Domain names and branding go hand in hand when establishing an online presence and identity. The domain name is often the first interaction a potential customer has with a business, so choosing one that aligns with and strengthens the brand is essential. In this article, we will examine domain name and branding strategies employed by highly successful companies and identify key lessons that can be applied to any business.
Short, Memorable Domains
Many of the most successful companies on the web have short, catchy domain names that are easy to remember. A few examples:
- Google.com – The name Google derives from the mathematical term “googol” to signify the vast amount of information the search engine provides. The name is fun, distinct, and easy to spell.
- Facebook.com – A straightforward name describing the core utility of the social network. The “.com” top-level domain connotes a commercial, corporate site.
- Twitter.com – An onomatopoeic word evoking the short, fleeting nature of messages on the platform. The name is unique and approachable.
- Amazon.com – Named after the exotic and earth’s largest river, symbolizing the breadth of inventory available. The name is simple yet distinctive.
The lesson here is to find a domain name that is short, punchy, and effortlessly memorable. Stay away from complex strings of words or obscure references. Be creative and find a name that taps into the spirit of your brand.
Use Keywords in the Domain
Wielding strong keywords in your domain name can give your site a boost in search engine rankings, since search engines factor the domain into relevancy. Let’s look at a few examples:
- Zappos.com – Includes the abbreviated term “zapatos,” which means shoes in Spanish, since the site sells shoes.
- Monster.com – The domain has the keyword “monster” for the employment site, Monster.com.
- Coupons.com – Self-explanatory domain with “coupons” keyword for a coupon site.
- Cars.com – The domain name says it all – it’s a site to shop for cars.
The takeaway here is to work your core brand keywords into the domain name organically. Don’t overstuff the domain, but look for creative ways to incorporate keywords people are likely to search for.
Leverage Company or Brand Names
Many brands use their company or product names directly in the domain to establish immediate name recognition. For example:
- Apple.com – Simple, straightforward use of the company name.
- Nike.com – Company name in the domain.
- Lego.com – Brand name incorporated seamlessly.
- Pepsi.com – Pepsi’s famous name drives instant brand recognition.
Using your established company or product name in the domain leverages existing brand awareness. It provides continuity from the offline to online world. Just be sure it’s short and easy to spell to make it easily accessible.
Extensions Beyond .com
The .com extension is the most established, but many successful sites use other extensions to find available domain names or signify something about the brand. For example:
- Delicious.com – Food site that incorporated .com for broader appeal.
- Tumblr.com – .com extension suits Tumblr’s early growth into a major social network.
- Flickr.com – Photo sharing service that uses a .com to connote a commercial site.
- Etsy.com – Arts & crafts marketplace established itself online with a .com.
However, some brands opt for other extensions to stand out:
- Deloitte.com / Deloitte.co.uk – Professional services firm uses .com globally but .co.uk in the UK.
- YouTube.com / YouTube.co.uk – .co.uk signifies YouTube’s UK site.
- Patagonia.com / Patagonia.cl – Retailer tailored domains to .cl in Chile and .com elsewhere.
The takeaway is don’t feel locked into .com if another domain extension makes sense regionally or linguistically. But .com remains the universal, recognizable default.
Be Consistent Across Domains
As startups grow internationally, they often use different regional domains like .co.uk, .de, .fr. However, the ideal strategy is to keep the domain name consistent everywhere. For example:
- Facebook.com / Facebook.de / Facebook.co.uk – Keeps Facebook name consistent.
- LinkedIn.com /LinkedIn.cn / LinkedIn.fr – Same LinkedIn name across regions.
- Netflix.com / Netflix.ca / Netflix.com.br – Netflix name stays the same globally.
This consistency helps retain and reinforce brand recognition as customers access your site worldwide. The domain is part of your brand identity.
Redirect Alternative Domains to Yours
As a defensive strategy, it can be smart to purchase alternative versions of your domain to prevent competitors from using them. If you own the .net or .org versions of your .com domain, you can redirect them to your site. For example:
- Nissan.net redirects to Nissan.com – Nissan controls and redirects closely named domains.
- Pinterest.net redirects to Pinterest.com – Pinterest redirects variations of its name.
Controlling your .com and any variant .net, .org versions prevents confusion or dilution of your domain authority. Redirect them to consolidate domain strength.
Localize Domains for Global Markets
For companies expanding into multiple international markets, creating localized country-specific domains can improve engagement. This helps establish your brand locally. For example:
- Amazon.com vs Amazon.in for India – Localized site mirrors native languages and culture.
- Spotify.com vs Spotify.fr for France – Local domain feels more native.
- Uber.com vs Uber.com.mx for Mexico – Localized name fits market better.
This strategy also applies to using country-code top level domains (ccTLDs):
- .jp domain for Japan
- .mx domain for Mexico
- .br domain for Brazil
Adapting your domain for local markets says you understand cultural nuances. Just be sure branding remains consistent.
Use Domains to Segment Brands or Products
Companies with multiple brands or products sometimes break them out across different domains:
- Alphabet.com – Parent company
- Google.com – Flagship brand
- YouTube.com – Leading video product owned by Google
- Unilever.com – Parent company
- Dove.com – Key brand marketed separately
This can help structure domains around units within a parent company while giving each their own identity. But recognize it fragments branding and requires extra marketing investment for individual brands.
Reflect Purpose in Domain Names
Some successful companies incorporate their functional purpose right into the domain name. For example:
- PayPal.com – Simple name reflecting digital payment purpose.
- OpenTable.com – Name captures dining reservation functionality.
- Mint.com – Financial tool for tracking money and “minting” savings.
- Investopedia.com – Learn about investing, conveyed in the name.
This naming strategy works best when the offering is straightforward or focused on doing one thing very well. It immediately tells people your value proposition.
Use Domain Hacks Creatively
Some brands get creative with domain name hacks using non-standard extensions or words spelled in unique ways. For example:
- del.icio.us – Delicious bookmarking site name hacked to be memorable.
- Smartr.com – Domain hack to spell “smarter” without the e.
- WhatsApp.com – Interesting spelling sticks in your head.
- iHeart.com – Symbolizes love for music and radio.
Keep in mind hacks can also introduce complexity or issues with spelling. But used thoughtfully, they can make your domain more distinctive.
Your domain name and brand go hand in hand in crafting an effective online identity. Tactics used by successful companies include keeping domains short and memorable, using keywords, leveraging existing brand equity, adapting to local markets, reflecting purpose in the name, and getting creative with unique domain hacks. But above all, consistency in your branding and domain strategy remains key as you grow and expand your online footprint. The domain provides the digital front door to your brand’s home – make sure it makes the right first impression.