Here’s the strangest thing about URLs and the act of finding the right domain name: it’s quickly becoming the job of PR professionals.
Because available domain names are being purchased for proper use or just “squatters’ rights”, you’ll have to consider so much more than just “my address online” (dot) whatever when making the decision.
Issues to consider: client perception, anything even vaguely resembling trademark infringement, and basic stupidity. For your convenience, here are 5 things you need to know before purchasing a domain name.
Away we go, then…
1. Research. How hard is it to do a Google search, if not, a visit to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office? You need to ensure your client isn’t about to fall in deep water with their name. Even Microsoft fell into this issue because of simple phonics. Check it the picture — MikeRoweSoft.com existed, and you better believe, they sued. Mike Rowe was a young Web developer 10 years ago and claimed his “brand” was being infringed upon. Obviously, Mike Rowe didn’t quite have the legal firepower that Bill Gates could control, so he lost and the famed software developer isn’t known as OpentheGates.com. Although PC gamers may prefer that, do your research first.
2. Brand = Domain. This should be something that is close to a mirror image. Why? Because if your brand is anything in the marketplace, this is how people will get to know you. And if you try to be cerebral with your domain name, you could confuse — or even alienate — your consumers. This is becoming a chicken-and-egg concept because before a brand is solidified, the URL should be considered. Another reason is that your considered brand name makes a terrible domain name. Look at this picture if you need any more proof about that because your brand could become a mockery within seconds of pressing enter.
3. Save the cute for the copy. In No. 2, we talked about being too cerebral. This also goes for being too fun. A domain name is not the place for that. Adding “4” in substitution for the word “for” is stupid because you always have to explain it and few people care to remember that copy point. If your client’s brand is too hard to spell, then consider something else. You want a URL that is easy to remember, unique in the marketplace, and something that is distinctive from the competition. It may be a good idea if you choose some words with only one possible spelling. Homophones usually suck in a domain name because although they sound the same, there’s usually some guessing that will go on.
4. Extensions. It’s no secret that dot.com rules the roost on the Interweb because that is how people were trained to think of websites. In fact, with the close to 150 million .COMs that exist, its closest competitor is .NET at 15 million. Although dot.net was created initially for technology companies, people didn’t care about etiquette. That became the fail safe for “Well, my URL isn’t available on .COM, so whatevs.” Fortunately, .ORG have remained true to form in that most people equate them with non-profit ORGanizations. If you can brand your URL with the extension, good for you. If not, find a .COM because although your brand may be available with .BIZ, .INFO, or .YOURMOM, many may not think about it that way (unless your mom is cute).
5. Be Committed. If you want to protect your brand and online properties, be committed. Buy the URL for at least three years. Typically, spam sites purchase a slew of one-year domains, spamdex the crap out of them, and ultimately end up on Page 27 of Google. While it’s nice traffic bonanza for a few weeks, it won’t matter because you have already given search engines the red flag they need to obliterate your website. Another commitment level to consider is if your brand name isn’t available, don’t buy a stop-gap name thinking you will change your brand midstream. That’s not good business, and even worse Web sense.