When it comes to online branding and getting your company on the web, the most important step is the first – your domain name.
An important part of naming your company is how that name will impact, or be impacted by, your web address. If you’ve already established your company moniker, and registered a reflective domain, you can skip this part. You’re on good stead to move forward. If, on the other hand, you’re struggling to come up with a company name, the availability of a suitable domain address should be factored into your ‘chicken and the egg’ decision.
Your new company name is probably already gone.
Domains registered on a daily basis numbers in the thousands, and there’s a pretty good chance that the perfect address for your company is already gone – either in use by someone else, or being held hostage by cyber-squatters , folks who’ll be more than happy to sell you this prime bit of internet real estate for tens, hundreds or even thousands of times more than what it should actually cost you. Not much you can do about it (unless you have prior-use of a trademark, then you may be able to force cyber-squatters to turn over the address).
Short & sweet.
When it comes to actually deciding your web address, here’s some things to keep in mind. It’s best if it matches your company name exactly. It should be as short as possible (yeah, I know, TheLogoFactory.com ain’t short) and as immune to misspelling as possible. If you hope to market your company using the internet, it’s probably best to have at least some descriptive keyword in the address. All of which might impact how you name your company in the first place.
Using our industry and domain as an example, here’s how this works. Having the term ‘logo’ in our web address helps us in logo design search engine listings. That our URL is missing the word ‘design’ doesn’t. A better alternative would be TheLogoDesignFactory.com – but then we’d be weakening our brand (or have to re-name our company). We’re stuck with the domain that we have, lackluster search engine performance be damned. Ultimately, our unbastardized brand name is more important that whatever SEO benefits we’d gain by changing it (though we do own the domain TheLogoDesignFactory.com, lest some smart ass decides to be clever).
Brand vs. SEO.
Also, while it’s important, shoe-horning an SEO friendly word into a domain address shouldn’t be the primary factor. Might lead you to name your company something that, while performing well in search engines, will lessen the appeal of your brand itself. Take our market, logos, and some of the bizarre verbal gyrations people go through in order to get ‘logo’ into their domain, using available addresses, but with little thought of how the resultant name might influence customers when they arrive at the website. Some names are excellent, LogoWorks.com for example. Some not so good – LogoBanana.com, LogoJeez.com, LogoDog.com etc. While they may feature the word ‘logo’ in their web address – and probably born out of necessity (what ‘logo’ domains were available) – I’d suggest that any SEO benefits are outweighed by the lack of sophistication in the company name itself.
Without getting into who’s better at design than whom, I think that Logo Works has far more appeal than Logo Dog. Or Logo Jeez (sounds like the expression of frustration with a logo than a reputable studio). Someone’s even called themselves AAA-Logo, a name that might get them to the top of a page in the phone book, but certainly has little effect on SEO. More importantly, it doesn’t evoke an image of decent design services. Not that I’ve always been particularly clever at this web address aspect of company names. When we set-up shop as The Logo Factory (back in 1996), I bought the web address LogoFactory.com. A few months later, I realized that to be more accurate, the name needed to include ‘the’ in the URL, so I also registered the domain you’re now sitting on. When it came time for renewal, and in a classic case of penny-wise, pound foolish, I let the original web address go (figuring I’d save the $19 per year in domain fees) and it was quickly snapped up by some embroidery outfit in Florida. One of my less-than-clued decisions and and one I’ve regretted to this day. A few years later, the new owner offered to sell us the logofactory.com domain name for a princely sum of $14,000 (I turned it down). All to save nineteen bucks a year.
If the web address that matches your name is already taken, you can always opt for the .net, .org or even hyphenated version; My-Website.com vs. MyWebsite.com. Keep this in mind – folks are always more likely to type MyWebsite.com into their browser address window than a hyphenated version. Hyphenated versions are only effective if people are arriving at your website by clicking on a link from somewhere else.
Also, the .com version is the default domain extension of every single browser. Accordingly, you might end up driving traffic to the non-hyphenated version of your web address, and if that site belongs to someone in a similar business, giving away your potential clients. That’s not to say you can’t use a hyphenated version (I’d suggest that once you’ve obtained the absolute address – MyWebsite.com – it’s a worthwhile investment to purchase the hyphenated version as well, just to stop others from mowing your internet lawn) but it’s a second-best alternative.
A few years back, hyphenated names far outperformed others in Google searches and their was a rash of websites featuring “this keyword, hyphen, that keyword, dot com”. That benefit was tamped down by a Google algorithm update, and a lot of people were stuck with web addresses that nobody will be able to type into their address bars. Tossing an LLC or an INC. at the end of any web address isn’t really an effective option (though, due to the limited domains available, becoming more common). Most folks will never think of adding the extension into the address window of their browser, and you’ll end up sending your customers to the website that featured the name before you.
Creative spelling for a unique brand.
If your perfect company name is already taken as a web address, all is not lost and there’s still something you can do. Use creative spelling to develop a unique brand (developing a ‘fanciful’ name – something we discussed in our earlier types of trademarks post). Another example from our history – a few years back I wanted to develop an animation and web design division of The Logo Factory. Wanted to call it Pixel Works. Pretty neat name, obscure enough to be ‘trendy’, kept in line with the factory motif, and was memorable to boot. Trouble is, someone had already beaten us to the punch, the web site was gone, and mindful of the hyphen problems we’ve already discussed, I kicked around alternative names. Couldn’t come up with anything as suitable, so I developed an alternative spelling – Pixel Wurx, a name that invoked the original idea, but for which the web domain was available. When it came to designing the logo, I tossed in a few omlauts for added effect. As the words didn’t exist, the name was easy to trademark. It was memorable. And it was kinda cool. The wurx motif also allowed me to expand the brand if I needed – Flash Wurx, etc (though naming a company Logo Wurx may run afoul of the Utah based Logo Works‘ trademark of their name). Creative spelling can sometimes defeat the entire purpose of the exercise (there’s actually a website for logodsign.com for which I’d expect very few people to realize that the ‘e’ is missing in ‘design’), but it is a possibility when faced with a “I don’t have any other choice” decision.