With so many folks setting up side-hustles to make ends meet, I've been asked quite a bit about domain names. Unfortunately, many times after sub-optimal domain names have been registered and paid for.
Do yourself a favor and read this entire article before you spend a single dime.
Domain Names 101
Choosing The Perfect Domain
I currently have all my Domain Names with GoDaddy. On all domain registrars, you can search for the domain you want and see if the domain is available. The results will reflect the price as well as other suggested versions. Extension prices vary — some are more expensive than others.
If the domain is taken, you can see if the current owner would be interested in selling to you. Discovering that the domain is pulling a really nice website makes that chance of that pretty slim.
If there is no website, you can find information to contact the owner to determine if they are open to selling the domain to you. More on that later.
In my article about side-hustles, I covered the basics of getting just the right domain for your new project. Today, I'll go into further detail so that we have all the bases covered.
The domain name has to make sense for the product or service you are offering. If you are your brand, using your name makes sense. However, in most cases, you want to make sure that when users see your domain name, they have a pretty good idea of what you offer.
Unique & Memorable
Next, you want that domain name to be easy to remember and type. Using slang or words many won't recognize is not wise. If you choose to spell a common word differently, be prepared to do a heck of a lot of marketing to get that to stick.
In that case, you'll also want to register the commonly spelled version in case folks forget. If that version is not available — then rethink your entire plan. Why send your visitors to someone else's website?
Short & Intuitive
The shorter and more understandable, the better. Also, keep in mind that the longer your domain, the longer your email address will be—for example, [email protected]
Avoid Potential Confusion
You don't want to use a domain that includes trademarked words or can be confused with existing trademarks. If you do, you will hear from the trademark holder's attorneys.
In addition, stay away from words that can easily be misspelled or that have more than one meaning. If you do use terms that are easily misspelled, here again register both versions.
Unless you can also own the non-dashed version, don't waste your time and money on the dashed version. In most cases, folks will forget the dash(s) and go to the non-dashed website who could be a competitor.
While there are over 280 domain extensions worldwide, most folks will always default to the .com version just out of habit. Here in the United States, you want to get a domain, in order of preference, with:
- .org (for non-profits)
- .mobi (for a mobile version of your website)
To protect a new business venture, register all of the above to lock out any potential competitors using the same domain with a different extension. This approach also avoids potential brand confusion.
Back to all those other extensions. Yes, you can register and use them on your new website. But know you have to put extra effort into letting folks know that you are not .com but .whatever.
Bottom line, if I can't own the dot com, I look for other .com options. Getting found online is difficult enough. Why make it more so if you don't have to?
What if your domain is already taken?
This can involve two scenarios. The domain is already live on another website which most likely takes it off the table for you to use. Or the domain may be offered for sale by a private party.
Some are of the incorrect impression that owning domain names that you are not actively using makes you a domain squatter — which is illegal. This is not true.
Squatting means you own a domain name of another product, service, copyright, or trademark holder specifically for the reason of extorting a high fee if they want to use that domain. Or to sell ads when folks assume that domain leads to the site they are looking for.
Then, there are domain investors. These are folks who recognize good domain names and speculate that they are valuable and that someone out there may want them. Nothing illegal about speculating and having a domain portfolio.
The differentiator is basically intent. Registering copyright or trademarked company names or products to try and profit from that, the trademark holder is protected under the Uniform Domain-Name Resolution Policy (UDRP).
This is why you want to register the domain names you may use in the future and those that have a likelihood of competing with your brand.
The Value of a Great Domain Name
Just the right domain can be priceless. If you think about it, your domain name is one of, if not your primary, marketing tool. It is common for new ventures to build their entire marketing programs specifically around a domain name.
In other words, the right domain name can make a huge difference in your marketing efforts and recognizability. That's where branding comes in and what makes domain names so important — and valuable.
I own a bunch of domains. I am not a speculator or investor, but because I've had lots of ideas and projects of my own over the last 26 years. So, when I get an idea, I register the domain in case I want to follow through at some point.
Some are of more value to me because I am emotionally invested. Others have, over time, become quite valuable, and for the right price, I might consider releasing them.
What Good Domains Go For
To register an available generic domain runs between $10-15 — give or take a few bucks. Great domains that are “for sale” by private parties can often be auctioned off to the highest bidder or sold outright. When a domain is already owned to acquire, it probably won't be cheap–at least 4 figures.
Approach acquiring a good domain as a marketing investment in your new business venture. An investment that is included as part of your business start-up plan and budget.
While there are sites that calculate domain values, those values are just a guideline based on search volume, keyword, and phrase value. Like anything, however, domains are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them.
A few examples:
- Cars.com: 872 million
- LasVegas.com: 90 million
- CarInsurance.com — $49.7 million
- Insurance.com — $35.6 million
- VacationRentals.com — $35 million
- PrivateJet.com — $30.18 million
- Voice.com — $30 million
- Ice.com: 3.5 million
Here's an article that helps explain why certain domains are so valuable: Beyond Domain Sticker Shock: Why Premium Domains Are Worth the Price.
Based on the above, you can see more value in one-two word-specific domains that are short and memorable. This indicates that if you want that perfect domain, be prepared to make a serious offer.
The good news is that the standard annual renewal ($10-15) rate applies once you own the domain.
Switching Domains After the Fact
This is pretty common once folks realize their initial choice was sub-optimal. Or they find another domain that they prefer.
It is no big deal to change your domain within WordPress. The key is to make sure that you do proper redirects from the old to the new so that search engines understand what is going on.
If you determine that a domain switch is necessary for the strength of your brand, don't let the technicalities prevent you from doing so. Having the perfect domain for your business is that important.
Domain Registration Tips
- Go for Privacy Protection to shield your contact information and reduce spam.
- You want to make sure you are the domain's Registrant, a.k.a. owner, and that the domain is purchased through your own account. Never let anyone helping you out (web developer, marketer, etc.) use their contact information or account when registering on your behalf. They then basically own the domain, and it could be difficult to get it back if things go sour, if they go out of business, or fall off the map.
- Verify your domain contact information at the beginning of every year. I mark my calendar for the first week of each year to double-check that payment information is up-to-date so that auto-renewal can take place. The two top reasons for domains being released for sale to the public are invalid payment and email address information.
Now you are armed with all the information you need to make the right choice when determining what domain you want to use. The key is not to underestimate the importance and impact that just the right domain will do for your business.
At your service,