How-To Buy The Right Domains and Protect Your Brand

DomainsLet’s talk domains. Everybody has them. Everybody needs them.

And, it’s very important to think through the total scope of the domain when purchasing them.

Here are a few recent examples of the most common problems people run into with domains.

THE GOOD:

Today, Taylor Swift thwarted the Nasty-Name-Co-Opt-Problem when she cleverly purchased her name with the new .porn and .adult extensions, preventing people from damaging her brand with sexual content.

This was a very smart move and one that only comes when you pay attention to the search engine trends. There are a lot of negative terms people can connect to your brand as you will see below and simple Google alerts can keep you informed of announcements effecting domain names and SEO.

Lesson learned: pay attention to changes in search and think of the worst thing your brand-haters could say about you, then purchase that as a domain.

THE BAD:

Now, let’s take a look at the Too-Little-To-Late-Problem perfectly illustrated by Senator Ted Cruz.

TedCruz.com URL BlunderEarlier this morning, Senator Cruz announced his bid for President in 2016. However, his handlers clearly forgot to purchase TedCruz.com – which, actually links to a landing page in support of President Obama and his immigration plan.

Honestly, one would have thought the Senator’s people would have bought that URL years ago. But, now, he not only must be sure to emphasize TedCruz.org when seeking donations, but the process stories about this oversight are beginning to overshadow his announcement.

This is why we are seeing so many parents buying their children’s names as domains. Today, everyone brands themselves through their online presence. Kids will need those domains when they want to create their online resumes, and professional, political or personal brands. We bought my step-daughter’s name.com and I’m betting Ted Cruz wishes his parents had been able to buy his.

Lesson learned: plan ahead, whether it’s your name or your product or company’s name. Don’t wait until it’s too little to late.

THE UGLY:

And, who can forget the best example of the Don’t-Forget-The-THE-Problem best illustrated when immediately after launching SarahPalinChannel.com, comedian, Stephen Colbert purchased TheSarahPalinChannel.com to create a parody site.

This is one of the most common mistakes clients make; they don’t purchase variations on their name, which can lead to co-option of the brand, competitor re-directing or parody/mocking sites.

Lesson learned: think beyond the single phrasing. Buy up “the,” “your,” “our.”

With all the new extensions, TLDs and challenges in finding the right URL, I’ve put together the:

TOP TEN TIPS FOR SELECTING YOUR NEXT DOMAIN:

1. MAKE IT EASY TO TYPE.

Try to avoid using slang or abbreviated words (for example, express versus xpress) as it may be more difficult for people to know which spelling is correct. Also, try to keep it short; the longer your domain name is, the more likely it is that people will mistype it.

2. CONSIDER THE EXTENSIONS.

Today, there are a myriad of extensions for domains. Of course, .com is still the most prevalent and it should be your first pick. However, you should also consider .info, .biz, .co and .us to name a few of the standbys.

There are also more category-specific extensions to consider today, including .boutique, .support, .deals, .healthcare or .travel.

And, don’t forget about the negatively charged extensions. It is very easy for internet trolls, disgruntled customers or employees to create .sucks or.cheap urls. For example XYCCompany.sucks – which could have a damaging impact on your brand.

I also recommend you consider buying .group, .online and .solutions in order to prevent brand-jacking and fraud.

Here is a full list of the new Top Level Domains Strings being offered.

3. AVOID NUMBERS, PUNCTUATION OR HYPHENS, EXCEPT WHEN RE-DIRECTING.

Numbers, punctuations and hyphens can lead to mistakes and misunderstandings. When people hear your url, you don’t want them to be confused about whether or not to spell out the number ten or use the digits; the same is true for Mr. versus Mister. And, hyphens or dashes only add to the confusion.

Now, note the exception in this header. Buying the dashes or hyphenated domains can be very useful when redirecting or forwarding to your site.

Dashes or hyphens are recognized as separators on Google. If you use underscores, Google will recognize them as connectors. (AndersonJonesPR.com/marketing_strategy vs AndersonJonesPR.com/marketing-strategy for example.) Dashes are like setting your phrase to broad match modifier. This means the two words will be searched together, but in any order. Underscores are setting the words at phrase match, in effect searching for ‘marketing strategy’ as one word.

However, only use these for the search and redirect value or for your inner pages; otherwise you are putting too much on your customer to remember the hyphen/dash or underscore.

4. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR INNER PAGES’ FULL PHRASING.

You should have inner pages of your web site for each section of your business. This will give a boost to the SEO ranking of that location. Search engines prefer URLs that make it easy to understand what your page content is all about.

Compare:

clothes.com/Womens-Hats/b?ie=UTF8&node=2474954011

clothes.com/Womens-Hats/sale/black/small

Long strings of numbers or characters are not readable content. Users should be able to read the URL and have a very good idea of what to expect on that page.

5. USE DOMAIN TOOLS.

There are many free domain name tools available that can help you find the right domain based on keywords. For example Dot-o-mator has two offerings – an advanced Web 2.0 generator and its basic generator that creates names based off of prefixes and suffixes either from user-generated lists or various pre-built lists. DomainGroovy.com creates a list of potential domain names from user-input keywords and also offers on-site domain purchases. There are countless domain tools out there – and all for free.

6. KEYWORDS IN THE DOMAIN ONLY HELP A LITTLE. 

It used to be that the more keywords you used in your domain, the higher your ranking would be. (For example, if you own a window replacement company, GlassRepair.com would serve you well.)But, Google now filters Exact Match Domains (EMD) so sites don’t receive elevated rankings based on keywords in the domain.

That said, having a descriptive word in your domain can help define your site for visitors and the all-or-nothing view on Google’s policy is a bit overstated. As Dima Beitzke explains, keyword domains can still unlock some SEO opportunity. And, using keywords throughout your site, while publishing fresh content, you can help your ranking rise. Just don’t over-use the keywords or Google will penalize you for it.

7. WRITE IT OUT AND SAY IT OUT LOUD BEFORE PURCHASING IT.

Some domains make perfect sense when you first think of them – especially if you are basing it on a brand name, but it’s always wise to write out your desired domain and run it by friends and family to avoid big blunders. For example, a web designer named Chris Dickson may love the name of Dickson Web for his company, but the url: dicksonweb.com would foster a very different image than he may have intended.

8. BUY SIMILAR URLS AND REDIRECT.

This goes back to the Sarah Palin Channel example mentioned above. Even if you want to keep your url clean, buy it with “the” in front of it just to protect your brand because if someone else gets it, they can cause you frustration and even cost you customers.

Do the same for any variation on your brand’s name that you can think of. You can buy these urls and hold them, but it’s also wise to redirect them to your site so when people type a common variation, they can still find you. I also recommend buying your desired url with the word “blog” after it. Whether it’s your name, your company’s name or your kid’s name, a branded blog will likely come in handy.

9. CHECK FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.

Before you register your domain, run it through the free checkers available at http://www.copyright.gov/records/ and http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/ to ensure you’re in the clear – it’s well worth the extra few minutes.

10. CONSIDER GEO-LOCATION URLS.

If your business is specific to a certain location, you should consider adding that geolocation to your url. AthensPlumbing.com would be a great url for a plumber who serves the city of Athens, Ga.

In some cases, you may want to geo-locate national businesses too. For example, I own AtlantaMarketResearch.com, which redirects to my market research company and I make sure to reference Atlanta within the site to further optimize local business opportunities.

If you have more tips, examples or domain horror stories to share, let me know!

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