A domain name plays a crucial role in establishing a strong online presence and building a personal brand. Your domain name is one of the first impressions that internet users will have of your brand. A well-chosen domain can convey credibility, professionalism, and your niche. However, a poorly chosen domain can give off the wrong signals and may even deter visitors.
When building a personal brand, your domain name should align with your goals, values, and the image you wish to put forth. It should be easy to remember, spell, and communicate what you do. The availability of the domain as a .com is also important for branding purposes.
In this approximately 10,000 word article, we will dive into the significance of domain names for personal branding and strategies for choosing an effective brand name.
Domain as Your Online Real Estate
A domain name functions as your address on the internet – the real estate of your online presence. Just as prime real estate in the offline world demands a higher price tag, premium domains on the internet also come at a cost.
However, the ROI from investing in a premium domain can be tremendous in terms of the authority, trust, and recognition it can lend to your personal brand. For instance, johnsmith.com creates instant familiarity and is easier to remember than a complex name with hyphens and numbers.
Your domain helps build legitimacy for you and your work. And an exact match domain (EMD), such as johnsmith.com, offers tremendous SEO value if you share a name with the domain.
So if your budget allows, try to acquire a domain that matches your name or brand. The more closely it resembles your name or brand, the easier it will be for people to discover you online.
Choosing a Domain Name
When brainstorming potential domain names, here are some key criteria to keep in mind:
Ideally the name should be short, simple, and easy to spell so that people can remember it easily. Avoid overly complex or confusing words. Using common words that relate to your niche can make it easier to recall the domain.
Shorter domains with fewer syllables tend to have higher memorability. Try to keep it under three words and 15 characters.
Incorporate keywords relevant to your niche in the domain name for SEO as well as to communicate your expertise.
Avoid generic names like johncoach.com and instead use more unique words or phrases to stand out. A distinctive domain aligns better with a strong personal brand.
The .com top-level domain is ideal for establishing credibility and brand strength. Other extensions like .blog or .coach can also work if .com is not available. Avoid obscure new domain extensions.
Brainstorm multiple options and check domain name availability to see which domains are available for purchase or registration. The domain should not only embody your brand but also be available to buy.
Choose a name that can grow with you over the long run even if you expand or pivot your offerings.
Select a domain that matches your personality and the image you wish to project to audiences. It should be aligned with your professional bio.
By checking these boxes, you can come up with domain name ideas that can become the cornerstone of your personal branding.
Exact Match Domains
Registering yourname.com as your domain is the ideal scenario for personal branding. Exact match domains create instant familiarity and enable people to easily find you online. They also provide greater visibility in search engines.
For instance, if you register johnsmith.com, people may intuitively type that URL to find you if they know your name. And search engines also understand that the domain name and content on the website belong to someone named “John Smith.”
Exact match domains are direct, authoritative, and more memorable than indirect or generic domains. Yourname.com domains confer more trust and credibility since visitors feel they are engaging with an actual person versus a faceless site.
The main drawback of yourname.com domains is availability. In many cases, another individual may have purchased that domain already. So you’ll have to get creative with variations like:
Try to get as close as possible to your full name. Hyphens, middle names or initials, abbreviations, and words related to your niche can help get a similar effect.
If you have a common name, get creative by combining it with your niche like michaeljohnsonspeaker.com or sarahjones.coach. The more closely your domain matches your name and niche, the better for personal branding purposes.
Keywords in the Domain
Incorporating niche-relevant keywords in the domain name provides SEO value and communicates your expertise to visitors. For instance:
- johnsmithbasketball.com for someone in basketball
- marycoaching.com for a coach named Mary
Keywords help visitors instantly understand what you do while also facilitating discovery in search engines. Brainstorm keywords that describe your specialty and try combining them with name variations.
However, avoid over-optimization with multiple crowded keywords like marybasketballcoachingtips.com. This affects memorability. Try to blend 1-2 keywords that directly relate to your niche.
Keywords are especially helpful if yourname.com is not available. They describe your profession while maintaining aspects of your identity.
Creative Domain Hacks
If your firstnamelastname.com is unavailable, getting creative with the domain structure can help secure similar branding benefits:
Add “The” Before Name
Registration for thejohnsmith.com may be possible even if johnsmith.com is taken. This conveys individuality and personality.
Use Middle Name or Initial
johnksmith.com or johnk.smith.com using a middle name or initial can give a similar feel to your first name and last name.
Add Niche Words
As discussed, combine niche keywords with your name like johnproductdesigner.com or johnsmithbasketball.com.
Your location in the domain like johnsmithboston.com or johnla.com can denote your geographic area.
Create a Nickname
Instead of daniellethomas.com try danithomas.com for a shorter, catchier version.
To get a short, unique spelling try jhnsmth.com or jhnsmt.com if john isn’t available.
officialjohnsmith.com or realjohnsmith communicates authenticity for a personal brand site.
Use .blog or .site
Yourname.blog or .site are options if the .com extension isn’t feasible.
Get creative with permutations, abbreviations, nicknames, and insertion of niche keywords or location until you find an available domain that embodies your personal brand.
Choosing the Right Extension
The “.com” extension remains the most authoritative choice for branding and is globally recognized. However, here are some scenarios where alternatives make sense:
Use .blog for a Blog
A .blog domain clearly communicates you are running a blog. For example, johnsmith.blog is perfect for a personal blog site.
