Building a Brand Out of a Domain Name
Branding is a crucial component of any business. A company that makes the best products at the lowest prices won’t stay in business for long if no one remembers the company’s name. At the same time, more and more consumers expect businesses to have an active online presence — not just with full-featured, interactive websites, but with engaging social media activity as well.
In this article, we’ll go over how to build your brand using one of the most basic parts of online identity: the domain name.
To build your domain brand, follow these three steps:
- Check the domain name registry for available names.
- Register your domain name(s).
- Link your brand domain with your online presence.
1. Check the Domain Name Registry
Picking out a brand domain is a lot like registering a trademark. Before you can claim the registration, you need to first check that no one else is using the domain. In fact, if you’re just starting your company, it’s a good idea to hold off on finalizing a brand name and trademark until you’re sure that the name is available to register as a domain.
If your brand isn’t available as a domain name, there are a few alternative paths you can take:
- Get in touch with the current domain owner. There is a publicly available database, WHOIS, that lists the names and registrants for all of the domains on the internet. Sometimes, the owner is willing to give up or sell your domain, but be sure to work with a qualified attorney and broker.
- Create a tagline or slogan that you can associate with your brand and use as a domain name.
- Consider using another top-level domain (TLD). While .com domains are the most popular and easy to remember, other common TLDs for brands include .net and .io.
2. Register Your Domain Name(s)
Once you’ve identified a brand name that both fits your company and is available for use, it’s time to register your domain name.
If your brand name is unusual or hard to spell, consider registering common misspellings as well. Web hosting services typically allow you to point these “off-brand” domains to your main website. For example, entering a mistyped domain names “gooogle.com” or “googel.com” will eventually lead you to the correct website and domain for Google.com.
While your brand name's spelling may seem obvious to you, keep in mind that typos happen all the time, especially when people are using their tablets or smartphones. If possible, avoid hyphens and hard-to-spell words.
If your brand includes a catchy slogan, you can also register your slogan as a domain that points to your main website. That way, people who remember your slogan but forget your brand name can still navigate to your website. A famous example of this is the domain JustDoIt.com, which redirects users to the domain Nike.com. In this case, Nike is taking advantage of people remembering a powerful slogan as part of its brand.
Keep in mind that registering a domain name doesn’t give you ownership of the domain in the traditional sense — you won’t get a title or certificate. Instead, the domain name registrar will simply record it as registered so that no one else can take it. They’ll also record who submitted the registration. When you register your brand domain, be sure to do it in the name of the company rather than an individual. Otherwise, if the individual leaves the company, they’ll take with them the rights to your brand domain.
3. Link Your Brand Domain with Your Online Presence
Now that you’ve registered your brand’s domain name, it’s time to do the real work: link your domain to your online presence. In particular, you should use your brand domain for your website, your email, and your social media accounts.
Keep in mind that your website and your brand domain are completely separate. Once you register your domain, you’ll also need to make sure that you have a web hosting company to manage and store your website content. Then, you can link (or “point”) your domain to your brand domain so that anyone typing in your domain is led directly to your website. Your web hosting company and domain registrar will have instructions on how to do this.
Another important part of your brand is email, especially if you expect to communicate with people about products, bookings, and receipts. While you can certainly use your brand name to open a free email account, why not take advantage of your brand name? Email hosting services are cheaper than you think, and your brand will look much more powerful and established with a custom email address.
Finally, use your brand domain as your social media handles whenever you can. The fewer names you have, the easier it’ll be for people to remember and follow your brand. Sites such as checkusernames.com can quickly tell you whether a certain username is available on dozens of social media networks.
If your domain brand isn’t available on your preferred social media channels, think of a variation of your brand name that describes or emphasizes your brand. For example, if your business sells cars, you could try using “[Brand name]Cars” or “[Brand Name]Autos” if your brand name is already taken on social media.
Whatever handle you choose for social media, be sure to use the same name across all your social media accounts. This makes it much easier for people to find you.
Every Business Should Use Branded Domains
Domain branding might seem like something that only rich and established companies can afford. Nothing can be further from the truth. Anyone can register a domain name for just a few dollars a year, email hosting services don’t cost much more, and branded social media accounts are free. By putting in a few dollars into domain branding for your business, you’ll reap the rewards on your investment in more brand awareness, loyalty, and trust among your customers.