Aug 9

How to Decide Between Brandable and Generic Domains

Companies looking to stake their claim online need the right domain to take them there. The first step to finding that domain is to determine which style of name to go with: brandable or generic.

Before we get into the criteria to consider, let’s look at what these terms mean.

Generic domains utilize keywords describing an exact product, service, location, concept or combination. Cars.com, Denver.com, Insurance.com and FreeCreditScore.com are examples. A generic domain contain words with existing meaning and the domain is used for that meaning. If you take away the extension, the name is incapable of being a brand because it’s not unique.

Brandable domains on the other hand use uniqueness in numerous ways for the purpose of creating a brand that can live without the extension (or uniquely with the extension in some cases). Google.com, Facebook.com, YouTube.com and Apple.com are all brandable domains, with Apple.com being brandable due to the company being involved in electronics, computing, and many things other than the fruit.

The debate on which kind of domain you should use has been raging for many years, and the answer isn’t clear cut. Each of them have benefits and drawbacks, so how can you figure out which style to use for your site?

1. Understand the benefits each style offers

How does each style of domain benefit your site? Generic in nature can provide relevance, authority and search traffic-getting abilities while brandable in nature can provide limitless expansion, wider appeal and excitement. It’s left-brained vs. right brained, analytics vs. art and so on.

Those styles CAN provide those benefits, but quality of name certainly plays a factor. A poor generic domain might not offer any means of more easily getting search traffic as its keyword phrase might not be highly searched. A poor brandable domain might not be all that exciting or widely appealing.

2. How do your business goals fit in?

The next step is to figure out your goals for your business and the milestones you need along the way to reach those goals. Also figure out your business’s strengths and weaknesses. A particular style of name may fit your strengths and help achieve certain important milestones.

For example, if you want a major source of your initial traffic to be through search and you don’t anticipate going into other markets than the one you’re targeting, a purely generic domain for your market may work for your brand. Its scope limitation wouldn’t affect you and the search benefits would help you get the traffic you’re looking for.

3. Which style most suits your industry?

It’s clear that short brandable domains have been popular in social media. While that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider other options at all, short brandable domains would be in line with what consumers have already responded well to. A lot of it has to do with the tone of the industry, which cute short brandable domains suit especially well.

Generic domains on the other hand may better suit an industry where customers/clients are looking for relevance, trust and authority. Generic domains bode well in many financial and law areas, and the search traffic in these areas is highly valued traffic as well.

4. Which style most suits your desired identity/message?

How do you want your company to be known and what style of name would suit that best? This looks less at the industry and more at you and what your company wants to be.

You may want to build your family name up, in which case you would have at least some brandability (your surname, initials etc. in your brand and domain). You may want a particular strong point of your company highlighted so you might consider doing that within your brand.

5. What’s the best you can afford?

If you’re going into the car insurance industry, unless you’re huge enough to afford it, you’re not likely going to be getting CarInsurance.com. Understand that “category killer” generic domains, the best generic domains for particular industries and niches, come at a high cost.

Also consider that if you’re a local company and don’t want to be huge, throwing everything you’ve got at one of these names doesn’t suit your business anyways. If that means you rule out generic domains entirely, then you’ve narrowed down what you need to look at for your business name.

Once you’ve figured out the style of domain to go after, you can then look at substyles of them like brandable phrase domains, geo generics and so forth and see which might most convey your desired identity or works best in your market. You’ll be able to more easily go through domains for sale or available as you can ignore the other styles entirely and hone in on the best fitting domain for you.

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