Use .coach, .expert etc for Niche Sites
Relevant niche extensions like .coach, .guru, or .expert can work for personal branding around a specialty.
If .com is not available, newer extensions like .site, .online, or .tech may be worthwhile investments too.
A country extension like .ca or .co.uk can indicate your geographic base.
In most cases, try your best to secure the .com version for maximum branding impact. But niche extensions and newer alternatives open up possibilities if the .com is not feasible.
Avoid obscure domain extensions that are difficult to remember and communicate no added meaning. Odd endings undermine branding by being confusing and hard to recall.
Where to Buy a Domain
When purchasing your personal brand domain name, reputable registrars like GoDaddy or Google Domains are ideal. Here are some top places to buy domains:
The world’s largest domain registrar with affordable rates and integrated hosting options.
A reputable option owned by Google with low pricing and free privacy protection.
A budget friendly registrar that offers bulk domain search and discounted first-year pricing.
Easy domain management and transfers after purchase with a sleek intuitive interface.
Extensive domain name search and purchase tools with integrated website building.
Avoid obscure or unreliable domain sellers. Stick with reputable and affordable registrars that make the process smooth, protect your private data, and offer integrated hosting and email.
Important Factors When Buying
Here are some key considerations when purchasing your branding domain:
Domain prices vary based on registrar, extension, length, keywords etc. Typically $10-$15 per year is standard for a .com domain.
Opt for a registrar that includes professional email addresses with your domain purchase.
Your contact details should be masked from public view which is included for free on many registrars.
Ensure the seller is an ICANN accredited registrar so you legally own the domain. Avoid informal sellers.
Ease of Transfer
Pick a registrar that makes it easy to transfer the domain away if you want to switch in the future.
Be cautious of sneaky auto-renewal policies and instead manually renew domains every year.
Premium names on domain aftermarkets like Sedo can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.
By weighing these factors thoughtfully, you can secure the best domain registration experience and personal brand asset.
Should You Rebrand?
If your existing domain does not match your rebranded name or niche, it may be worth starting fresh. Here are signs it is time for a new domain:
A confusing or unrelated domain with a generic keyword affects branding. Eg: socialmediahub.com for John Smith.
URL Contains Past Company Name or Service
Your brand may have pivoted from what the old domain suggests.
Challenging to Remember or Spell
Complex names with odd spellings undermine branding and site growth.
URLs overly optimized for keywords ignore branding. Eg: socialmediaads123.com.
You’ve Rebranded or Changed Niches
Evolve your domain in alignment with your new brand positioning or niche.
Traffic and Brand Awareness Still Low
Minimal existing audience or traffic makes it easier to rebrand early on.
By acquiring a domain closely aligned with your rebranded personal name and niche before momentum builds, you can maximize the branding benefits. Promote the new URL everywhere to gain recognition.
Should You Keep Your Existing Domain?
If your site already has strong traffic and brand recognition however, it may make sense to retain your original domain. Some cases where keeping it may be better:
Domain Matches Name Strongly
Keep an EMD like johnkennedysmith.com which embodies your brand.
High Existing Traffic and Rankings
No need to start over if you have strong site traffic and search presence already.
Visitors are Used to Your URL
People already know your site name which retains familiarity.
Shared Links Point to Domain
Losing backlinks by rebranding can negatively impact traffic and search visibility.
Website Content Ties to Domain
Your existing content, messaging, and graphics align closely with the domain name.
Contractual Agreements Based on Domain
Legal issues may prevent you from easily changing the domain.
Evaluate the above factors before undertaking a branding and domain change which may restart momentum. In many cases, benefits outweigh drawbacks.
Redirect Previous Domain
If rebranding your domain, redirect your old domain to the new one so people can still find you. Here are two ways to redirect:
A permanent 301 redirect forwards all traffic from the old domain to the new one. This passes link juice for SEO.
Forward the old domain homepage specifically to your new site using a meta or HTML refresh. Limited link authority gets retained.
Ideally use a 301 redirect if changing domains to maximize search visibility. But a page redirect also works to direct visitors to the rebranded site.
You can set up domain forwarding and redirects easily using registrar tools or CMS plugins. Retaining brand familiarity helps ease the transition to a refreshed domain.
Promote Your Domain Actively
After purchasing a domain closely aligned with your personal brand, promote it actively across platforms. This builds recognition and repetition with the new URL.
Link in Email Signature
Add the domain to your professional email signature.
Update Social Media Profiles
Drive awareness on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc using branded custom URLs.
Show on Business Cards
Print the domain boldly on your cards.
Embed in Video Intros
Verbally say or visually embed the domain in videos.
Post on LinkedIn
Share your new branded website on your LinkedIn profile.
Add to Paid Ads
Include the domain visibly in paid campaigns and ads.
Update YouTube Channel URL
Customize the channel URL to match your domain.
By repeatedly reinforcing your new domain name across mediums, you can firmly establish it as your branded digital home. Consistency is key to familiarity.
A domain name is the digital real estate for your personal brand – make it memorable, descriptive, and aligned with your professional identity. Exact match domains embody branding perfectly but get creative combining your name with keywords or niches if needed.
Promote your domain actively after purchase and redirect previous domains if rebranding. Follow naming best practices to build an authoritative web presence that leaves a strong impression. Your domain helps convey authenticity and serves as the hub for growing your audience.