What’s in a (domain) Name?

A few weeks ago, I talked to you about the naming challenge. At The Sponge, we consider all sorts of factors when naming a brand. It can get heated. A great name is short and snappy; it sounds good, looks good and creates instant, positive imagery. It’s like a finely tailored suit, making you more attractive and giving you room to move. At its most powerful, it is the starting point to a really good story.

There are a few other factors to thicken the plot. Does your name work at a global level, for example? If you expect your brand to grow internationally, you must be sure the name doesn’t have any misleading or crude definitions in foreign tongues. Next, has that name already been trademarked or is someone else selling similar products under a similar name? Pity the rural farmer, James McDonald, who also made delicious burgers.

What I’d like to address this week is the importance of choosing a name with a corresponding domain that is both available and affordable for your business. Easier said than done, right? Early on in the Dot Com boom, many so-called Cybersquatters began buying up simple domain names like Cars.com at a hundred bucks a pop and sitting on them for years until someone with very deep pockets came knocking at the virtual door. Business.com for example, sold for $7.5 million in 1999. Now that domain names can be bought for as little at $5, cybersquatting has become infinitely more popular and even seemingly random domain names are being sold at outrageous prices, for example, JPhealth.com, which is for sale at just over $3,000.

Budgeting with the cybersquatting factor in mind is extremely important. The process of naming your business is not only costly, but also so critical to the development of your brand. Obtaining professional services is a non-negotiable; omitting this step would be illogical and potentially damaging to your business. Purchasing a domain name from a cybersquatter is also a very real possibility. We’ve seen clients spend sums on domain names that far surpass the cost of name development. It’s fundamental to consider this when budgeting for the expense of naming.

You’d like to name your business Pet Science, but since PetScience.com is not available you’ll just go ahead and purchase PetScience.net. It’s $64,993 cheaper, so it’s a no-brainer. Right? Wrong. Most Australians will try the .com.au or the .com version first. Though a real keener might find you eventually at your obscure .net location, does that really do justice to your brand? Consider the needs of your business; is it primarily conducted online? If so, your name needs to be easily searchable. Do you direct customers to your site or do you rely on traffic being directed your way via search engines and social media sites? The more you rely on your online business, the more you might want to budget for a great domain.

It’s incredibly important that the domain name be conversational. If it gets mentioned over cocktails on a Friday night, will it be remembered the morning after? A great name is easy to recall. It’s Bundy-proof. After you’re over the initial hump, the next step is that it’s got to be searchable. For the love of branding, don’t settle for a phonetic yet grammatically incorrect spelling. Unless you plan to invest millions of marketing dollars on a site like Choosi.com, the spelling needs to be obvious. That means no missing c’s and no ph instead of f; not unless you are a giant multinational retailer with a budget to rival the GDP of a small country.

While a hot domain name like Toys.com (sold in 2009 for just over $5 million) might earn you a lot of good traffic, a punchy name, word of mouth, and good content could easily get you just as far. Social media conductivity is still an extremely powerful force that, in combination with a brand name that is simple, conversational and memorable, will eventually drive the traffic where traffic is due. What’s most important is that once a potential customer has heard your name, they can spell it correctly and find you through a simple online search.

How much would you pay to give your business that extra advantage?

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