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Avoid Brand Confusion with Your Domain Name

A friend called recently with a domain name problem.

The domain name for his business takes the form BRANDNAME+secondword.com, where the second word was a word like ‘online,’ ‘group,’ or ‘services.’ It’s quite common for companies to add a second word to a domain name because the brand name itself might be a common word that’s already registered.

This is usually okay. But in this case, subsequent to starting his business, another company bought BRANDNAME.com and started a site on it that was adult in nature. Some customers were accidentally visiting the BRANDNAME.com site. Ouch.

You can’t avoid all potential issues with domain names that are similar to yours, but there are some steps you can take to limit the chances of something like this happening.

How Is the Main Term in Your Domain Being Used?

If your domain name is made up of a main word plus a second (or third) word, see how the main word is being used.

Let’s say your brand is ExampleTech.com.

Your first step should be to check how Example.com is being used.

If example.com is being used in a way that could cause confusion or reflect negatively on your business, you should consider selecting a different main brand.

On the other hand, if example.com is currently unused, parked, or listed for sale, there’s the potential that the domain will be used in the future in a way that hurts your brand.

It might actually be a good thing if example.com is already being used by an established company that is not in your field of business. It makes it less likely that someone else will buy the domain and use it in a way that negatively impacts your business. Just make sure that your own use of the main word won’t infringe any trademark rights they have. (For example, wordpress.com is taken, but if you try to use a domain name like wordpress-users.com, the WordPress Foundation will come knocking.)

Buy Some of the Other Extensions

There are many domain extensions, known as top level domains (TLDs), available today. Literally hundreds!

It doesn’t make sense to buy up every alternative extension for your choice of domain, but you should at least consider the biggest ones and ones that are relevant to your brand.

For your main website, it probably makes sense to register the .net and .org versions if they are available. Also, take a look at new top level domain names that are relevant to your business. For example, financial businesses should consider buying relevant TLDs like .fund and .cash.

Is There a Matching New Top Level Domain Name?

You also need to pay attention to new TLDs (or what’s right of the dot) when you select a domain name. Many of the new TLDs were chosen because lots of companies were using the terms as a second word in their domain name.

For example, businesses can now select domains that end in .group, .online, .partners, and .solutions. These are all common terms that companies already use in their domain names.

If you’ve settled on the domain name ExampleSolutions.com, you should check to see how Example.Solutions is being used, if at all. Consider registering it if it’s available.

Buy Different Spellings

If your domain name has words that can be spelled in multiple ways (or misspelled), consider registering some of the most obvious ones. Examples are adviser and advisor, enquire and inquire, and theater and theatre.

This also applies to homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently) such as brake and break, heal and heel, and buy and by.

If your domain includes a digit like ‘5’, see if the version of the domain that spells out ‘five’ is also available.

Take Precautions but Focus on Your Business

When naming your business and selecting a domain name, it is worth taking extra time and spending a bit more money to protect your brand upfront by registering alternative domain names.

After you’ve made your choice, it is crucial to build the rest of your site as an extension of your chosen domain name. Adopt visual branding throughout your resources to increase audience engagement. Be consistent with your style and colors, fostering a uniform visual style, tone, and solid content strategy.

That said, it’s almost impossible to register every potentially confusing domain name. That’s why I recommend taking some basic steps to protect your domain name, but don’t get too bogged down in it.

Exploring variations of your preferred domain name might even lead you to a new, cooler name with fewer brand protection concerns.

And of course, when you’re ready, register your new domain names with Namecheap.

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Andrew Allemann avatar

Andrew Allemann

Andrew is the founder and editor of Domain Name Wire, a publication that has been covering domain names since 2005. He has personally written over 10,000 posts covering domain name sales, policy, and strategies for domain name owners. Andrew has been quoted in stories about domain names in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and Fortune. More articles written by Andrew.

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