If you are not regularly involved with domain names, it can be hard to understand them. Many different domain extensions see some level of popularity, and now hundreds more about to be released. Many different styles of domains have seen success as well, including some that domain experts like us would chastise.
Articles and commercials about domains send mixed messages about what you should get. If you do read articles about domains, you then have to worry about if the article is correct or not. Unfortunately, most articles simply aren’t accurate in their assessment of domains and what a business or entrepreneur should do when they are facing a decision to buy one.
Why Many Articles Have Domains All Wrong
Most authors know only what they’ve observed, which is usually only the businesses online that have succeeded and the domains they’ve used. They don’t realize how tiny of a percentage of businesses this really is. They don’t see the approximately hundred thousand domains that expire on a daily basis, or long-term trends in extensions or kinds of domains succeeding vs. those failing.
That can lead to what I consider the most flawed piece of domain advice that is still given out today, to search available domains first when buying your new primary brand domain.
The Latest to Get It Wrong? Forbes
This post partially comes in response to a Forbes article by Martin Zwilling titled Get a Domain Name Without Bankrupting Your Startup. When I first read the title, I thought of a small business not spending beyond their means for a domain, something professed in the article How Much Should You Pay for a Domain Name. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
In the article, Martin throws around a lot of numbers regarding potential cost of a domain before giving the key thought that “the right place to start is to target today’s average of approximately $8-$10 per year.” It’s hard to tell from that however whether he is merely discussing what ongoing registration fees should cost.
One of the great things about buying a better domain is that the ongoing registration costs are going to be the same as a poor quality available domain. So looking at registration costs in general is not really relevant, unless of course you are advising people to look primarily at available domains.
Martin however does that pretty clearly in the 3rd “step” given about how to get the name you need for your business:
3. Rename your company to match an available domain name. With today’s pervasive Internet searching and shopping, the domain name may well be more important than your company name. As a startup, cost to rename your company and change existing collateral may be less than dealing with unmatched names or premium domain pricing.
It’s actually not that far off from a good piece of advice. If you have an established business that is already named and you are finding it impossible to get the matching domain, you may want to consider changing your business name to something you can get. If your web presence will be an integral part of your business, the last thing you want is to confuse visitors by having a non-matching domain.
That said, the context of this quote is that if you have named your business, are looking through available domain names and don’t see your matching business name, you should change your business name. This ignores the fact that your matching .com business name could be for sale for only a couple hundred dollars, and you may be drastically changing the course of your business at a much higher cost.
It is more clear from the steps afterwards that his first few steps involve focusing on available domains first. Steps 4 through 7 involve purchasing a domain on the secondary market – as if it is a last resort if you can’t find a good available domain. If you take your business seriously however, you most likely should not be going with an available domain for your primary brand.
What the Article DOES Get Right…Well, Not Quite
The article is unfortunately confusing in places and gives mixed messages. While Marty does suggest looking at available domains first, he also says early on, “The simple answer is that if you want to be found on the Web, the perfect domain name can be well worth a few thousand dollars, but don’t pay a fortune for one.”
That may be fairly accurate for a very small business or solo entrepreneur just starting out on the web. You may only need to spend hundreds if not thousands on the right domain, and in a few rare cases of niche businesses or personal branding, the right domain may be an available one. Breaking the bank for a domain is too risky.
That said, for a mid-sized or large corporation starting its web presence, spending only a few thousand on a domain may potentially leave them with a domain that makes them look worse than their competition.
Cuil.com is one of the biggest examples of this – they had a lot of funding, plenty to spend on a great domain, and they put themselves in an awkward spot with Cuil.com. Alongside Google.com, Yahoo.com and Live.com (Microsoft’s search engine at the time), Cuil.com LOOKED outmatched from the beginning.
What SHOULD You Do When Getting Your Business Domain?
The bottom line is that when you are starting a business, your domain should be the FIRST consideration BEFORE naming your business and you should take the decision seriously and expect to pay for the right domain. Searching only through available domains is like buying an outfit for an important job interview from the bargain bin at a clothing store. It will feel like pulling teeth and in the end, you are most likely shooting yourself in the foot regardless of what you get if you approach it that way.
Getting a better domain will improve the performance of your business throughout its entire life over getting a poor domain. Isn’t that worth spending at least a few hundred or few thousand dollars? What’s your business worth to you?
At Branded Names, we help businesses and entrepreneurs get the right domain, whether from our own supply of affordable quality domain names or from elsewhere. From entrepreneurs to billion dollar corporations to highly visible charities, we have helped many get the domain that maximizes their chance of online success and we can help you too – contact us today if you need assistance with getting the right domain for your business.