Picking a good domain name is a critical step for a startup and one that sometimes takes much longer than the founding team would like. In most cases the top choice domain is a short one-word .COM, this could be a dictionary one word or a brandable but one word is the key. The problem is not all startups have the budget for a solid one-word .COM, so they improvise.
Whenever you go with your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th choice anything, you make a sacrifice. The question is, how big of a sacrifice are you making? A domain name is a key part of the branding and marketing puzzle and getting it right the first time, well, it could be the only chance you have to get it right!
Last year Linton Investments helped over a dozen startups acquire their first choice domain for their brand. We also worked with a half dozen clients who were changing names because of issues with the original domain they choose. In all cases this rebranding was incredibly painful and hard for their brand, from missed emails to missed customers a bad domain can do some damage.
Below are three common mistakes I’ve seen startups make when picking a domain name:
- Picking a brandable that nobody can spell – brandables can be great if everyone can hear the word and instantly know how to spell it correctly. You should be able to tell someone your brand name over dinner or drinks and they should be able to get home, go to their computer, and easily access your site. Sun.com is an awesome domain for a lighting company, Suunn.com is a confusing one leading many customers to email you at Sun.com and try to find your site on Sun.com.
- Using an extension nobody has heard of – the world has become comfortable with extensions like .CO, .ME, .TV, .IO, .LY, etc. However almost nobody in the world knows .AM, .MD, and many other obscure ccTLDs that sometimes get used when people want the entire domain name to be their brand name. Cloud.ly sounds cool and is easy to remember, WebC.am may sound cool but is pretty darn confusing for people to type into their browsers.
- Assuming that one day you will get the .COM – this is a mistake I saw happen on three separate occasions last year and is one that I found wasn’t often thought of until Series A or B. The problem is that you may start out building your brand on a .NET or a .ORG and say to yourself (and your team), “don’t worry, once we raise Series A we’ll put a couple hundred thousand into buying the .COM.” This is great if it’s true and yes, many startups do pay six-figures for their .COM once they raise enough funding and so far 100% of them I’ve spoken to and worked with agree it is one of the best spends within their marketing budget. However, and this is a big however, if you cannot buy the .COM then you might set yourself up for major disappointment once you do have the funds you think you’ll need to afford it. If you’re planning on buying the .COM later down the road, make sure you know early-on that you do have a chance of buying it.
As always I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share your own mistake(s) or comment on any of the ones I’ve shared above!