Domain names have become big business in the world of ecommerce. Logo.com recently sold (according to TechCrunch) for $500,000 to a company called – you guessed it – Logo.com. The business itself is a reasonably straightforward premise: low-cost logo-design services aimed at smaller businesses.
But the main reason I bring this up is to highlight the potential value in getting your domain name right, the first time.
You see, the word “logo” means the same thing in German, French, Italian, Romanian, and Polish. In fact, in countless languages it means “a graphic or emblem used by commercial enterprises to promote brand recognition.”
Five hundred thousand dollars may seem a bit steep for a simple four-letter domain name. But this could prove to be a very shrewd move in terms of creating an instant, globally relevant brand identity. The power of a brand shouldn’t be underestimated. Although generic brand names aren’t always a good idea, they have been shown to succeed. Hotels.com is a good example.
Chances are you don’t have an investment angel standing over your shoulder with a blank check. So here are a few golden rules worth remembering when deciding on your company’s domain name. These will also stand you in good stead if you ever decide to take the plunge and “go global.”
Domain Name Is the Company Name
First, you should ideally have the same domain name as your company name. So in this respect, the available domain names should inform what you call your company.
Easy to Remember
When someone hears your website name, it should be simple to remember and conventionally spelled, if possible. It should be spelled how it sounds, regardless of how tempted you are to use clever play on words. If you’re networking, and you’ve forgotten your business cards, it can be a pain having to spell out your domain name all the time. Make it as easy as possible for people to find your website.
And why not add some poetry to your domain name? This is a very simple way of creating a memorable brand name. Some of the best global brands use alliteration, such as Coca-Cola, PayPal, Best Buy, and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Descriptive Names Are Good
For the purposes of search engine optimization, a domain name that describes your company’s activities is a good idea. This is getting more difficult to achieve as many of the good ones are already taken. But, by including additional words in the domain, this can open up further options to you.
Alternatively, get creative on ways to make your company name memorable. An acronym can be a good way of creating a new word — hence it’s more likely to be available as a domain name — so names such as CNET (Computer Network), AOL (America Online) and CNN (Cable News Network) work in this respect. The shorter the contractions the more likely they will already be taken as a domain. So you may need to really get creative here to come up with an original, memorable name for your website/company.
Search Engine Considerations
For international SEO efforts, you should ideally have locally-hosted websites in your target country (e.g., “www.mycompany.fr”, for France) rather than a sub-domain of your main website (e.g., www.mycompany.com/fr). Google and other search engines favor a local focus and will likely rank you higher if you have a unique domain for each country.
This poses the question as to what names you should use for each of your local domains. If you’ve followed any of the steps above, then you’ve either got some descriptive keywords in your domain name, or you’ve invented a new word that is an acronym or other creative contraction of your company name.
And if you really want to create a true global brand, then you should be thinking about international domains. Look at what domain names are available in your target countries and make sure you register them, as well as your main English-language domain. It won’t cost much to register them, and it will ensure you have your desired domain name when it comes to setting-up shop abroad.
If you have keywords in your English-language domain name, then these will have to be translated for your target markets. Ideally, you’ll work with a local linguist with knowledge of keyword research in your target country.
For example, Arena Flowers, an online florist, has translated the word “flowers” into the relevant languages on its various European websites, which means it’s called “Arena Bloemen” in the Netherlands and Belgium, “Arena Blumen” in Germany, and “Arena Fleurs” in France. This is a good example of a smaller business that has taken localization seriously by planning its international efforts in advance, ensuring its desired domain name is available in each of its target countries.
A good way of testing your domain and company names — for not a lot of money — is to harness the power of social media.
While most localization companies offer brand-name checking services, you can put a message out through Facebook and Twitter for people to give their opinions on your suggested name choice. And you can do this for all languages. By taking it viral, through friends and friends-of-friends, you can get a lot of good feedback quickly. By offering a small incentive such as an Amazon gift voucher, you can essentially crowdsource your domain name, either asking for suggestions, or asking for feedback on a list of potential names.
You may not have $500,000 to pay for a new domain, but by getting creative you can ensure you have a great domain and company name that works across the globe. And it pays to get it right first time.