What Does Your Domain Name Say About You and Your Company?
Whether you like it or not, your domain name says a great deal about you and your business. It’s an immediate indicator of if you’re trustworthy, a “small player” in business, or a scammer.
All businesses need to do marketing to reach potential customers.
And whether you’re sending emails, buying print ads or doing online advertising, one thing is for sure: your domain name will be front and center in your customer’s process of learning about you.
Let’s say you’re sending an email. The first thing the recipient is going to do – assuming the subject line convinces them to open it – is look at your name and email address.
If you’ve invested in your future by buying a great domain name – like the upstart Brew.com team (the one podcast player to own) – then you come across as an established company. But even more importantly, you come across as trustworthy.
It’s not fast, easy or inexpensive to acquire a short, positive, easy-to-spell domain name like Brew.com. Everyone knows that. They might not know how much a domain name like Brew.com is worth, but they know it’s valuable. And so the odds of some person or company using it for spam are low, and the odds that it’s a reputable company are high.
Maybe you can’t afford a great domain name like Brew.com. Let’s look at second-tier domain names as a point of comparison.
Second-tier domain names can include a prefix before the keyword “Brew,” like MyBrew.com, GetBrew.com and JoinBrew.com. Or they can include an alternate top-level domain, like Brew.co, Brew.net or Brew.io.
All of these are fine brands, but they’re not optimal for two reasons:
- If you brand your company as “Brew” but your domain name is MyBrew.com or Brew.co, then you’ll always be bleeding goodwill to Brew.com. For every dollar you spend in advertising MyBrew.com, a few pennies will be spent on confused potential customers who only hear “Brew.com” and visit that website.
- For every person that you ask to email you at “email@example.com,” about 20% will accidentally (and by habit) type “firstname.lastname@example.org” into their email client’s To: field.
It’s important to be aware of these drawbacks so you can counter them with consistent branding and strong marketing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s fine to be a small player or an upstart. Heck, every company starts from nothing and touts advantages that the big guys can’t match, like providing fast, personal service or a better product.
But those advantages don’t stop your customers from thinking that you’re a small player.
Here’s an excerpt from Noah Kagan’s podcast in which he mentions a jerky company he loves and wants to give a promotional plug to. Pay attention to his vocal-stream-of-consciousness. He says out loud what many only think.
(Listen to the entire Noah Kagan show; consider subscribing…it’s one of my recommended shows)
Yes, they couldn’t afford the full .com. Meaning, if they had an opportunity to do so, they would have registered and used MissionMeats.com instead of MissionMeats.co. At least that’s what Noah’s thinking.
Finally, let’s look at the situation in which you get unsolicited emails from a business. Here’s one that showed up in my spam folder.
If you’re using a free Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail email address, you’re telling potential customers one of three things:
- You can’t figure out how to set up email for your company on your own domain name (i.e., you’re technically ignorant),
- You don’t care if your branding is inconsistent (i.e., you’re marketing ignorant), or
- You’re a spammer and it takes too much money and time to use an email address associated with a $10 domain name registration (i.e., you’re business ignorant).
Spammers are known for “turn and burn” marketing tactics, meaning they sign up for a new account and use it until it’s marked by mail service providers as spam – then they drop it and sign up for a new email address. And they can’t do that for websites and domain names because they cost too much to set up.
But if you’re emailing me claiming that you can rank my website at the top of Google, then I’m going to expect to see results of your own domain name at the top of Google for search phrases like “rank website” and “search engine optimization.” If you can’t do it for yourself, how are you going to do it for me?
What’s the takeaway from all of this? Clearly, the perfect .com domain name is the best bet for establishing immediate trust with your potential customers, but you can still be viewed as trustworthy by selecting a solid second-tier domain name.
In that case, be sure to use an email address on your own domain and focus twice as hard on having a consistent branding message. For instance, don’t use MyBrew@gmail.com; use email@example.com. It shows you’re technologically savvy and using consistent branding across all your communication channels. Plus, it’s personal – you’re a real person working at this company, not a generic, free email account.
Using a free email address such as hotmail.com or gmail.com is rarely a good choice. It sends a strong signal to potential customers that, at best, you’re a mom-and-pop operation or, at worst, you’re a spammer.