Businesses and people have been making domain name mistakes ever since the Internet was created.
But a few political domain gaffes have pushed proper domain best practices back into the media and on social media.
- Presidential candidate, Jeb Bush famously forgot to renew his domain name jebbush.com and used to redirect to Donald Trump’s campaign website
- A domain name that spells out Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, sarahpal.in redirects to Hillary Clinton’s campaign website
- Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina did not own Carlyfiorina.org, which was able to rank highly on Google for her name.
Aside from the embarrassment that can come from making domain mistakes, they can also be expensive. Automotive company, Nissan, spent years and millions of dollars to try to seize Nissan.com from its current owner. Facebook needed to purchase facebook.com for $200,000 since they only owned THEfacebook.com.
To avoid becoming a domain name horror story, here are some domain name best practices, which will keep you out of hot water.
- When coming up with a company brand, the first thing you should do is check the domain possibilities with any domain registrar. The good ones will show you the availability across all of the common domain extensions like .com, .org, .info, & .net. For a business focused on a single country, try to get the most common TLD, but if you are global it might be a good idea to purchase the .com version.
- Ideally, you should register the other common domain extensions like .org and .net and redirect them to your .com. While, you think you might be saving money, this frugality can come back to hurt you. If a competitor purchases these domains later it will cost you thousands of dollars to recover them even if you rightly own all the trademarks.
- When registering the domain, make certain that the registered email address is one that you will see any important notifications from your registrar. This is how most people end up losing their domains by not realizing that they have expired before it is too late.
- You should use targeted keywords in your domain but don’t stuff them in. For example, if your new business sells cupcakes, it would be a good idea to have cupcakes as a central part of your domain, but including the frosting types might be a bit much. When it comes to domains and keywords, keep the focus on what will look appropriate to users not search engines.
- If the domain name you want is only available when adding hyphens between words (e.g. free-cupcakes.com), come up with a better name. Dashes cheapen your brand and users will never remember to type them.
- Keep the character length of the domain short with a target of under 20 characters including the TLD. Modern browsers can handle long names, but they will truncate on mobile negating any exact match advantage.
- Don’t register a name that will be really difficult to spell; especially, if you will use offline marketing that will drive type-in traffic. Granted there are some major brands that have made up words as their domain, but its very expensive to build that kind of brand. Feel free to invent a new brand name, but just test with real users to ensure that it can be easily spelled.
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Once you have the financial resources, you can even move to a more desirable name as the Southeast Asian ride sharing company did when they moved from GrabTaxi.com to Grab.com. (Note that when you do decided to move your domain, don't forget to redirect all pages so your SEO is not impacted.) However earlier on, when it comes to domains, its better to err on the side of overpurchasing rather than underpurchasing. You can always decide not to renew a domain that is no longer needed.
Reclaiming a domain that wish you would have bought is infinitely harder once it has been purchased by another party. Even if you own the trademark, a UDRP process or lawsuit will cost significantly more than the $10 to $15 it would take to just purchase the domain at the outset.
No matter the rush you are in to get your website up on the Internet, it is best to follow the best practices above so you don’t end up making mistakes that you will regret forever.