Get By or Aim High
Decision time! Should you invest in a strong domain name? Or settle for a cheaper option?
Sure, we get it. Spending extra is hard to justify. After all, any domain is enough to get your project started online. Who cares if the web address isn’t perfect? With so many complicated decisions and expenses ahead, just register a URL and move on. Right?
Tempting. Cutting corners always is.
Think About It
Technically, Amazon doesn’t need Amazon.com. They could build exactly the same website using AmazonOnlineStore.com. But is that wise? Would customers find them as easily? Or trust them as much? Would the company stand out in the same way, surrounded by other Amazons? How much traffic and name recognition would they lose to some other company found at Amazon.com?
Not all domains are created equal. For 30+ years, the world has brainstormed the best ideas and claimed them. Perhaps you’ll find a gem among the $10 leftovers, but it’s you against planet earth.
Shouldn’t the goal be to brand your project in a way that’s intuitive and appealing for as many people as possible? In that case, insisting on a domain nobody else ever wanted … might be a bad idea.
Why go to the back of the line? Your project deserves better. Somebody at the front of the line has the right domain name. Talk to them!
Yes, you can show up for a job interview in shorts and a T-shirt. While you congratulate yourself on the money saved by not buying a suit, the interviewer quietly crosses you off the list. When opportunities go to someone else, how much money are you losing?
What if your business is dressed wrong? Can you measure the long-term cost of lost contracts? No, you can’t. Those conversations with clients never happen. The clicks and leads you might have had … went to a competitor instead. You’ll never know it’s happening, let alone how much it costs. More business leads to more business. So missing a few deals could mean missing out on exponential growth.
Deserve the job? Then buy the suit! Yes, the dress code is arbitrary. .COM is arbitrary. Even so, dressing the part shows that you’re serious. It shows you’re attuned to your audience, aware of your environment, committed.
We judge others by their appearance before we study their credentials. And that’s equally true online.
As consumers, we know instinctively that simple, clear, definitive domain names belong to the leaders. These are the big players, the success stories, the brands that have lasted decades, or the startups determined to stick around. In contrast, long, awkward, ambiguous domains or names built on unfamiliar suffixes tend to belong to latecomers with small budgets – here today, gone tomorrow.
Don’t believe this? It’s true. Compare:
Where would you click first? In a page full of search results, people’s first choice tends to float to the top. Not only that. Google charges less for ads with a higher click-through rate. So a good domain could save money on pay-per-click campaigns.
Which of those domains would you remember 10 minutes after seeing it on a billboard or on TV? How about spoken over the phone or on the radio? What about a week later? If the domain is forgettable or ambiguous, then the advertiser is wasting money.
Which of those look like a scam, and which look legit? Which look like big enterprises, and which look small? How much credibility do you infer based on the domain name itself?
These biases are inevitable … and healthy. Weak websites and risky businesses tend to be found on cheap domains. Over time, we are trained to avoid them. Even if your project is amazing, it will be judged – before anybody clicks to get there – based on the domain name’s style.
Take a Shortcut
Build on a bad domain name, and consumers will be prejudiced against you. Guilt by association is unfair. But wait a second. Turn that upside down! If you play your cards right, then a premium domain name confers prestige by association. Suddenly your brand looks more established, more trustworthy, more attractive, more deserving. Instantly your address moves from the outskirts to the trendy downtown hub. In the blink of an eye, you’ve gone from wannabe to authority.
Cutting corners by not investing in your brand identity will hurt. This shortcut is the opposite.
Spend or Invest
OK. A quality domain name has advantages. But there are 10 good ways to spend every dollar. Why should it go toward a domain?
Answer: Because there’s a fundamental difference between expenses and investments. Investing in double-pane windows reduces your long-term heating and air conditioning bills. Likewise, investing in your domain name makes ALL your marketing efforts more efficient. Plus, you acquire an asset, which adds to the overall resale value of your business – in exactly the same way as new windows add to the value of a house.
Marketing takes energy. Maybe the input is money. Maybe it’s time and effort. Either way, you pour fuel into the tank to get somewhere – to get the word out, bring people in, build a brand, expand, land that big deal, become a household name.
It’s easy to focus on the input … because that’s what we control day to day. Spend more on advertising. Try a new flavor of fuel: billboards, TV ads, radio spots, SEO, pay-per-click online – anything and everything. Or, if funds are limited, just work longer hours. Write more emails. Shake more hands. Do more. Push harder to go farther.
Don’t kid yourself, though. Time is money. Work isn’t free. As for your ad budget – that’s burned up right away like gasoline. A few miles down the road, you’re empty again. Time to pay for another month of some ad promoting that not-so-memorable domain. Time to buy the next click.
Hold on! Fuel isn’t everything. Take a hard look at what you’re driving! How efficient is that brand you’re pushing along? Often, it’s worth investing in an upgrade to get better mileage, to avoid breakdowns and repairs, or offer your passengers (i.e. clients) a more comfortable journey.
That old clunker served you well. Sooner or later, though, it costs more NOT to upgrade. Today might be the day for that new-car smell.
Domain names often seem expensive. Most of us only consider such a purchase once or twice, if at all. Without much context, it’s hard to gauge what sort of budget is reasonable. Let’s put this in perspective.
These days, getting a new domain name is as easy as shopping for a new car. We even have convenient options for leasing or financing, in case you prefer to spread payments out over time. So the barrier to using a great domain is really quite low.
We allocate money for spaces where we spend time or keep what matters to us. Useful comparisons would include a new car, office space, or anything from a small storage unit to a piece of commercial real estate. Ask yourself how much time you’ll spend working on the domain. How many people will work on it? How large is the audience you’d like to pass through its doors? You have to think anyway, so why not think big?
Crunch The Numbers
If the domain will be used in ad campaigns, then measure against your advertising budget. How much do you plan to spend on advertising this year? Over the next 5 years? If this domain makes those ads even 20% more effective, then it provides a benefit worth 20% of that total budget. That benefit is on top of the domain’s market value. Remember, such intellectual property is an asset. Money spent on ads evaporates. The domain remains.
20% gain is not far-fetched. A more memorable domain means the web address and brand name are remembered accurately long after exposure to the ad. A simpler domain name is easier to talk about, which greases the wheels for customer referrals and social buzz. A more appealing domain name increases the likelihood of clicks and callbacks. Beyond getting more clients, you’ll be taken seriously by bigger clients.
What really matters is the project itself. Give that project the online backing it deserves.