In the book Hello My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick, (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2014) author Alexandra Watkins shares her secrets for creating effective and lasting brand names. In the following edited excerpt, she explains why entrepreneurs should be less concerned about finding an exact match for their online domains.
The desperation to find an available domain name has gotten so extreme that a grammar checking and proofreading company is calling itself Grammarly. At least they got the dot com. Loverly and Respondly used .ly to nab their sil.ly domain names. In case you missed the memo, .ly is the country-specific domain extension for Libya. Serious.ly. I've been to Libya and even I didn't know that.
Using common sense rather than blindly following trends, especially those started by fashion-challenged engineers, is critical when it comes to domain names, also known as URLs. (To refresh your memory, URL is the acronym for Universal Resource Locator. This is another example of what happens when engineers are allowed to name things.)
Not Owning the Exact Domain Didn't Stop Facebook, Dropbox, and Square
Many successful online businesses, including Dropbox (getdropbox.com), Square (squareup.com), Basecamp (basecamphq.com), Box (box.net) and Slideshare (slideshare.net), started off with an "imperfect" domain name before hitting it big. They then spent undisclosed sums to purchase the exact match domain. Facebook, which started out as thefacebook.com, reportedly paid $200,000 in 2005 for facebook.com. Slideshare and Square continue to use their original domain name as their official URL. Ironically, Flickr, whom I curse for starting the "looks like a typo" trend, eventually broke down and purchased flicker.com.
Google Eliminates the Problem
Think about what you do when you accidentally type the wrong URL into your web browser. For instance, if want to go to the website for Delta Faucets, you type in "delta.com." But you accidentally end up at Delta Airlines. WHOA! What do you do? Book a plane ticket to Poughkeepsie? Have a meltdown because Delta Faucets doesn’t own delta.com? Refuse to do business with them because they greatly inconvenienced you? No. You simply go to Google, type in "Delta Faucets" and instantly find them. And you probably don’t even notice what their domain name is. You don't care. No one does.
Put Yourself Out of Your Misery
Most people believe that the first thing they must do when naming a business is to go to a domain registrar (e.g., GoDaddy) to make sure the domain name isn't taken. And if an exact match isn't available (and they don't have thousands of dollars to buy one that's "parked"), they think they have to dismiss the name entirely. Countless great names have been killed that way. Worse, countless bad names have been conceived for the same reason. I know that many terrible names are the result of the URL being available for $9.95. (Note: I use the amount of $9.95 throughout the book as an average price of any "available" domain.) Here are some likely suspects:
Squrl, Birst, Takkle, Ipiit, Piczo
Mogad, Loud3r, Kyte, Scanja, Gliffy
SmolkSignal, Innotas, Zippii, Inboxq, Shyp,
Fiverr, Kwiry, Oqo, iShryk, Qunify
Correction: An earlier version of this excerpt misstated the URL of Grammarly. It is Grammarly.com.