It may not be an age-old question but the issue of which came first, the domain name or the brand is one to ponder for any would be start-up.
The temptation for any new business is to pick a snappy company name and then worry about everything else later on.
But even if you don’t plan on launching your company online straight away, you’ve got to do some forward planning.
With the number of active internet domains hitting 196 million in 2010, the chances are you’re not going to get your dream web address.
So when it comes time to launch online you may find your snappy company name becomes something like www.snappy-company-name-in-my-
There are a couple of ways you can avoid this – if you are yet to launch your business you can use the Google Adwords Keyword tool to help you pick a website name and use that as a company name.
The principle is pretty straightforward, although getting to a name you actually like make take a while.
All you have to do is think of a few terms people would search for when looking for a company like yours and put them into the tool.
You will then see your terms, a list of associated terms and an approximation of the number of people who search for each phrase in a month.
The aim here is to find a term which is short and has a high number of searches, that’s the easy bit.
Once you’ve selected some terms, pop over to a domain name registrar and see if any are available to buy.
This is a bit trickier – as already discussed many, many names will have been taken already.
You can improve your chances of snagging a good one by being a little bit flexible about which domain extension you go for – however, you’ll probably want to stick to one of the big ones – either .com, .net or the relevant country code top level domain (eg .co.uk).
Once you’ve snared your name, that’s it – you have a readymade brand that people are already searching for.
Of course, you can’t just sit back and do nothing – you’ll need to put in the legwork, design a logo, engage in search engine optimisation and get out there on social networks in order to build brand awareness, but you’ve got a head start.
So what if you’ve already got a domain name which isn’t based around a high-search volume term?
Well, the first thing to say is if you have gone for something along the lines of www.snappy-company-name-in-my-
You’re never going to build a brand from a domain name that’s not short and memorable – think of the brands you interact with on a daily basis.
How many of them have more than two words in their name? Very few, I’d wager.
Brevity is key here so if you want to build a brand out of a domain name, you may have to bite the bullet and start over again.
An alternative is to track down names that you want but are already taken and then contact the owners of the domains and see if they are willing to sell up – although this will cost more than registering a name from scratch.
If you do have a short domain name, even if it isn’t a high search volume term you can still build it into a brand.
Look at Twitter – not many people will have been searching for that term prior to the company’s launch but that wasn’t a barrier to its success.
However, it’s important that your domain name is associated with what you actually do in some way if it is to become a successful brand.
The association can be tight – for example soundcloud.com, which hosts sound in, er, the cloud. Or loose – for example Twitter, a name which plays on a number of associations with communication.
Then there’s the issue of consistency to think about – wherever someone visits you on the web, be it your domain, Twitter, or Facebook, they should be presented with the same visual experience.
Branding is about familiarity and by ensuring a uniform web presence you can boost your chances of becoming a well-known name online. You can do this by drawing up guidelines relating to things such as design, writing style and tone of voice.
Even if it’s just you working on your site, the guidelines will help you keep a consistent message across all channels.
But perhaps the most important thing in your branding efforts will be the quality of the product you provide.
Obviously the nature of online products will vary widely – it may be a physical item such as bespoke garments, it may be a service like search engine optimisation or it may be a simple as a blog – but if you do things well people will talk about it and that’s what you want.
People will evangelise great things and it’s that kind of positive chatter which will do most to boost your profile.
So if you want to turn your domain name into a brand you’ll need a short, memorable URL, a clear understanding of the importance of a consistent web presence and, above all, a product people want to talk about.
None of this is easy, but it has been proved time and time again that quality shines through and by getting the basics right you the task of turning a domain name into a brand is an achievable goal.