Domain Do’s and Don’ts For Your Business.
I remember the first domain I bought. It took so many searches to get a domain close to what I wanted. Has this ever happened to you? Or have you had to settle on something sub-standard just to sound or look close to what you wanted? An entire brand or company can be hinged on a domain, even if it’s sub-par. After a few years of brokering domains, here is a list of things I’ve experienced, some first-hand but mostly from seeing others’ pains and trials.
DO – Register Your Ideas In Domain Form
The moment you have a good idea and think it is something you could materialize, register it as a domain. Don’t wait until you are ready to launch it or even in development stages, register it asap. And what I mean is if you can go to a registrar like GoDaddy and pay $12, do it. I don’t mean the instances where you pay aftermarket prices or anything above the standard registration fee, that’s an acquisition not a registration. If the domain you want is already registered, and you don’t have the funds or certainty of executing your idea at the time, then save the acquisition for later.
DO – Focus On Branding
In the old days it was the Yellow Pages and if you wanted your business to be the first on the list you would name your business AAA Auto Sales, AAA Insurance etc. Then the internet came and if you wanted to be the top dog in your field you would get a generic domain to dominate your vertical, like AutoSales.com or Insurance.com. We live in a new era of online and those generic domains do not make or break you. Instead of the aforementioned you have Carvana and Esurance. I know you might not be on the same playing field as those companies – yet, and you might be just starting out, but don’t freak out over owning a generic domain for your company. Focus on building your brand, that is what is important to Google search ranking anyway. There is still a lot of value in generic domains though, use them as a way too supplement your brand by using them for marketing purposes. Imagine a customer searching for a service or product on Google, or they see an ad on social media, with your domain matching what they have been searching, that’s powerful and it shows your authority.
DO – Keep It Short
If you are stuck between getting your business name in a .com or a gTLD because you’re worried about having a long domain or a TLD that no one knows, you’re not alone. You’ve heard “.com is king” or “because everyone uses .com”, or some other reason that makes you hesitate about using a gTLD. It’s a similar outlook as mentioned before about generic domains (except .com is still top dog), don’t rely only on your extension (TLD) to establish your brand. Your brand is built by your work, not by your TLD. Your TLD is part of your brand, not the definition of it, so strategize ways to incorporate a gTLD into your brand if you cannot get a short enough .com, then run hard with it.
DO – Fly Under The Radar
The biggest mistake I’ve experienced is when a startup has a new round of funding, publishes it (with the amount), and then tries to acquire a domain. If you have big news, new funding, growth or merger announcements, do not announce these things if you have plans to secure a major domain for your brand. You are just announcing that you have more money and that you are locked into your brand. In a seller’s mind, you have no choice but to cough up if you want that domain.
DO – Get Social Handles
You might think that this is a backseat issue, but secure your social handles immediately. It costs nothing for someone to register an handle to squat on. I don’t mean go crazy with registering a bunch of social handles, that’s also squatting. But if it deals directly with your brand, or product, register your handle on every social platform, even if you don’t plan to use it. Don’t allow the opportunity for someone to misguide your audience by having a part of your name.
And here are some things you don’t want to do…
DON’T – Manually Renew
Having control is nice, but you are busy. If you don’ t receive alerts from your registrar or you don’t have a dedicated staff (even if you do), domains can slip through the cracks. Always use Auto-Renew features. I’ve witnessed an instance where a company let one of their domains drop and then a squatter picked it up, even though it was trademarked. They couldn’t get it back unless they paid for it, the seller resided somewhere out of the country so legal action was near impossible. It was a mess… Don’t take the risk, always Auto-Renew.
DON’T – Pay A Percentage
When you decide to get some expert help with acquiring a domain you will, of course, take on extra costs. Domain brokers typically use percentage fees, usually due at close of a deal. Since they charge a percentage, a higher closing cost benefits them more than it does you. This can make you think twice about using a domain broker or where their loyalty truly resides. Some brokers use a sliding fee, which means they charge a percentage fee that decreases as the domain cost increases, but again it’s a percentage. This percentage model is one of the greatest obstacles I had when I was an employee broker. It was hard for me to accept getting paid more for my client’s disadvantage of paying more for a domain. Now that I work independently I charge a percentage and cap it, this keep acquisitions sustainable for my clients so if they have other needs they can come to me, and they feel confident I am on their side.
DON’T – Rely On Trademarks
Like the instance mentioned above, just because someone already owns the domain you want does not mean you’ll succeed if you pursue legal action. But another mistake I’ve seen is a company that registers a sub-par version of a domain they want, then they try to file a UDRP to legally acquire the domain. This failed because the domain owner already owned the domain before the company existed, before trademarks were filed, and the activity on the domain had nothing to do with what this company was doing. Taking legal action doesn’t always work, and if you can’t believe that then visit nissan.com. In most cases a domain owner does not have a domain for ill intention; domains are valuable and great investments, when treated responsibly and some in cases ethically.
DON’T – Show Your Need
If the domain you want is owned by somebody else, do not use your need for the domain as a negotiating tool. What I mean is an example like this, you email the owner of the domain explaining what your company does and what your plans are for the domain they have. You are just affirming that they are in the right position to make a sale. Now who really has the control, the supply or demand side? Always keep options open, but don’t make your need for a domain obvious.
DON’T – Lie
This seems so simple but it is so important. There was one instance I was representing a buyer that was looking to acquire quite an important domain for their company. They were not transparent enough with me and kept having me tell the seller that their next offer was their best offer, after two “best” offers they gave a “final offer”, which didn’t actually end up being the final offer, needless to say they ended up paying too much for the domain, it made me feel bad for them but the reality was they didn’t tell me or the seller the truth. Worst of all it ruined the company’s credibility – and to be honest I wouldn’t help them any more because it also compromised my credibility.
Domain Buying can be tough, confusing, and (for some reason) mysterious. Like many things, with the right knowledge and learning from others’ mistakes you can avoid the pitfalls and focus on building your dream. Thanks for checking out Domain Do’s and Don’ts For Your Business and Product, stay tuned for more Tips & Advice!