You may have noticed the buzz around the new top-level domains now available at your favorite domain registrar. I call these “vanity domains” as they’re designed to appeal to people who believe they will be more noticeable, memorable, and/or cooler than the standard .com and .net that we’re all so used to. Some examples are:
and on and on.
In theory, having a domain like “reallyawesome.email” or “wordpress.guru” sounds like a great idea. Before you whip out your wallet and lay down a premium price for one of these new TLDs, consider a couple of experiences I’ve had with domain names over the years.
It’s NOT dotCom, Dammit!
A former coworker of mine was quite the entrepreneur specializing in web-based business opportunities. He owned hundreds, if not thousands of domains and was always looking for ways to use them profitably. He had an idea for a way to offer free cable television (legally) and when the .TV top-level domain (TLD) became available years ago, he paid a very handsome price for “free.tv”. He then proceeded to implement his idea, building a website and going into a full marketing campaign for his new venture.
There was one major snag he didn’t anticipate. Everybody looking for a business website in those days (we’re talking at least 10 years ago) first looked for “whatever.com”. At that time, the whole range of TLDs was pretty much limited to .com, .net, .edu, .org and .gov, at least for public consumption. Business was .com, web based services were often .net, educational institutions used .edu, non-profits used .org, and the government used .gov. Simple, straightforward, and traditional.
He began to realize there was a problem when his wife constantly referred to the website and business as “freetv.com”. No amount of consternation on his part led to anything but threats of divorce. She continued to call it “freetv.com” reflexively, the .com suffix so ingrained that she literally couldn’t imagine a business website without it.
dotCom Still Rules
Even now after many years of alternative TLDs being available, people still assume that your business is going to be “mybusiness.com”. If they don’t find mybusiness.com, they’ll try mybusiness.net next and some of the more adventurous may try mybusiness.org, but beyond that, most people will give up. They may try a Google search to see if they can locate you that way, but keep in mind that the more effort it takes to locate your business, the less likely it will be found. People simply don’t want to put forth a lot of effort to locate you unless you have something they need to survive and can’t get anywhere else. If that’s the case, more power to you and you can stop worrying about domains!
Make It Logical As Well As Memorable
Some of you may remember TV ads years ago, at least in the Northeast US, for Champion Mortgage Company. Their catch-phrase was “When your bank says no, Champion says yes!” Having seen the ads and being in the market to refinance our home at the time, I went online to check them out.
I keyed in “champion.com”. Something completely unrelated to mortgages came up.
I keyed in “championmortgage.com”. Site not found.
I tried a few other variations before resorting to the search engines. After a few tries, I found their site. Turns out their domain was “championsaysyes.com”.
I’m sure that made a world of sense to their marketing people. I mean, who wouldn’t think immediately of “Champion Says Yes” and translate that to the website address? Based on my experience, my guess would be nobody! At the very least they should have had a second domain name like “championmortgage.com” or even just “champion.com” had it been available. Even “championmtg.com” would have been an improvement.
The point is: when choosing a domain name, try to imagine what a typical search engine user is going to be looking for when they are looking up businesses like yours. While it’s possible to screw up even a .com domain, going with a vanity domain as your primary website address has a very good chance of failing miserably.
People are still attuned to “.com” for business addresses. Eventually, they may get used to the existence of .guru and .camera and others, but think about it: the more possibilities there are, the less likely people are to guess correctly within a reasonable number of tries.
If you must have a vanity domain, at least make it your second or third alternative and point it to your main domain rather than relying on people to think like you do.