Originally published in Startups.co.
I often see entrepreneurs searching for domains that enable them to stuff their URLs with keywords. Thanks to William Shakespeare, most people don’t think a name is worth much as long as their businesses do what they’re supposed to.
But think about it: The titles of books, movies, and bands are all representative of the things attached to them. Names mean something, and they shouldn’t be slapped on as mere afterthoughts.
For a decade, our business was called Domainsatcost.ca. It followed all the “best practices” we commonly see — it was rich in keywords, search-friendly, short, straightforward, descriptive, and geographically situated. Yet it lacked something very important: an identity. Rebel.com, in contrast, is a rule breaker. It comes with a strong brand that allows us to flex our identity and cultural muscles.
A domain name is one of the first things that should be discussed when developing a brand because it will be a core part of your brand’s identity. If a domain name doesn’t mean something to the people working to make it a success, it will be extremely difficult to build any kind of unifying culture around it.
If the brand name that you love isn’t available, keyword-heavy, or compatible with domain form, consider these tips before throwing it aside.
1. Give your company a purpose.
Sure, your team knows what you do, but why do you do it? The right name can establish that sense of purpose.
When we renamed Domainsatcost.ca as Rebel.com, we started to tell our story more authentically. Our mission became clear, and our identity grew to resonate with our staff and our customers. Nothing changed about our products or services, but we became unified around an identity, which hadn’t happened with our previously descriptive and keyword-rich domain name.
2. Find a name for your business that truly resonates with you.
Plenty of areas of starting your business will be hard and tedious — let choosing your name be the fun part. Picking a brand and name should be one of the most exciting things you do when starting a business.
Don’t let search engine optimization benefits or .com availability bully you into limiting your thinking. Doing this will prevent you from exploring and finding the identity that could really bring your business to life.
But you still have to be easy to find — what’s the point of having a website if customers can’t locate it? The key here is to understand that the name of your company, your primary domain, and your domain content strategy are all different things.
3. Explore your domain options.
There are literally hundreds of new domain extensions that have recently become available. These allow you to add back some of the keyword relevancy you may have lost through your brand name.
No matter what category your business falls under, there’s probably a new domain extension that matches it. Depending on what you do, you can use .clothing, .contractors, .online, .gallery, or .beer. Google doesn’t rank new domains any differently than traditional ones, so there’s nothing to lose by taking this approach.
If you really want to flex your identity muscles, premium domains are also an option. You can even secure the .com after if your budget permits. This can always be done later, too, once your business has really taken off.
The coolest aspect of this is that it gives you plenty of room for creativity. We’ve seen a lot of brands get creative with their domains by using the domain as part of their name. Check outwww.infogr.am, www.wonder.land, www.quiet.ly, or Taco Bell’swww.ta.co for some examples of how this can work. (Think outside the bun, right?)
You can also use domain names to explain what your business does through the URL. You can use .coffee for a coffeehouse, .yoga for a yoga center, and so on. This approach helps with your search ranking by filling your URL with relevant keywords, placing you further ahead of the competition.
4. Separate your domain strategy and content strategy from the naming of your business.
Domains that are exact matches, as well as keyword-rich domains, are an important part of your overall SEO and content strategy. If you have strong content on relevant, short, and memorable domains (even if they don’t match your business name), that content will still improve your search rankings and help your audience find you.
You need to establish an identity that gives your company direction and helps customers easily find you. It’s up to you to decide whether your business needs a new name or can simply leverage the right domain to tell consumers who you are.
While a rose by any other name might smell as sweet, consumers will have a difficult time telling others about it without the established identity that comes with its title.