Guest Author: Rodney Brazil
While businesses use many online channels to engage customers, the company website is the most important of all. It serves as the home base for all online resources created by a brand. While business directories, social media, and interactive maps get a lot of attention these days, these important traffic sources all lead back to one place: your website.
While there are many factors to consider when structuring and maintaining a business website, one decision must be made early: the domain name.
This isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Your domain name must establish trust instantly in a demanding marketplace. Your chosen domain name will serve as your calling card and primary point of contact for years, appearing on directory pages, online profiles, and offline printed materials.
Additionally, once customers begin to bookmark the site and talk about it online, changing your domain name runs the risk of losing that customer contact, and can create hours upon hours of development work to overcome.
Think about how you would feel if a business you loved suddenly moved to another town without warning. You might do the legwork to find out their new location, or you might just take your business elsewhere. That’s why keeping the same web address is so important, and all the more reason that making the right decision upfront is crucial.
Indications of Trust
Building and maintaining customer trust is a struggle for some businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many well-known practices that give customers an inherent sense of comfort in your brand, making it easier and more enjoyable for them to do business with you as opposed to other competitors.
Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, says that bringing professionalism to every component of your operations is key, from customer service interactions to the quality control of your service or products. Showing signs of integrity with your messaging is another important practice. Maintaining consistency in the experience customers have when interacting with you is one of the most important practices of all.
So how do you choose a domain name for your business that meets all of these criteria right off the bat?
It requires a great deal of planning and thought. Depending on where your company sits along the journey, a variety of different goals must be assessed, and you must always think ahead to where your business might go in the future. Whether you are starting your company from square one, or bringing a decades-old brand into a new era, choosing a domain name that builds trust doesn’t have to be an elusive endeavor.
Consider your domain as you pick a name for your business
When you choose the name for your business, it makes sense to look at existing businesses in the same field and their domains for two primary reasons. First, you’ll want to avoid having a name that’s too similar to another company. This can lead to brand confusion and become an obstacle when it comes to word-of-mouth, advertising, and SEO. It’s also important to see what non-branded domains that may be relevant are still available.
If you already have an idea or two about what you want your domain name to be, type it into your web browser followed by “.com” and see if anything pops up. Since there are billions of active websites online, chances are that something will appear.
According to sales data from Namecheap, the top-level domain (TLD) .com is still, without question, the most trusted in the world. This sentiment among consumers is changing, however, with many online users warming up to TLDs such as .store and .xyz, but the grandfather of all domain extensions, .com, still carries a great deal of respect.
Conversely, however, some younger consumers may look at .com as old-fashioned or un-hip and look for more brand-relevant options such as .app or .me. Because of these changing views, it is important to think about your target audience and what their values might be.
Emphasize Brand Values
For your company’s official domain, it is imperative to think about names and words that reinforce the most important qualities of your brand. Do you want to appear well-established or trendy and new? Is your product something people are familiar with, or something the world has never seen before?
To maintain consistency from the beginning, you must make sure that your domain name introduces these brand values, rather than misleading potential customers. For example, if your plan is to generate leads for a money-management course you have created, you won’t want to register a casual or funny domain name.
New businesses must also think about the type of resources that will be published on the website. Will you be selling physical products and collecting payment information? Will you be using your website to draw customers primarily through paid ads or organic traffic? Do you plan to publish industry insights on a company blog?
These questions are not only relevant to your choice of a dependable content management system, like WordPress, but also the impression you create through your domain name.
Simplicity is Key
Choosing a simple domain name is a good way to draw out qualities of professionalism. In the business world, text overload can cloud a customer’s perspective. Think about driving down the road and seeing signs for businesses nearby. It is much easier to take in simple, streamlined signs than those with overabundant frills and decorations. The same applies to your domain name. While including your business name is best for some companies, there are other business needs you need to consider.
If your company is traditional and well established with existing customers, you want to stay as close as possible to your actual company name. If someone else has already registered a domain with your trade name and .com, you can either choose another top-level domain (such as .io or .us) or add words if you believe .com is a “must have” for your business. The latter can be a trickier task because your domain name must make sense to a consumer who is unfamiliar with your brand.
Let’s say that your local business is known as Smith’s Diner. There’s a good chance the domain name you initially wanted is already taken. Alternatives could be smithsbreakfastdiner or smithsofspringfield. These are still relatively simple and easily understood when read on a screen. Anything more complicated should be avoided. For instance, springfieldsmithsdinerandcateringllc is much too long and harder to read. Clear and concise domain names will always be the most professional.
Capturing a Sense of Security
As online privacy becomes more important to the everyday consumer, conveying a sense of security is highly important. Jeremy Gin, CEO of SiteJabber, wrote that customer privacy must be your “first, second and third” priority. While much of this is accomplished on-site through encryption and posted privacy policies, a poorly-chosen domain name will prevent customers from ever clicking on your website in the first place.
Avoid sensational or conspiratorial words in your domain name, even if they are related to your business. Examples might include “scandal” or “enraged” on a customer review site. While these terms might appeal to some, many others will associate them with the negative feelings they imply.
There are many key elements to take into consideration before selecting a domain name. Don’t rush the process, and find one that will still make sense many years down the road.