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Domain Name Tips – What’s In A Name?

Feb 2, 2016

 

“What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.”

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

domain name tips

Domain Name Tips: How Do You Choose?

 

I am so pleased that William Shakespeare was not born in the late 20th Century. If he had been, not only would we not have his wonderful poetic language, but we may not have had the above quote either. What would Romeo and Juliet be like without that quote? Language is important. As it turns out, in 2016 names are important too.

Choosing the right domain name for your website is as important as choosing the right name for your business. Possibly even more so. That means you need to do as much research for your domain name as you did for any other aspect of setting up your business. It will dictate how often your site is visited, how you fare against your competitors and how well your site ranks in search engines. Domain names matter.

The internet is full of advice and domain name tips. I guess it’s a bit little fuller now. Which advice do you follow when there is so much to choose from though? Particularly as those giving advice do not always agree with one another. One of the key decisions you need to make is branding verses generic. Advice on this subject differs. It is certainly an area where the situation is changing. Below are my domain name tips on deciding between branding and generic.

Branding v Generic

 

domain name tips - branding verses generic

Do you choose a domain name that describes who you are or one that describes what you do? Ideally you want your domain name to do both. In reality availability will affect the choice you make. John Smith the car dealer may love the idea of owning johnsmiths.co.uk. However, a certain beer manufacturer has already snatched up that name. An obvious alternative is to go for johnsmithcars.co.uk as a domain name. Even though it is a longer name, it is easy to remember. It is also available. It tells his site’s visitors exactly who he is and what he does.

However, life is not always that simple. A solicitors named Smith and McDonald may face making a choice between branding, generic or both. At the time of writing, all of the following domain names are available;

Branding

  • smithandmcdonald.co.uk (Smith and McDonald)
  • smithmcdonald.co.uk (Smith McDonald)

Generic

  • trustworthysolicitor(s).co.uk (Trustworthy Solicitor(s) )
  • callasolicitor.co.uk (Call A Solicitor)
  • solicitornow.co.uk (Solicitor Now)

Both

  • smithandmcdonaldsolicitors.co.uk (Smith and McDonald Solicitors)
  • smithmcdonaldsolicitors.co.uk (Smith McDonald Solicitors)

At this point we now move from facts into opinion. I may cover domain name length in another post. However, in my opinion shorter is better most of the time. For that reason I would discount the last two names that cover both options. Particularly as there seem to be good shorter alternatives available.

A couple of years ago I would definitely have chosen one of those generic options without hesitation. However, search engine results are starting to pay less attention to generic keywords in the domain name. These days the decision is a little more complicated. In reality I would probably still go for one of the generic options. Now it would be for different reasons though. Rather than choosing generic for the search engines I would be making the choice because those generic names have branding potential.

Unless a very strong generic term is available then branding always beats generic. Most very strong generic terms have now been snapped up. Domain names such as solicitors.co.uk were snapped up long ago. Those strong generic terms are rarely an option for the average small business.

Why Is Branded Better?

domain name tips - branding is better

Your brand is who you are. Your advertising efforts go into promoting your company name and image. Customers buy from you because of who you are just as much as what you do. Therefore it makes sense for your domain name to build on the reputation you already have. In return your brand will grow further and become stronger. This leads to increased customer loyalty and a growing customer base.

Generic domain names do not have the same effect. Historically they have been effective at raising search rankings. That is less of a factor now. Google is recognising when keywords have been stuffed into a domain name. When someone clicks on a generic name your company is not recognised as much. Consequently when they need your services again they may well search generically again. There is no guarantee they will find you next time.

Think About Your Goals

 

The most important factor to take into account is what you want the website to achieve. Do you want to attract local, national or international customers? Are you able to deal with customers from further afield? If your goal is to attract local customers then a generic name could do more harm than good, even if it attracts lots of visitors to your site. You don’t just want your website to attract visitors. The website needs to attract the right visitors.

Going back to our fictional solicitors we can show an example. If Smith and McDonald are based in Durham and can only work in the Durham area then there is no point in choosing a generic name that will attract emails and calls from all over the world. Indeed, there is not even any point in attracting contacts from all over the UK. Their time would be spent much more efficiently if they attracted fewer site visitors, but visitors who were all local and realistic potential customers. The domain names callasolicitor.co.uk and solicitornow.co.uk could generate a lot of interest. But would it be the right sort of interest? In that situation they would probably be served much better by using their company name and establishing themselves in the local area. Making their current brand better known would almost certainly bring more business their way.

Ultimately there are no hard and fast rules. There are best practices, but each business must choose the option that best suits their individual needs.

The Positive Generics

 

Looking back to the issue of confusing domain name tips it is time to mention the exceptions that prove the rule. Just as I have been extolling the virtues of going with a domain name that reflects your company name and branding, I now bring up two possible benefits of generic domain names. There are two positive examples of using generic names. Both could apply to our fictional solicitors.

The Local Generic

 

Earlier we imagined that Smith and McDonald may be restricted to working with local clients from their base in Durham. I said that meant they should choose a name that suited their brand. There is an exception. Or at least an alternative. Further searching may reveal to them that the domain name durhamsolicitors.co.uk is available. As a result, they could choose a name that is both generic and related to who they are.

domain name tips - local branding

Such generic names do not come along often. Most of them have been snapped up already. This means that it could be a great opportunity to snap up the generic name. There are two ways they could use this name. Firstly, they could set it as their main website address. All of their SEO work could go into using these two keywords that are both relevant to what they do and where they do it. Furthermore, their domain name is likely to be a relatively common search term for those searching for solicitors in Durham. The resulting increase in web traffic would likely be high quality web traffic. People in Durham who need a solicitor.

Secondly, they could set it up as a domain name that pointed to their branded domain name. This option is not quite the best of both worlds, but it is as close as it gets. The generic domain name would not get the same SEO boost as when it was attached to their site. However it could be an address that people try. On top of this it stops their competitors using that domain name.

Branding The Generic

 

Branding the generic - domain name tips

Earlier I mentioned that I would still probably choose one of the original generic choices if the decision was mine. Not because of search engines. Rather because the generic names have branding potential. Of all the options this is the most drastic. In my belief it is also the one packed with the greatest opportunity. All of the three generic names are easy to remember. They are all very marketable. Furthermore, they all present the chance to greatly grow the business.

Of all the domain name tips I am presenting, this one requires the greatest thought. For an existing local business it represents a marked change in direction. Just as the opportunities are great, so are the risks. For our solicitors in Durham it could mean changing the way they did business. Due to the wide reach of the name, they could decide to expand and take advantage of the national appeal such a name would have. The new name would become a brand. Rather than advertising Smith and McDonald, they could advertise Call A Solicitor dot co dot uk. The name would stick.

Of course, they would not need to expand to use this name. It could be used locally with local advertising. However the possibility would be there.

In conclusion, of all the domain name tips out there the most important is to choose a domain name that suits your business needs. While branded domain names are almost always better, it is not always the case. In addition, the likelihood is that many of your first choices will already be taken. The right choice of domain name is the available domain name that best meets your business requirements.

Further Domain Name Tips

 

The following links all contain domain name tips. Rather than just focusing on the choice of branded and generic domain names, they provide general tips on choosing your name. They cover most of the factors you will need to take into account.

Tips on Choosing a Good Domain Name
How to pick a domain name for your small business website
Choosing A Domain Name – 25 Tips From The Pros
How to Choose a Domain Name
10 tips for choosing the perfect domain name
How to Choose a Domain Name

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