By Derek Miller
Branding is the idea that you can take something simple like a business’s name and have people associate specific feelings, memories, or ideas with that name.
Take McDonald’s as an example—when you think of that name you likely envision the golden arches, you hum the jingle in your head, or you think about an experience you’ve had at one of their restaurants. Regardless of your specific reaction, the fact that you recognize the name and associate it with some feeling is, in and of itself, branding.
Thanks to the rise of digital marketing, the factors that make up your brand identity have changed over the last two decades. Companies used to only have to worry about their brand’s name, logo, color palette, and messaging on traditional channels. Now, companies must engage with customers on Facebook, find the right Twitter handle, and create an effective email marketing strategy in order to cultivate their brand identity.
One of the most important branding decisions you’ll ever make is also one of the most overlooked—picking the perfect domain name.
Your domain represents your identity
Your domain name is more than just an arbitrary URL to which you send consumers. It’s the backbone of digital marketing and plays a critical role in building your brand.
Entrepreneur Erik Bergman recently purchased the domain Great.com for a new business venture. When asked why he was willing to pay $900,000 for the domain name, he responded by saying “If you believe in something, you should be willing to invest in it. I believe my company is going to be great and wanted a domain name that truly reflected that.”
The sentiment behind Erik’s statement is that domain names are important because they are the best representation of your brand online. While you may not have the budget to buy the exact name you want—you should find a domain that reflects what you represent.
If you’re a technology company, it might make sense to register a .TECH domain. Even if you aren’t able to find a branded domain name, the use of .TECH clearly reflects the identity of your technology company.
Your domain sets user expectations
Another important reason to invest in a quality domain name is that it helps set the expectations for website visitors. If you see a link from an unfamiliar domain, you may be wary of clicking on it. This can hurt your click-through-rates on PPC campaigns or social media marketing initiatives. However, if you use relevant terms in your domain or have a recognizable brand, users will visit your website with less hesitation.
While large brands like Disney can get by with Disney.com, new startups may struggle to set clear expectations with only a branded domain. Because of this hurdle, you may want to consider registering a vertical-specific gTLD that helps provide context to your site.
For instance, if you’re a travel company, you may want to find a .TRAVEL domain. Packandgo.travel is a travel brand that offers last-minute trips at reduced prices. The domain is memorable, but more importantly, it provides clear expectations for a new visitor who has never heard of the company.
Your domain has organic search value
The whole reason brands purchase domains, create websites, and conduct digital marketing is because they want visitors to land on their website and take some valuable action. Within all the online branding activities is a discipline known as search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is a culmination of activities on and off your website that helps your site rank well in various search engines like Google or Bing. It includes tactics like content marketing and strategic linking to increase rankings for various search terms.
While there are hundreds of factors that make up the ranking algorithm for search engines, one of the key components is the domain name. A recent study by Higher Visibility found that keywords were included in the URL for the top search results 63% of the time.
In other words, including a relevant keyword in your domain or within the URL structure of a page can greatly increase the likelihood of your website ranking for that term. With that said, there are many other important factors that determine your ranking—so relying entirely on a keyword-optimized domain isn’t enough.
Tips for picking the perfect domain name
By this point, it’s clear that a good domain can greatly increase the chances of your business succeeding online. Below are a few tips to keep in mind as you set out to find the perfect domain for your brand.
- Use branded domains when available: The goal of your website should be cultivating a brand. If you can incorporate your brand name into your domain—you will be well on your way to growing your brand identity both on and offline.
- Make it easy on your visitors: You should strive for a domain that is easy to recall and type. Try making it short and use common spellings. If you get too clever or complicated, you may accidentally send interested traffic to another website.
- Don’t rush the process: Finding the perfect domain name is a lot like deciding on the perfect brand name. Conduct research, look at domains for sale or that are expiring soon, and ask for feedback from others before you take the leap. Your domain is a critical component of your branding efforts so give it the time and careful consideration that it deserves.
If you’re an entrepreneur looking to take your business online, you have a lot of things to consider. From designing your website and optimizing your social profiles to building and nurturing your email list, there are plenty of items on your checklist.
As you start working through the process, do not neglect one of the most integral pieces of your digital brand – your domain name.
Derek Miller, MBA is a digital marketing expert with a background in content, SEO, PR and email, and social media marketing. He specializes in small to medium business growth.