Choosing a strategic domain name is not just a task for those starting up their own businesses. For many, the decision to launch your own website comes many years after you’ve already built a profitable venture. The reasons for this are typically:
You’ve been successfully selling on marketplaces like Amazon, eBay or Etsy –– and now want to extend your business footprint outside of that marketplace.
You’ve been a successful brick-and-mortar or B2B company for years –– sometimes for decades –– and now, the affordable price and ease-of-use of opening an online storefront have convinced you to pull the trigger.
You’ve received venture or crowd-sourced funding for your startup idea, new product line, etc. Now, you need to open an online shop and begin pushing traffic to your own domain, not that of a site like Kickstarter, for example.
In all of these use cases, which we see with our customers here at Bigcommerce all the time, you likely already have a brand name –– and are considering going with that name for your domain. This makes sense, for the most part, but there are a few caveats to this strategy. For example, if you are a brick-and-mortar owner and are now looking to open your online shop, have you fully thought through your online selling strategy? This is crucial, because online traffic, unlike offline foot traffic, is most often funneled through a search engine. This means you need to rank well in order to drive the highest volume of traffic. If the online selling goal for your business is to drive high traffic, as opposed to niche sales, then you might need to alter your brand name to something more SEO-friendly.
This strategy was a driving force behind how one Bigcommerce employee helped his dad launch an online storefront for his brick-and-mortar business and grow it 2400%. His dad’s brick-and-mortar paint supply business was doing well on its own and had brand recognition locally. For his online selling strategy, however, the duo chose to target the U.S. as a whole and to cast a wide net, pulling in as many people as possible looking to purchase paint supplies. In doing this, they chose to name the online version of the store US Paint Supply, rather than their family name. This option ranks much higher in search engines, given it has a larger number of search queries and provides relevant information in regards to those searches.
All of this is to say one thing: choosing a domain name is long-term strategic investment. You don’t want to mess it up. Here are our top tips for already-successful businesses looking to launch an online store, and choose a domain name with ample SEO power to drive relevant traffic and conversions.
Whichever domain name you chose, it needs to work well with your logo and overall site aesthetic. For the most part, this means that you should pick a domain name that is the same as your brand name. After all, you wouldn’t want someone to type in www.SweetSweats.com and be pushed to a site selling nail polish with a big logo reading, “Perfectly Polished.” That example may be extreme, but it happens, and when it does, it causes the customers to lose trust in your brand. And, if a customer doesn’t trust the validity of your brand, they will not purchase. Point blank.
Here’s a good real world example told to me by Liam Garcia, an account manager for our mid-market brands over here at Bigcommerce: “Did you know “Fallas” is an outlet thrift store in the U.S. that translates to “Failures” in Spanish? The percent of Spanish speaking people who go the store is low because of the name alone. They’ve already lost a big part of their potential international audience!”
So, while choosing a domain name that matches your brand is recommended, keep reading to avoid any potential SEO or naming convention disasters.
Think about how you will want to market your website in the future. Choosing a domain name on which you build a business is a long-term investment. Think about how you might use this domain name months or even years from now. In looking at many of the big name brands, you’ll find that the shorter your name, the better. The shorter your name, the more memorable. The shorter your name, the less it costs to print it on material. There are a lot of benefits to a short name, some difficult to even predict.
How do you whittle down the character count, then, especially if your brand name is something like “The Best Bunches of Botanicals?” You remove all unnecessary verbiage. For the most part, this includes words like “the” and “my.” Ideally, you’d produce a site domain like this: www.bunchesofbotanicals.com. You domain name can be up to 67 characters. Try to keep it below 20.
Note: Many stores also buy common extensions of their domain to protect the brand, including the .net, .biz and .co versions of their .com domain. Also, think through potential misspellings and buy those domains, too. You can then redirect those links to your homepage. This is especially recommended if you brand has an uncommon spelling.
Use correct spelling, avoid hyphens and try not to use numbers in your domain name. Weird spellings can throw people off. Unless you’ve built strong brand awareness and name loyalty (i.e. Nike, Adidas, Osh Kosh B’Gosh), stick with words people know. You can play a bit on the psychology of language here, too. There are sounds in every language that spark our brains to associate either positive or negative emotions. These are called word connotations and they can be positive, negative or neutral.
Now, just because a word has a positive definition doesn’t mean it have a positive connotation. Just think about all the hubbub surrounding the word “moist” for example. Let’s try a quick game so you can see just how much connotations play into our daily conversations.
