Small Business? Choose the Right Domain Name.
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 are, however, two points that everyone agrees
// Pick your domain before you launch your business.
This is especially true if your market niche has lots of
competition. Research your domain before you commit to a business
// 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
Now that we have the easy part of the way, let's wade into murkier
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
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
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 give up on dot-coms (they're harder to get), 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
Okay, that's settled. Now for the controversial stuff. Which is
best: the "keyword" domain, or the "creative-genius, snappy and
KEYWORD NAME VS. CREATIVE-GENIUS BRANDABLE NAME
A Keyword Name is the boring, workhorse kind of domain. You see
them everywhere. They bristle with hyphens:
"best-anchovy-pizza-in-siberia.com." Or "super-labrador-accessories-and-golfballs.biz."
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
On the other hand, a Creative-Genius Brandable Name is the sexy
kind. 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
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
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 domain name.
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 purple widgets.
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 credit" counts.
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 searching on.
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
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.
Blake Kritzberg is a copywriter, web designer, and proprietor of
article may be freely reprinted so long as this resource box and
URL are preserved. Visit the website for more information on
choosing, buying, selling and registering domain names.