How to Establish Your Brand Name Online - dummies

How to Establish Your Brand Name Online

By Bill Chiaravalle, Barbara Findlay Schenck

In the same way that your brand name is the key that unlocks your brand image in the mind of consumers, your domain name (the string of characters web users type into a browser to reach your site, such as www.yourbrandname.com), and your social-media handles or monikers are the keys that unlock your brand online.

Ideally, your domain name is comprised of your brand name plus .com or .org, depending on whether your brand represents a commercial business or a nonprofit organization. The Internet is populated with millions of websites accessed by domain names that tie up most of the words in the English language.

Beyond that, cyber-squatters camp on attractive unclaimed domain names, registering and tying them up until someone pays what can feel like a ransom to free them for use.

Landing on your website’s domain name

By a mile, making your brand name the centerpiece of your domain name is the quickest route to establishing your online identity, and here’s why: A good portion of web traffic takes the form of type-in traffic, a term that describes users who bypass search engines and simply type the name of the company they’re looking for, followed by .com, in the address bar of the web browser.

  • If you’re developing a new brand, don’t settle on a brand name until you’ve checked it out at a domain name registry to confirm it’s available as a domain name. Research availability on registry sites like GoDaddy.com, NameCheap.com, or NetworkSolutions.com.

    To shortcut the process, avoid choosing a brand name that’s straight out of the dictionary. You can preempt a ton of frustration by coining a word that you can use in both your brand and domain names. Microsoft, DreamWorks, Netflix, and Firefox are just a few examples.

  • If your brand name isn’t available as a domain name, try these Plan B approaches:

    • Come up with a tagline or slogan that becomes a major part of your brand identity and the basis for your domain name. For example, type in www.justdoit.com and you land on the Nike site.

    • Look into purchasing your top-choice domain name from its current owner. This process can be costly and time-consuming, but if you plan to build a valuable brand, it can be worth the investment.

Domain name advice

As you plan your domain name, consider the following points:

  • Keep your domain name short and easy to remember. Some of the best-known web addresses provide good examples: www.ebay.com, www.google.com, www.yahoo.com.

  • If your brand name plus .com or .org is taken, don’t try to end-run the system by using your brand name plus .net. If web users instinctively type .com, they’ll go straight to someone else’s site.

  • Don’t get clever by adding hyphens or making unusual alterations to your brand name. For instance, a domain name like www.cookeezncream.com may be available, but the chances that most users will remember and instinctively type it correctly are slim.

  • Don’t invent an abbreviation for a long brand name unless you’re sure it will be easy to memorize and recall. For example, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau can be reached by typing www.hvcb.org, but they don’t ask you to remember the lineup of initials. Instead, they market the domain name www.gohawaii.com, which offers an easy-to-recall address.

  • Think globally. If your business plan calls for international presence, register your name with international codes to specify your global offices.

Registering your domain name

When you find the domain name you want, register it immediately. Most registration services charge somewhere between $25 and $75 for a three-year period of domain name ownership.

When registering your name, consider this advice:

  • The first domain name you need to register is your site name, as in www.yourbrandname.com.

  • Consider also registering your site with various extensions, such as .net, .org, .info, or .biz so others can’t later grab the alternative addresses. You can redirect the traffic to your main address.

  • Consider registering versions of your domain name that people are likely to type when trying to find your brand online. For example:

    • Register your tagline as a domain name so people who forget your brand name but remember your slogan can reach your site.

    • Register your brand name with misspellings. For instance, if you type www.googel.com, you’re redirected to www.google.com.

    • Register additional domain names as you discover new user-error tendencies. After your website is up and running, regularly check error logs to see what kinds of mistakes people are making when trying to reach your site.

    Creating a multiple-domain-name strategy costs very little. You can use a process called URL redirection to point all traffic to the website that carries your primary domain name, incurring no additional site building or hosting fees.

Registering your social-media name

While you’re choosing and registering your domain name, register your name across social-media networks as well.

When deciding how to present your name, follow this advice:

  • Decide on a social-media moniker that’s short and memorable.

  • If your brand name is available, use it as both your domain name and your social-media handle. Sites such as knowem.com, checkusernames.com, or namechk.com will tell you on-the-spot whether the name you want is taken on various networks. If it’s available, click to claim and protect it.

  • If your brand name isn’t available on the social-media networks you want to use, consider this advice:

    • Avoid adding odd hyphenation or characters that people are apt to forget or mistype.

    • Invent a version of your name by combining your name with a word that describes or reflects your brand promise, business arena, or niche.

    • Use one name on all networks to build brand awareness. Reserve your name on the networks you plan to use immediately.