Got a Small Business? Choose the Right
Choosing a domain name can be daunting.
Research the subject (after all, you're the
type of marketer who researches, right?) and
you'll be hit with a landslide of opinions,
most contradictory. There is, however, two
points that everyone agrees on:
Pick your domain before you launch your
This is especially true if your market niche
has lots of competition. Research your
domain before you commit to a business plan.
Don't wait too long if you like a domain.
While you're researching, you'll likely come
across a couple of domains that attract you.
You might be tempted to wait, since you
haven't finalized or refined your business
plan. Don't. A handful of domains isn't
going to cost you much at an affordable
registrar like GoDaddy, and once they're
gone, they're gone. Chances are you can even
resell the rejects at cost, if not a profit.
Or "develop" them with unique content and
point them to your main site for extra
Now that we have the easy part of the way,
let's wade into murkier waters.
Q. Which TLD (top-level domain) is best?
A. If you're a juggernaut in the business
world with a giant ad budget, the answer is
dot-com (.com). If you're a smalltime
business struggling for search engine
positioning, the answer is still dot-com.
People do disagree on the value of a dot-com
TLD. Some assert that dot-coms have no
particular value in the search engines,
which may be true.
However, the fact is, if you haven't yet
seared your brand on the collective brow of
the planet, dot-com makes you easier to
remember. If you eschew dot-coms, then in
some deep dark place inside, people will
remember you as "that hard-to-remember URL
with the ending that isn't dot-com." What's
worse, if you pick an otherwise memorable
domain ending in dot-net, -us, or (God
forbid) -tv, some of your traffic will end
up at that competitor who snagged the
dot-com version of your domain. Okay, that's
settled. Now for the controversial stuff.
Which is best: the "keyword" domain, or the
"creative-genius, snappy and brandable"
Keyword Name vs. Creative-Genius Brandable
A Keyword Name is the boring, workhorse kind
of domain. You seem them everywhere. They
bristle with hyphens:
On the face of it, they're hard to brand.
They're hard to fit on business cards.
They're really hard to explain over the
phone to Aunt Martha.
On the other hand, a Creative-Genius
Brandable Name is the sexy kind of domain.
The successes are sparkling: Yahoo!, Google,
Amazon.com. You can shout these URLs across
the room and the other guy will probably get
it right. But note: the dot-com road is
littered with hip, snappy business who
failed to brand their product successfully,
or get listed high in the search engines.
Now their URLs all point to the same page:
"server not found ?"
The debate rages on, but the first question
you must ask yourself is:
How will people find YOU?
It was recently reported that "direct
navigation" web traffic has started to
outnumber search engine traffic. In other
words, more people visit sites by typing in
the URL directly than they do by combing
search engines for results. So more gurus
are recommending 'brandable' domains.
But think about this. As a small business
owner, how will people find you? Word of
mouth? Billboards on I-95? "Corporate
sponsorships" on hockey arenas? Probably
not: they'll find you through search
engines. They'll type in "cheap purple
widgets," and as a smart marketer, you will
offer them a website optimized for the
keywords "cheap purple widgets."
Still, this doesn't imply you should
automatically pick a keyword domain. There
are pros and cons to both types.
The brandable domain is great for business
cards. In fact, it's nearly compulsory if
you're planning on offline marketing. In
other words, if you're printing up
stationary at Kinkos, you want a brandable
If you're also a marketing genius, this is a
fit challenge for your talents. Finding a
memorable, apt domain to brand your business
is something no software-driven suggestion
tool can do.
Most "hybrid" domains -- ones that are
really crosses between keywords and
brandable names -- are long gone. But if you
create a unique idea for your brand, you can
probably snag the dot-com name for yourself.
Now all you have to do is burn that brand
onto the world's collective forehead. If you
do, you'll benefit from type-in traffic.
That means that if someone hears about you,
they can probably find you just buy typing
in your domain.
The brandable name requires solid marketing
skill, research and luck. Your name should
be so catchy, it's almost viral. It should
also convey your actual business - or you'll
have to work hard (often meaning, spend
money) to associate the two. Your name
should be "tested" on coworkers, cousins and
dishwasher repairmen to ensure it has no
undesirable connotations. Finally, your name
should be available as a domain, and not
suffer from competitors with similar
domains. Sometimes, pulling all this off is
By keyword names, we're not talking about
the glorious generic keywords - the
one-keyword kings such as drugs.com or
business.com. No, we're talking keyword
names you can afford.
This is where you buy the domain name
www.cheap-purple-widgets.com in hopes of
getting a top search ranking for cheap
Advantages are many. First, more keyword
names are available. (They're ugly, and many
people feel an aversion to hyphens.) Also,
they do help you place higher in the search
engines. It's true that search engines only
give you a little credit for having a
keyword in your domain, but "a little
Second, keyword domains leave no doubt in
the searcher's mind about what you're
selling. If you decided to call your widget
business "Ableeza," a searcher might not get
at a glance what it is you're selling, even
if your rank is high.
Finally, if you can get people to link to
you, those links will be valuable. No matter
how Webmaster Joe describes you, the link
part will always say,
"cheap-purple-widgets." This is a powerful
search engine strategy for moving higher.
You won't get type-in traffic for a keyword
name. You can't really explain it across a
phone. It won't look pretty on a business
card, and it's almost impossible to pair up
with a cute logo. But if search engine
traffic is going to drive your business, the
keyword name is worth a long, hard look.
Regardless of which type you choose, don't
play guessing games. If you go with a
keyword name, use a search tool (like
to determine what keyword phrases people are
If you choose a brandable name instead, test
it out on a variety of real people first.
Pay attention to their reactions. Reserve
your domain early, since brandable domains
go fast unless they're very unique.
In the long run, both types of domains can
work for you, especially if offline
marketing is an option and you have a knack
for branding. Overall, though, the keyword
domain is probably the easiest path to
success for the small-business owner.
About The Author
Blake Kritzberg is a web designer and small
business owner. Find more on domain
selection, buying and selling at http://www.domain-aid.com
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