Following on the heels of Andrew Torba’s recent article discussing 5 Qualifies of a Great Entrepreneur, I thought I’d give an overview of five qualities of a great domain name.
When reading through the list, keep in mind that these are not hard-and-fast rules. These qualities are based on general principles, and in appropriate circumstances should be balanced with competing business concerns as well.
In this context we’re talking about domain names that are synonymous with the business itself or the products or services that it sells — where the domain name is identical to the company’s trademark. As commerce transitions to the online environment, it is becoming more and more critical to have a domain name that corresponds with the brand, and I know many entrepreneurs who base their trademark selection on, at least in part, the availability of the identical .com domain name.
One other popular factor for choosing a trademark or domain name is the ability for the intended audience to immediately connect the brand with the type of product or service the company sells. Practically this makes sense, but it is important to keep in mind that terms that are generic or merely descriptive generally can’t be protected as trademarks — at least not right away. If you’re putting this much effort into choosing the perfect name, you should want to make sure that it will actually serve to identify you in the marketplace, and not just push you deep into the crowd.
This one is debatable, and less of a legal concern than a practical one (though there are certain legal implications as well). Given the volume of startups trying to penetrate the market and the value of being able to drive traffic to your website, it often makes sense to choose a trademark and domain name that are spelled exactly how they sound.
This quality is somewhat of a combination of the first two, and it helps drive the point home. The point of choosing a trademark-based domain name is, again, to drive traffic to your website. As a result, the strongest domain names are often those that instantly convey both a sense of familiarity and a sense of uniqueness at the same time. In this sense, I think Pinterest.com is a great domain name. It suggests what the site is all about without being generic, and also serves to distinguish the service from other sharing sites out there on the web.
There is an important distinction to be made between uniqueness and originality. You can have as unique a domain name as you can think of, but if you’re not the first person to get there it’s not going to do you any good. This is where the issue of trademark infringement comes into play. Choosing a trademark or domain name that is too “confusingly similar” to a pre-existing trademark — regardless of whether that trademark is registered or not — can ground an otherwise successful launch just about at the end of the runway.
Performing thorough trademark clearance research is the only way to know whether or not (to a reasonable degree of certainty) your proposed domain name is going to infringe on someone else’s pre-existing trademark rights.
Part of building a successful trademark and domain name strategy involves developing a “family” of trademarks and domain names that work together. Think about Apple, Inc.’s “i” family of products, and how different things would be if the Apple devices didn’t all have such similar and unifying names. Now, I’m not suggesting that this specific strategy is advisable for everyone; rather, just that it generally makes sense to take a forward-thinking approach to domain name and trademark acquisition. Branding (and that’s really what we’re talking about here) is all about recognition and reputation, and wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to start building these from scratch each time you rolled out a new venture? In choosing a domain name for the present, take some time to think about your future plans as well.
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