When deciding on a domain for your business, it’s important to consider your overall brand strategy. Should you choose a name that describes what you do, or should you choose a name that matches your business name?
Domain names generally fall into one of these two buckets: descriptive domains and brandable domains.
As a small business owner, a combination of the two is probably your best bet. Let’s take a look at what this means to you.
Describe a Business
A descriptive domain names describes specifically what your business does or the content on your website.
What do you expect to find at Golf.com? Apartments.com? Coffee.club? How about BuyTickets.com?
These are domains that are pretty self-explanatory, and you have a pretty good idea of what’s going to be on the sites.
Descriptive domain names don’t have to be short, either. WeSellYourFurniture.com is an example of a long descriptive domain name. You know exactly what the business does before you even visit its site.
The downside to descriptive domain names is that they can be more difficult to create an identity around. People can tell what you’re selling, but they don’t get a sense for who you are or how your services differ.
Descriptive domain names can also become a limitation. What if you want to offer something other than what your domain describes?
Create a Brand Identity
A brandable domain name is one that doesn’t necessarily tell people what the business does the first time they see it.
Made up terms like Google and eBay are examples of brandable domain names. They are a brand that doesn’t include any description of what their services are.
Dictionary words can also be used in a brandable way. For example, Amazon is a dictionary word and would be considered descriptive if it was used for a site about the Amazon river. But Amazon.com branded it as the name for what was originally an online bookstore and is now a business that has everything from A to Z. When you hear the word Amazon in 2017, you probably think of the online store instead of the river.
How Will People Find You?
Since they have keywords built into the name, the nature of descriptive domain names makes them useful for marketing and search engine optimization. However, it’s worth noting that Google now penalizes low-quality sites that took advantage of the search engine’s earlier preference for domain names that exactly matched search terms.
You might also face more competition in search engines for your site name because of other sites that operate in the same space. That means repeat visitors will need to remember your exact domain name. For example, Mail.com users won’t find the site easily if they just search for “mail” on Google. They need to remember Mail.com as the full brand.
On the other hand, brandable domain names create a great identity for your company but can sometimes be difficult for users to remember. They won’t automatically associate your brand with your product or service. That means you will have to invest in outreach, education, and advertising to inform potential customers what you do.
The benefit is, once a brand really takes off, like Pinterest, it can become a household name, and no one will confuse it with a different company.
What’s the Best Choice for You?
In many cases, the best bet is to incorporate the best of both worlds in your domain.
You might come up with a brandable name that conjures up an image of your product or service, or use a descriptive domain name that includes your brand.
When you hear the term LinkedIn in 2017, you think of the business social network. This wasn’t the case when the site was new, but the term “LinkedIn” still created an image that fits nicely for a business network.
Another example is Kickstarter.com. Everyone knows about this crowdfunding site, and they think about how the site helps kickstart products and companies by helping them get funding. If you heard the name of the website for the first time you’d certainly have an image of something being kickstarted, but not necessarily businesses.
Even Amazon.com conjures up an image of something that’s big since it’s the longest river in the world.
Another option is to tack branding onto a descriptive domain name. For example, a plumber might add their own name or a fun term before Plumbing.com (or even grab the domain .Plumbing!).
Consider the strategy for the domain Namecheap.com. In some ways it’s descriptive, but it’s also a name that has become a brand of its own.
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For even more smart and practical tips on choosing the best domain name for your website, check our comprehensive guide.