Read the sentences below. Can you identify the words that have a negative connotation?
Bedford is an uppity neighborhood, but the rents are cheap.
On my flight to Los Angeles, I sat next to this babe. She was absolutely stunning.
Every morning my neighbor takes his mutt to the park. It always barks loudly when leaving the building.
You need to be pushy when you are looking for a job.
Bob is quite vocal at every staff meeting. He always speaks his mind.
Answer Key: 1. Uppity; 2. Babe; 3. Mutt; 4. Pushy; 5. Vocal
When choosing a domain name, this is your opportunity to be mindful of how people will both consciously and unconsciously associate your brand. This doesn’t mean that you have to choose words with positive connotations. Check out all the goodness Nasty Gal is doing. Both of those words have arguably negative connotations, but the brand plays on these unconscious associations to bolster loyalty in women in their late teens and 20s.
SEO is critical for an online store. It is how you will drive organic (i.e. free) traffic. To maximize your SEO with your domain, stay relevant, use keywords and make sure you use subfolders rather than sub-domains, and also make sure you build a strategy when naming your blog.
Relevancy: How relevant your site is to a particular search query will help determine how high on the search engine page your brand shows up. Relevancy is not just determined by your domain, but having a relevant domain name absolutely helps. Your relevancy will be related to your overall product offering. Why? Because every single one of your product pages will need metadata (including photo metadata) and a product description. So, if you are a brand selling camera equipment, you’ll naturally have the word camera popping up all over your site as you optimize for the metadata and product descriptions. It would help, too, if your domain name had the word camera in it –– to help drive home the relevancy of your overall page. For less niche sites, like fashion businesses for instance, you won’t want to get too in the weeds here. You don’t want to have a domain name like www.dressesshoesjeans.com. Those might be what you sell, but that is too keyword heavy (we’ll get to this in a second). Instead, choose a more holistic brand name –– something you can market –– and then use additional content like blog material or customer reviews to increase your SEO through keywords.
Keywords: What are you selling? These items will likely be your keywords for your site overall. And yes, ideally, you have a keyword in your domain name. Of course, if you are selling a wide variety of items, then you can build your brand with inbound marketing by targeting various keywords. If you are more niche, then you absolutely want your keyword in your domain name. Selling computer key replacements? Use that in the domain name. Selling pillows or pillow inserts? See if you can get that into the domain name. It won’t always be possible, but try your best here and balance it out with keeping that domain name as short as possible.
Subfolder, not sub-domain: You see sub-domains all the time. They often look like this:
Subfolders are similar, and look like this:
While these look similar, Google reads them very differently. Sub-domains are read as though they are their own websites. Subfolders are read as part of the original domain. This latter option increases your SEO by proving to Google that you are building a library of expertise of particular keywords and topics. When possible, choose a subfolder rather than a subdomain
This is the third time this sentence will show up in this article, but it is incredibly important: choosing your domain name is a long-term investment. Be sure to purchase your main domain for at least five years if possible. This is the ranking factor that helps search engines and see you as a more reputable and trustworthy business.
Finally, don’t rush into this. Do some keyword research. Talk about the name with friends and family. Write down a few different options and talk to some customers about what they like. In the end, search engine algorithms are consistently altered to better match the expectations of the humans using the engines. So, use humans to help vet your idea. Keep the domain short. Be sure it matches your brand. Include keywords if applicable to your business. And then, launch your online storefront and start making money while you sleep.
Get more info here on how to setup your domain name on Bigcommerce.
Tracey is the Director of Marketing at MarketerHire, the marketplace for fast-growth B2B and DTC brands looking for high-quality, pre-vetted freelance marketing talent. She is also the founder of Doris Sleep and was previously the Head of Marketing at Eterneva, both fast-growth DTC brands marketplaces like MarketerHire aim to help. Before that, she was the Global Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce, where she launched the company’s first online conference (pre-pandemic, nonetheless!), wrote books on How to Sell on Amazon, and worked closely with both ecommerce entrepreneurs and executives at Fortune 1,000 companies to help them scale strategically and profitably. She is a fifth generation Texan, the granddaughter of a depression-era baby turned WWII fighter jet pilot turned self-made millionaire, and wifed up to the truest of heroes, a pediatric trauma nurse, who keeps any of Tracey’s own complaints about business, marketing, or just a seemingly lousy day in perspective.