These days it’s hard to find an original brand name that matches an available .com domain name. As companies become cheaper to found and websites are easier than ever to build, traditional brick and mortar companies are duking it out with e-commerce sites to dominate domains that match their company names.
Securing a domain can cost thousands of dollars if squatters are unwilling to give up the name that companies want. When it comes to increasing traffic to your site and tying your brand identity to your web presence, does your domain name really matter?
If you ask Jeffrey Braverman of Newark Nuts, he’ll say no. Braverman joined his family’s business in 2003 to increase sales by building a web presence. The company’s website, NutsOnline.com, was created in 1999. The domain referenced America Online, which was a leading web destination. In 2006, a marketing snafu in which Rachel Ray mistakenly referenced “Nuts.com” in her television segment that featured the Newark Nuts company caused Braveman to rethink the branding implications of their domain name.
Braverman decided to purchase the domain Nuts.com to prevent future competitors from snatching it up. After setting up redirects, the company suffered a 70 percent decline in organic search traffic two weeks later. At three months later, the news was not much better – organic search traffic was still down by 50 percent.
Some seasoned technology entrepreneurs would say that’s just the cost of switching over your brand identity. According to Mahalo founder and CEO Jason Calacanis, one of the most important first steps for entrepreneurs to take in the early days of their companies is to secure the exact domain name of their brand, preferably a .com. He also advises entrepreneurs to make sure that their brand is easy to spell and easy to say for longterm brand recognition.
Evan Williams, Twitter co-founder, disagrees. He thinks that brands can use top-level domains beyond the standard .com without losing brand recognition and organic search traffic. According to Williams, a few contributing factors to the decline in domain name importance include the rise of mobile app usage, auto-complete address bars, and hidden address bars on mobile web browsers. In short, domain names don’t matter anymore because the way we are experiencing digital products is changing. We don’t need to know a domain name to get to our destination.
Many new companies are focused first on their product and second on their domain names because of the scarcity of good domains. For startups that are unable secure a .com domain of their exact brand, the latest trend is to secure a domain with “get” in front of the brand name. Clicky, a real-time web analytics tool uses the domain getclicky.com for example.
If your company is not relying on SEO as a main user acquisition strategy, domain names don’t matter. A good product does. Don’t make the same mistake that Braverman did with his domain name purchase. Instead, spend your money on expanding your features and delighting your customers.