Every business can benefit immensely from having a digital strategy. Your digital strategy should go beyond social media. For the most part, you do not own those platforms. This means you have limited control over how the platform evolves. Even more limited is what you can do with and on those platforms.
Owning your own website gives you room to determine the direction of your platform and business. What then is the first step to owning a website? Get a domain name registered. Getting a domain name registered is a painless process itself, but first you have to be sure (by doing a search on your chosen registrar) that the domain exists. You might just discover that your exact domain has been taken. You can choose to be gloomy, but that doesn’t help the cause. Instead, you can employ one of the following means to get a domain name (maybe even yours) and focus on growing your business.
1. Buy it
Let’s be clear. Your preferred domain might be taken but you might still be able to acquire it from the current owner. If the domain is not hosted anywhere, that is often a good sign. Determine the owner through the Whois.com lookup feature and contact them. Whois is an international registry of domain names with plenty of information about them. The owner’s contact details should be available there and you can make them an offer to buy. Domains can be very expensive, but they can be fairly cheap too. If you are not sure about this process, you can engage the services of a domain broker. According to iwantmyname.com, the key factors that can influence the cost of purchasing a domain from its owner are:
- the word(s) in the name are simple, clear and common, including standard spellings;
- the word(s) is a recognisable person, company, product, etc. (i.e. don’t expect to get “coke.com”);
- the domain is already in use (as noted, there’s a website, email addresses, etc.);
- the domain name is related to something that may become important in the future, e.g. an event, new product, etc.;
- how badly the owner can tell that you want it;
- how badly the owner needs or wants the money;
- how much you appear to be willing or able to pay for it (e.g. there’s a good chance that the price may be higher if a company wants a domain than if just an individual person does);
- the legal status of the domain (e.g. is it a registered trademark);
- the state of the industry or economy (e.g. during a tech bubble, like many things, domain name prices may become inflated).
2. Add a verb to your domain name
Remember what a verb is? A doing word. This is creative in many ways. You get the benefit of still having your preferred name in the URL. Then you don’t have to use several TLDs. Verbs like try and get are popular choices as prefixes to domain names. So, where your brand is Excel, you can use tryExcel.com. Using them with verbs makes them more memorable and may even be better than using some TLDs.
3. Extend your brand in the URL
This option immediately reveals what your brand is about. A typical example is ExcelFashion.com. It naturally tells what your business is primarily about and tells it apart from Excel.com, which is quite generic if your brand is still in its early stages. The word you include should be as relevant as possible. Until Tesla acquired Tesla.com in 2016, they used TeslaMotor.com. The word “motor” clarified the nature of business Tesla does. Similarly, Gogo (an in-flight Internet provider) uses “air” along with their brand name. It is less ambiguous than when say, “GogoFresh” is used. The word you choose should be meaningful, memorable, and natural.
4. Opt for ccTLD
Few gTLDs, if any, surpass .com in prestige and business relevance. ccTLDs can be equally trustworthy. .us (US) is not nearly as popular as .co.uk (UK) and .co.au (Australia), which are considered safe. If your local ccTLD is of greater significance than .com, as is the case in Germany where .de is more popular than .com, by all means, use that. Be aware that some ccTLDs such as .ru and .cn are popular for spam sites and there is a list of ccTLDs banned in certain countries. So, using a ccTLD is often subjective.
5. Add a country to the domain name
A timeless example of this is nissan.com. No, it’s not owned by Nissan, the automaker. Registered in 1994, it is owned by Uzi Nissan who ran Nissan Computer Corp. The automaker brought a lawsuit in 2000 to get the domain. It lost!
They, however, got creative and added “usa” to their name and they’ve lived happily ever since. Country names are good but city names are cool too: loudLagos.com can showcase the bustling lifestyle of the city alongside the brand name.
6. Try alternative TLDs
Most domains have only been taken on .com. Other TLDs like .net and .biz could still be available.
You need to bear in mind that people associate domains with .com more often than not. For majorly historical reasons, the trust index for .com’s is sky-high. People believe .com URLs are safe and other TLDs as unsafe or untrustworthy. Simply avoid TLDs people think are spammy.
7. Domain hacks to the rescue
Domain hacks are an ingenious use of alternative TLDs. The idea is to make a word or phrase that is evident to the user. WordPress ‘ Matt Mullenweg’s blog is a perfect example of this, opting to use ma.tt for his domain name..tt is the Trinidad and Tobago ccTLD. A fictitious Nigerian football player, Mike Nyong, can choose to register mikenyo.ng or simply nyo.ng if they are available. Downsides to domain hacks include possible difficulty in pronunciation and the slight SEO disadvantage since search engines don’t consider domain extensions. Thus in ma.tt and nyo.ng, only “ma” and “nyo” are good for SEO and they are obviously not distinct enough. Another thing to consider is that Google assumes you are targeting traffic from that country when you use a ccTLD.
8. Abbreviations are good
Abbreviating one or more words in URL without losing searchability or SEO is another way to get choice domain names that are .com. The abbreviated words are usually words that are not the brand name. An example is Fox Plumbing and Heating that uses FoxPH.com. If it feels right, you can also abbreviate the entire brand name.
9. Consider a catchphrase
Short and memorable phrases often make for perfect URLs. A short business slogan or mission statement can be used as a URL. Catchphrases work great alongside alternative TLDs.
10. Hyphens still work
They remain controversial, but hyphens can give you the domain name your want. But, they can easily be forgotten. Some even consider them cheap and compromising. Don’t be discouraged though, big and successful sites use hyphens. That puts you in good company.
11. Set up domain monitoring
All the previous options still may not appeal to you. This is understandable. You can still get your dream .com domain if you don’t have the money or if the owner turns you down. You simply monitor the domain for when it expires. If you do finally get it, you can set up 301 redirects to the new URL so you never lose traffic. 301 redirects are permanent redirects from one URL to another.
12. Take the opportunity to brainstorm a new brand name
This might be the last straw, but it’s worth mentioning. It might be necessary to rethink your brand name so you can get exactly what domain name you desire. Google has a similar story, after starting life as BackRub. BackRub isn’t an uncool name, but they felt their search engine might be confused with massage services.
If you feel the steps listed above are too much of a drag, you can entrust the responsibility to professionals like https://www.openhost.co.nz/domain-names to help you get tailor-fit domain names. This will save you the stress.
Getting the perfect domain name is encouraged but alternative domains are not just becoming more hip. They are becoming more of a necessity. The ubiquity of .com keeps them at the fore of people’s minds. They are more likely to type nerdly.com than nerd.ly, if your brand name is Nerdly. That’s one reason .com still rules.
Note that alternative TLDs are steadily rising in reputation and it will only be a matter of time before your odd .tv or .me become viable mainstream contenders. These dozen steps can help you secure a domain name you find rocks better than your originally planned name or in the worst case, how to live with your name being used by another brand.
*TLD – Top-Level Domain
**ccTLD – Country Code Top-Level Domain
***gTLD – Generic Top-Level Domain