It's quite common for entrepreneurs to misunderstand the distinction between business name and branded online presence. After all, we're used to seeing brands on the internet all the time. For example, doesn't Intel own Intel.com? The company name, the domain name, and the brand are tightly linked together.
The domain Intel.com works because it is a gigantic business that everyone has heard of. Therefore, Intel can expect to receive traffic at their website. Customers will actually type "Intel" into a Google search, or even just go directly to Intel.com. But if you had never heard of the company Intel, then you're unlikely to search for the word "intel" on Google, even though you might search for "laptop" or "PC".
But what if your company is not Intel? What if you're an entrepreneur starting a small online furniture importing business? Then you really have two distinct problems:
- Problem: You legally need a business name.
- Problem: You want people to find your products and services and buy them.
First, choosing a good business name is vital. It will go on your business card, perhaps on the outside of your office, on your invoices, etc. A cool name is good.
But the fact is, for most small businesses as long as you don't duplicate a famous name and you choose a name that is unique for your region, you'll be just fine. Plus, since many new businesses evolve quickly, it is a good strategy to leave your options open and not be too specific: "Jacks Online Sales, LLC" is just as good a name as any. If JacksOnlineSales.com is an available domain, then just grab that name! Go get your local business license, and file the necessary paperwork. You have a business. Go make a website! Whee!
Is anyone going to find or visit the Jacks Online Sales home page? No. Where are they going to look for the site? Google owns a huge percentage of the web search market -- Google is where customers will find you. But how? Will they search for "Jacks Online Sales"? Nope. Not right away.
Initially, potential customers will search for whatever product or service Jacks Online Sales actually sells -- not the name of the business.
Let's say, for example, that Jack sells imported Teak furniture from Thailand. Right now on Google, someone, somewhere is searching for keywords such "teak furniture", and "imported asian furniture", and "teak chairs". How can you get those keyword-searches to go to JacksOnlineSales.com? That's called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO is much too broad of a topic to cover in this one blog post. But basically it starts with optimizing your website so that search engines find the site and figure out what it contains. If search engines can find the content on your site, then your customers may find you. Why did I write "may"? Because all your competitors are in the hunt for those great search keywords -- you have a lot of competition!
And even if Google results show that JacksOnlineSales.com sells "Teak Furniture", how close to the #1 search result will JacksOnlineSale be? Research shows that over 40% of search engine users click on the first result. So your new business really wants to be #1.
SEO, then, is the science and art of getting your website to the top of the search results for whatever product or service you're selling. If you could, for example, register "TeakFurniture.com" (it's already taken, though), then you would have several advantages:
- Google's search engine algorithm seems to strongly favor sites that include the search term in the domain name. It lists those sites closer to the #1 search results.
- A high percentage of users simply type whatever it is they are looking for directly into the browser URL, as if it were a search. Since browsers often default to .COM, the user may end up at your site -- this is called type-in traffic. It is a good thing.
This is where we need to talk about long tail keyword domain names. "Long tail" refers to the less likely search keywords that aren't as popular as "teak furniture". Because the keywords are less popular, there is less competition and you stand a good chance of being the #1 search result. Perhaps a more specific phrase like: "Thai Teak Furniture".
So you register ThaiTeakFurniture.com (for about $10/yr if it is available) and do the normal SEO things so that Google knows about it. Most importantly you include some informational content on your new domain and make sure it has a few links to JacksOnlineSales.com. You may even want to forward all site vistors to JacksOnlineSales automatically.
Soon, if the phrase "Thai Teak Furniture" gets 100 Google searches per-day, and your site, ThaiTeakFurniture.com is the #1 search result, then you should get about 40 (40% of 100) potential customers at ThaiTeakFurniture.com site each day. Turn those visitors into sales, and you have profit!
Now you can see why owning multiple domains pays off as a strategy: You can own many domains that each get a little bit of long-tail traffic. So if you have 10 domains, each generating 40 potential customers per day, then you have 400 decent leads per day.
Most importantly, each of those 10 domains is pointing to your main site, and possibly to each other forming a network. Google loves sites that have many hyperlinks pointing to it from other sites (they're not so enamored of networks, especially fake ones). But in any case, these hyperlinks improve the rating of your main site, and helps move it toward the #1 search position.
Besides SEO advantages and type-in traffic, there are a few other benefits to owning multiple domains:
- Defense. Buying domains to defend your existing brands and trademarks. You don't want others to squat on your brands and get all that valuable traffic.
- Offense. Just to have a domain so that your competitor can't. Be careful of trademark squatting -- this can get you in big trouble.
- Foreign domains. If you have many customers from Mexico, for example, then owning a .com.mx or .mx domain can be valuable
- Multiple Promotions. You have more than one product or service to promote. Giving each product or service it own intuitive, search-engine friendly domain name can lead to higher traffic.
- Mispellling. Potential visitors often misspell domains. This is called "typo traffic", and can be quite valuable if your domains or keywords are easily misspelled.
- Risk Reduction. Risk reduction is one advantage you won't read about much elsewhere: What if you lose your one of your domains for some reason? This can happen because you forget to re-register it, it gets stolen (it happens!), or even because you inadvertently chose a company name that violated a trademark. You'd lose all that traffic, and all those emails! Having your business spread across multiple domains reduces your risk. Even if you lose one, you still have the others!
- More results. If you have more than one domain, you can be the #1, #2, and #3 result for a keyword.
Happy Domain Hunting!