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What Makes a Great Domain Name?

Does a good domain name make or break a site?

Does a good domain lend credibility that might otherwise be lacking?

Would Amazon.com be more successful with Books.com?

Would Cooking.com be more successful if it were named Williams-Sonoma?

Will Business.com ever recoup the cost they paid for their name?

By Chris Tingom

Principal of Tornado Design, a Phoenix, AZ based web consultancy

15 replies on “What Makes a Great Domain Name?”

I’m a big believer that a distinct branding can give more credibility than going for the lowest common denominator or search-friendly keyword.

If you follow my line of thinking, your domain name is to your business as a designer label is to a piece of clothing. If you’re the type who compares clothing brands, when is the last time you went out to look for the “Shirt©” label? I think that the same could be said for the type of clients who are out for that premium business firm.

I think that question one (which is the most important) is false.

Good branding, as Michael pointed out, is the key. But, good branding is not the name, logo, colors, etc. of a brand, but rather the association between the quality of the product and those things.

Applied to websites, the product is the content or service or the site (where a site selling a product, like Amazon, is actually selling the service of conveiently send ing you the product at good price).

All that to say, Threadless and Amazon are great because of what they do, and they have effectively associated their names with their reputations and services.

Of course, the point is quite valid that very generic names are harder to brand, because they already have a well defined meaning apart from the brand; but it’s possible.

Content, content, content: that’s what makes or breaks a website.

I think it is accurate to say that great content makes or breaks a website, yet a great domain name could only add to its value. Why? I think that in most cases, human nature dictates that something unique and thoughtful brings more attention. So although I would still read this blog if it was named “Cool Sites”, it might not have caught my attention as much at first.

Haha, I like your attitude Ara, and you have a point. Thinking about this might just solve a problem. Maybe you’ll invent the next big thing.

Tomas – I think you have a good point. If a site has a good domain name I’ll give it a second look. I think Brandon’s point is till valid though. It’s going to be difficult branding some generic name with ‘.com’ at the end. Good discussion!

While content is what keeps people on your site or keeps them coming back, a good domain name certainly helps get them there, especially if it is properly marketed. This is not so crucial for a smaller, more focused site like so-and-so’s-weekend-design.com, but for a larger site competing for marketshare within a highly contested industry segment this is very important.

A strong domain name can create a buzz and lend itself to viral marketing, which is the best word of mouth advertising there is. And one word domains are the best. Think about the example of monster.com versus careerbuilder.com. I don’t have the numbers handy for comparison, but I bet monster sticks in peoples’ minds more readily than careerbuilder.

monster.com sticks in a person’s head because they can imagine a monster more easily than a “career builder”. But I bet if they had named themselves CareerMachine and made a cute/silly logo and a small ad campaign (like monster) they’d have done better…

I think Career Builder has recently done a tv campaign – the commercials with all the monkeys and the one guy who can’t get them to do anything productive. But quite frankly the only thing I remember about it is the monkeys. Not the most effective campaign, even though they did run it during the Super Bowl.

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