How to start a business to maximize your chance of success?
Branding your business starts with your domain name. Researching, selecting, and buying your domain name will have a long-term effect on your business. A great domain name will be easy to spell. People will easily remember it. It will be easy to share. If you select a weak domain name, it will hurt your business. People will misspell it, or worse, forget it.
There are close to 300 million registered domain names.
The most popular domains for business are the .com names. I don’t recommend you buying any other domain name such as .net or .biz unless you also own the .com already.
Don’t believe for a second that all the good .com domain names are gone.
There are only 8.7 million ten characters long .com domains are registered, and there are over 4.5 quadrillion that is still available – Quadrillion 1,000,000,000,000,000 (15 zeros). What this means is that there are more great domain names available than you will ever need. Even though there are close to 300 million top-level domain names registered already, there are many millions more to choose from. Trust yourself that you’ll be able to find a domain name that will work for your business. A little bit of research and creativity will go a long way in your efforts to find the right domain.
You might be wondering if you should buy a .com, .net, .info, or .whatever kind of domain. There are so many different kinds of Top Level Domains (TLDs). Even so, the most valuable, at least for businesses, is the .com domain. If you are registering a domain name for a for-profit business, always register a .com domain. From a brand perspective, there is no better domain than a .com domain. Most people associate business domains with the .com extension just like they associate school domains with the .edu extension and non-profits with the .org extension.
It might not make any difference in the beginning, but the more successful you become; the more it could hurt you if you don’t have the right domain name. Let’s say you develop a new product idea and the .com domain name you want to call it is not available, so you register the .net domain instead. Sounds harmless enough. Now, let’s fast-forward a couple of years. You have spent time and money to develop your brand and people are searching for your product online with the .com extension simply because they expect you to own the domain with the .com extension. You could lose millions of dollars because you don’t own the .com domain name.
Another reason to shy away from something other than .com domain names is that someone might already have copyright protection for the domain name you want to register. Keep looking if the .com domain you desire is not available. Even if you don’t find the exact domain you initially searched for, you might find one that is better than your original idea.
Is Your Web Address Easy To Remember?
Your web address is part of your brand strategy. Make sure it is easy to remember. I once worked for a company called “ZZYZX.” The domain name was www.zzyzx.com. Even though it is a short name, it is a terrible name, because nobody knew how to spell it or pronounce it. You want your customers to be able to remember and refer your brand to others, so make it as easy for them as you can. Your domain name should be a compliment to your business, not an obstacle.
Domain names can be of any length up to 63 characters, but I don’t know why anyone would want a domain name 63 characters long. Your domain name can include 26 letters of the English alphabet, numbers 0-9, and hyphens (-). The domain name cannot begin or end with a hyphen, but it can contain one or more hyphens. Don’t settle for a short domain name that doesn’t complement your business just to avoid a longer one. Generally, shorter domain names are easier to remember, easier to type, and are far less susceptible to mistakes. For example, “hello.com” is easier to remember and less prone to typos than “saygoodmorninginthemorningandgoodeveningintheevening.com”.
Others argue that a longer domain name is usually easier on people because it is easier to attach a meaning to it. A short but cryptic name such as zzyzx.com is not at all a better name than a longer meaningful domain name such as raidsforless.com.
Due to the explosive demand for domain names, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get short, meaningful web addresses. Chances are you are going to have to make some compromises when registering your domain name. Or, you might have to buy a second-hand domain name. If you manage to get a short domain name that is meaningful, easy to remember, sounds good, and simple to spell, consider yourself lucky.
An additional advantage of longer domain names is that there is more room for your keywords. Long domain names that contain your relevant keywords have an advantage in that they fare better in a number of search engines – although, today this advantage is diminished compared to the early days of online business.
My general rule for hyphenated domain names is to avoid them like the plague. It’s easy to forget the hyphens when typing a name. Many users are used to typing things like partyandweddingfavors.com but not party-and-wedding-favors.com. Chances are, people typing in your domain name will leave out the hyphens, giving their business to your competitor.
When people refer your site to others verbally, having hyphens in your domain name leads to more potential errors than when the name does not contain hyphens. For example, how do you think your visitors would refer to your site if it were named “party-and-wedding-favors.com”? They might say, “I visited Party and Wedding Favors dot com yesterday. It is such a great site, you should check it out.” The referred person, remembering that comment later might type into their browsers “partyandweddingfavors.com.” Oops! Hyphenated domain names are difficult to type. Who wants to insert a hyphen between each word just to get the proper domain name? It is simply too much work.
