.
- If you are just opening a small business, choose your domain name before incorporating your company.
- By all means, secure a .com domain, since it is the first one that will come to mind to most people. You should also register the other common variations, like .net, .org and .biz, to prevent unscrupulous competitors from benefiting from your brand equity.
- Registering a domain nowadays costs less than $10/year. Domain names have gotten so cheap that if you haven’t yet made up your mind you can register several of them just to prevent others from snapping them up. You may later let the ones you don’t use expire, sell them or use them to launch other sites.
- Don’t register your domain name with your hosting company. Though it may be tempting to accept their “free” domain registration offer with your hosting package, they can make you jump through hoops if one day you want to change hosting companies. Instead, register your domain with an accredited domain registrar and point it to your hosting company’s domain name servers.
Brian Jackson is the former owner of Shoestring Branding, a marketing and branding blog for entrepreneurs, with an emphasis on internet-based tools and strategies. It was recently acquired by BrandBlast.com