What does your website address have to do with business branding? A lot, actually. When you’re creating an online presence, selecting a domain name is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. A strong name ensures customers can find your website easily. Plus, it’s more likely to generate social shares and rank better in the search engines.

Today, choosing a branded domain name is a long-term strategic investment that you don’t want to get wrong. Here are a few best practices to consider as you brainstorm a new one for your small business.

Why is branding so important?

Ten years ago, if you wanted to rank well in the search engines you chose a domain name that was stuffed with targeted keyword phrases. However, this practice lead to a glut of websites that ranked high in Google because of their URLs. Unfortunately most didn’t provide a lot of valuable content for users.

That all changed in 2012 when Google updated its algorithms to encourage the creation of websites built for people, not web crawlers. Part of that update de-emphasized the value of exact match domains.

Today, it’s still okay to include keywords in your domain name. Just make sure that those keywords are relevant to your brand. By choosing a recognizable branded domain, you’ll make it more trustworthy and thus more clickable. And more clicks ultimately help your SEO rankings.

What do good branded names have in common?

Choosing a great domain name doesn’t have to be a daunting task. The best branded domains typically incorporate most of the following characteristics. Brainstorm ideas and then check them against this list.

  1. Being unique ensures that your domain won’t be confused with the competition. It also helps give your business a personality all its own.
  2. An original or creative domain name should still be professional. Avoid adding words, phrases, or gimmicks that detract from this impression, like “4U” or “the best.”
  3. Keeping your domain as brief ensures it’s easy to share and type into web browsers. One or two words work best; try staying below 20 characters.
  4. User-friendly. Help users find you. Avoid hyphens, numbers, weird spellings, jargon, random abbreviations, repeating characters/letter jumbles, and difficult to pronounce words.
  5. Creating a lasting impression is at the heart of great branding. Aim to create a domain that is catchy and succinct, and yet also goes to the heart of your product or service.
  6. Relevancy is all about avoiding user confusion. Make sure that your domain’s meaning either implies or is complementary to your business, product, or service.

New extensions add relevancy

Thanks to new domain extensions, it’s easier than ever to choose a branded domain name that’s highly relevant and memorable.

Introduced a few years ago, they’re changing the way that people are seeking out new businesses online. A tailored domain extension can be a significant part of your domain’s branding. Here’s how some of the newest extensions are being used:

  • .tel: Great for small businesses because it’s like a business card – it aggregates all your contact information in an easy-to-remember place
  • .info: Ideal for websites strictly focused on information
  • .me: Often used for personal websites, blogs, and resumes

 A simple extension can be a powerful branding vehicle. The .tel extension is a great branding opportunity for business that want to connect with customers, but don’t have a lot of time to invest in their websites. It successfully communicates a website’s core value, helping customers know exactly what to expect when they visit.