The only time it might make sense to register a hyphenated version of your domain is if you already own the domain without the hyphen. Think of it as a defensive play. It only costs a few bucks to register the domain and you can prevent a competitor from registering it instead of you.
Numbers and Domains
Avoid numbers in your domain name unless they are part of your business name. If your business is called “1-hour Photo”, it is perfectly normal to have the number one in your domain name. If you must register a domain with a number, register the domain with the number and the number spelled out to protect yourself. In the case of “1-hour Photo” also register it as “one-hour Photo”. In case you had to have the chocolate.com domain name, but it was no longer available, please don’t register chocolate847.com. Unless you have a great reason to have a number in your domain name, avoid it.
Buying A Domain Name That Has Already Been Registered
Whenever the domain you desire is not available through the registrar, you can try purchasing it from the registered owner. Unfortunately, some people register domain names to take advantage of others. In other situations, someone might have a good reason to own your desired domain name. It is unlikely that you’ll be able to buy the domain name from a thriving business. There is a chance that you will be able to buy a second-hand domain if someone registered it but never used it.
Here are some signs that there is a chance you can buy a second-hand domain name:
- Looks like the site is abandoned.
- The site is very outdated with an amateurish or home-made design.
- There is a for sale sign on the site. – It is going to be expensive.
- The domain is very close to being expired and it still hasn’t been renewed.
The general rule buying a second-hand domain is the more they know you want the domain the more they make you pay for it.
Here is how to buy a second-hand domain name the smart way:
- Contact the owner from an email address unrelated to your business. It is the best to use a freshly registered Gmail or yahoo email account.
- Don’t disclose that you want to buy the domain for a business. Tell the owner that it is a hobby or a school project. If you say that you want it for a business, the price will go up really fast.
- Never make an offer. Let the current registered owner name his price.
- Stay cool. Don’t act super excited about the prospect of owning the domain. The more they know you want it the more they will increase the price.
- Always use an escrow service to keep both sides honest. There are reputable escrow companies that will guide you through the buying process while minimizing your risks. It is worth spending a little bit of money on an escrow service to protect yourself.
- Don’t fall in love with it. Just like you got over your first love you will get over this domain name and find another one just as great. There are more great domains out there than you’ll ever need.
The Dangers of Buying a Second-Hand Domain
A second-hand domain at the right price could be a great find, but it’s not without danger. The previous owner might have tainted your domain by associating it with a less than reputable business. When you buy a second-hand domain you are also buying the reputation of the domain.
Here are some steps to take before you buy a second-hand domain:
- Check for negative reviews. There might be negative reviews about the domain on reputable review sites. If you find “thedomainyoubought.com” has horrible customer support, you might want to pass on the domain. Or, be prepared to address the issue as soon as you own it. Important! You can also use negative reviews to drive the price down during the negotiation phase.
- Check for incoming links. It’s bad news if there are bad neighborhood sites linking to your domain or you linking to them.
- The previous site on your domain might have had malware. Malware might have caused Google to ban the domain and deindex it from the search results.
- Consider the cost and time it will take to rebuild the reputation of the domain.
Before you make a decision on a domain name for your business consider the following:
- Is it short? The shorter your domain name the better. Although there is no set rule, I like domain names to be under 15 characters.
- Is it easy to remember? If you choose a domain name that’s difficult to remember it will hurt your business.
- Is it easy to spell? Exclude words that are frequently misspelled.
- Is it easy to pronounce? Exclude words that are difficult to pronounce.
- Is it brandable? Brandable domains are easy to pronounce and remember.
- Is your geo-target included? If you are only serving a specific geography, try to include it in your domain such as sandiegowebdesigner or carlsbadmarketingcompany.
- Is it a .com domain? At least in the USA, the .com domain is still the best option. There are many other top-level domains to choose from, but I still prefer .com domains for businesses.
- Is it descriptive? If you can select a domain name that is descriptive, you are giving yourself a big advantage.
- Avoid hyphens and numbers. Hyphens and numbers both create confusion. For example, 15statemarketing could be easily confused with fifteenstatemarketing. Now, if you stick a hyphen in there you are confusing people even more.
- Ignore the latest trends. Trends come and go, but you want to build a business that lasts.
- Can you protect it? If you want to build a brand, you are going to have to trademark your domain. Before you decide on your domain make sure it is not a registered trademark already.
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