Internet Branding Your Business

Everyone in business needs a unique name for their business, and you have to protect and promote that name. Registered Trademarks (and to an extent unregistered trademarks) do protect the name within certain limits and a website is a fantastic way to promote your business. Over the last 13 years the Internet has gone from an academic curiosity to the mainstream business tool that excels in one great way: It lets even the smallest business economically promote themselves and their products to everyone in their town, country, or even the world. Depending on what line of business you are in you could need anything from a simple “business card” web site you can build yourself to a complicated on-line flash driven catalog you'll need to hire a professional to make for you.

Whatever size site you need, you will need to brand it, and a big part of that branding is you must have your own domain name and once you have that name, it is your business' brand, you should use it for all internet communication. Your customers and prospects will know you by your domain name. If you use your ISP's url or email address such as,, or you are damaging your business in five ways:

* You are not promoting your branding across to your customers

* You don't look like an established business to your prospects who may wonder about you

* You won't get type-in traffic from people guessing your website name and typing it

* You are spending your advertising money and using it to promote your ISP

* If you ever want to change ISPs you have a large expensive task rebranding. This will include
replacing business cards, stationary, and signs,informing your customers and redirecting existing links to your new address, if you are even able to.

As an aside, under no circumstances advertise a free email address (e.g. as your business email address. If you must temporarily use web based email (e.g. while out on the road) your web host should be able to supply a fully branded webmail or forward your normal email to a web based service. Google have a service called Gmail that is a free email service which you can tell to send emails that seem to come from your normal email address so your correspondence still carries your branding.

Choosing your domain name

People quite often guess web addresses for businesses and if you spend the time to think about a well chosen name that describes your business, they may be using that to find your web site. They might have briefly seen your business name on the side of your truck, or a friend may have told them about you. For this to work you must choose the right domain name.

A domain name is the part of a web address following the "www." and the part of an email address that goes after the "@" sign.

Domain names are in two parts: The name you choose to represent your business and a suffix called the extension. The extension indicates information about the registration and will be something like .com, .us,,, .in. The two together are the domain name and the salient point here is that your domain name is your branding.

The extension needs to match your intended market, if you are selling in Australia you want, .us or .com for the American market for Britain, .fr for France, and so-forth. The .com extension is important for the US market, and also for the international market, in most countries other than the USA, the local country code is what the people in the country will try first.
In mosts market there are secondary extensions. These get almost no type-in and except in some very special circumstances they should be avoided. Examples are, .biz,

The part of the name you choose is incredibly important, it is the part of the name that people will remember, and it must match your trading name. If you trade as Mattal's Emporium, your domain name should start with one of Mattal, Mattals, Mattals-Emporium, or MattalsEmporium; which of these names you choose depends on ease of typing, memorability, and your intended market. The general rule is that shorter is better, but there are a lot of exceptions. Take your time deciding and get it right.

You are going to be running your business for may years to come, and you are going to spend a lot of your time and money promoting your brand. Don't rush this, take a few days now and think carefully about the name you will use.

Having more than one domain name

As explained above, every domain name has two parts. You can have variations on both parts of your name, but there are different reasons for each.

It is vital that you have the most used extension for your target market, this is the one that your potential customers have become used to typing. Always use .com, not .biz;, not;, not Once you've secured that name you can also register other variations if it makes sense. For example, if you are a New Zealand company running the Hamilton School of Dance and have registered it would probably make sense to also register and promote that as your branding. Because you own both names, anyone who types in will still find you.

If it's still available, register the .com version of your name as well. Most people will try the locally popular extension, but a significant number will try .com, and in the future you may find yourself trading internationally so why not reserve the name now? Another thing to consider is that if you don't register it you may find your competition does and you can have an expensive time regaining it.

You can also register variations on your main domain name. In the example above I said you should choose one of Mattal, Mattals, Mattals-Emporium, or MattalsEmporium as your branded domain name. The other names in that list shouldn't be ignored, if your business will profit from having those names you should register all four and arrange for the other three to redirect to your main branding. Big players like the Coca Cola company understand this, and both redirect to the website.

Hyphens or not? Singular or Plural?

Students of Internet branding will tell you that having hyphens in a domain name is bad because people aren't going to type them. The more internet aware members of the public don't type them often, but there's also a large minority of the population that will type them. Always go for the unhyphenated version of the name unless it looks super ugly, beware of second meaning to the name if you just join two words together, and remember even if you always show it in mixed case, popular search engines will convert it to lower case. Once again, also register the version with hyphens and redirect it. This isn't a universal rule. I've already noted that the Coca Cola company doesn't follow it, and when your brand is as well known as theirs, you probably won't mind losing a few clicks either.

The singular versus plural question is more difficult. If you are a British cake decorator, your business is selling wedding cakes, but your customer will buy a wedding cake. Of course, to buy their wedding cake they might look for a business that sells wedding cakes. In other words, they may try either wedding cake or wedding cakes. Try getting both names, unless there is some reason in your market why only one name will work.

For this combination I'd register:,, probably also and (The .com versions of all these are long gone, but if possible grab them too)

Isn't this a lot of names

When I go to any kind of business related meeting I take along my business cards and distribute them like confetti, they cost less than 10c each and if one of them brings me in some business, the whole 1,000 print-run has more than paid for itself. Domains are a bit like this, the number of domains you register is a business decision that you need to make and it should be guided by the same rules as any other business decision.

You know your business and how much a sale makes you. If your nett profit from an average sale is $1,000, then each additional domain name only needs to bring in one extra sale every ten years to pay for itself. If your average sale is a $2 nett profit, then that same extra domain name needs to bring you 4 or 5 extra sales a year to pay for itself. Stop and take the time to think what your prospects (potential customers) will look for and do your best to find the right domain name(s) to be found. Once you know your money making names, register as many as your budget allows.

I have multiple Brands

Each brand is different and each brand should be protected. Market all your brands and make sure you have the domain names for them. Each distinct brand's domain should point to a page about that brand. This page can be its own mini-site, or can be a redirect to the relevant page in your main site.


Think about your market and how you choose to brand yourself in that market. Select a domain name to support that branding and then the domain name is your branding. Choose variations on the brand / domain name that are sensible in your market and make sure you register those names also, having the other names redirect to your main branded site. Once you decide you want to have a name, make sure you register it immediately and severely limit who you tell about the name until after you have secured the registration.

This is a light update of an article I wrote for my blog ¿Que? about 6 months ago.

Bruce Clement is a keen domain name investor and commentator. You are free to copy this article under the licence as long as you publish it unchanged and link either to Bruce's blog ¿Que? at or to his hub site at

Tags: branding domain name