A Comprehensive 25 Step Blueprint for Initial Domain Name Strategies to Strengthen Your Brand
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March 11, 2008
When staking out a good domain name strategy in brand
management, there are a lot of things that need to happen, to lay the groundwork
for years of success, both offline and online. The new internet reality has made
it essential to develop brands with the internet in mind; failure to do so is a
recipe for failure. The wisdom to embrace the internet as a tool to
advance your brand, however, can be a recipe for sensational success and
A key part of embracing the internet for powerful leverage is a
comprehensive domain name strategy that can strengthen (not erode) your brand.
Because this is so obvious to us, and given that the “e” prefix handily refers
to the realities of an online world in most economies, we think of this as “The
Big eDuh” — it will either be obvious to you now, or will become obvious to you
months or years from now, when you finally see it, and have paid the
consequences of missing it.
To help you get in on the tremendous market advantage that
domain names can provide, here are our Big eDuh guidelines that provide a
Comprehensive Blueprint for Initial Domain Name Strategies to Strengthen
- 0. ZERO: Most companies start with their brand. That’s natural, but (if you
insist) buy the domain name that matches your brand, and then set it aside for a
- Identify your customer(s) and think like your customer thinks, NATURALLY.
Try, anyway. Ask them. Talk to them. Don’t assume they only think one way.
Capture ALL the ways they think naturally. Make a list. Keep adding to
it. Your customers are dynamic; keep a pulse on these changes and stay up with
- Re-read number 1. Think some more about it. Put “Think like customers. Don’t
make them think like you.” on your wall. Stamp it on your forehead. Get a custom
skin made for your PDA and put it on the front and back of it. Draw it with
lipstick on your bathroom mirror while you’re shaving. Tattoo it on your ankle
and cross your legs a lot.
- Think about how your customers ACT naturally: where they go, who they hang
with, what’s important to them. (Think demographics plus anecdotal plus
viral/social plus uncommon sense.) If you have more than one category of
customers, do this for each category and customer demographic. Hang with them if
you can. Go where they go. Be with them. Be one of them.
- Find out what triggers emotional responses in your customers, (particularly
certain songs, cultural/era throwbacks and fast forwards, and universal personal
experiences, new excitements, fears, etc.) Plan to tap into that.
- Look up. Look around. Know trends, fads, new things, and new ways that are
here to stay. Anticipate them. Weigh them based on numbers 1, 3 and 4 and the
inevitability factor. Don’t get so stuck in what used to work, that you miss
tectonic shifts and the inherent opportunities to leverage market advantage.
- Re-visit number 1. Research your assumptions. Be sure to include research on
keyword searches already being performed on the search engines by your
- Stake out the POSITIONS you want to “own” in the competitive landscape.
(Better, faster, luxury, etc.; types and categories of products; industries;
- Rethink 0 based on 1 through 7. Really rethink it. Is it still a good fit?
If so, proceed to 9. If not, fix 0 and proceed to 9. anyway.
- Develop your slogan, that establishes your position, taps into numbers 1, 3
and 4, does not miss 5, and incorporates some benefit or emotional or visceral
response, including tying back to your brand in a mnemonic or meaningful way.
- Recognize that domains are the single biggest, best, and cheapest way to
reach your customers, and help them reach you, with significant long-term
dividends. Note that 30-40% of online searches skip the search engines
altogether, and type in a meaningful keyword domain name directly into the
navigation bar. (See 1 and 3 above.) This means that people are searching with
keywords that are meaningful to them, plus “.com” in their address bar. Other
extensions can be okay, but .com is IT if you’re serious about business. (Hot tip: In your browser address bar, type in [keyword 1] no
space [keyword 2], then hold down the CTRL key and hit Enter. You’ll have your
full url built around your keywords, without ever having to type “http://www”
prefix or “.com” suffix. Some of your customers know this, and do this all the
time! Others type in the whole thing.)
- Research and buy the .com domain names that mean something to your
customers, (all of them) and especially “category” domains, AND
- Research and buy the .com domain names that reflect your positions, AND
- Research and buy the .com domain name that states your slogan AND variations
in case your customer doesn’t get it exactly right, PLUS
- Think about your competitors. What positions are they staking out?
- Buy the .com domain names that reflect THEIR positions (generics, not
- Buy as many of numbers 11-15 as you think are worth staking out as yours,
(and not your competitors), AND
- Buy variations of numbers 11, 12, 13 and 15, including common typos (see
- Survey what you have in domain assets. Recognize that good keyword generic
domains are an appreciating asset. Regardless of whether your company tanks,
your .com domains will continue to go up in value, if you have purchased well.
They will appreciate faster than stocks, real estate, funds, offshore
investments, IPOs, art, antiques, gold, jewelry, collectibles, sports cards, or
- Choose headliner domains from among the collective domain name portfolio to
be your key domains (brand domain, slogan domain, keyword position domain, and
most importantly, category domain, if you have it), and use the others as
contributing domains (contributing to your brand), campaign tracking domains,
and as defensive end runs against your competitors.
- Choose your one key domain name. You have to choose; choose the one that
means the most to your customer. (See number 1.) Use your key domain to drive
people to your front door, to advertise, and to leverage. Use it on everything:
all emails, billboards, tv ads, mugs, t-shirts, promotions, packaging, shipping,
vehicle wraps, giveaways, opinons, signatures, mobile skins, etc. Stay
consistent in your choices with your desired image, but always use your domain
name, as appropriate. (You can use a slight variation if you want to track an ad
campaign, but that’s temporary and make sure it doesn’t erode your key domain
- Use contributing domains as either mini-sites (to provide content, and then
link to you), as pure feeder domains (to allow customers to meander to your
brand, through their own natural thought pathways), or as advanced niche
strategies (diced by demographics and related to sub-categories in your
offerings, and ad/promotion tracking). Stop frustrating customers by forcing
them to use convoluted, unnatural pathways - your way - to your front door. You
don’t care how they get there, as long as they get there, to buy what you have
- Use any mini-sites built around your contributing domains with good SEO
(search engine optimization) strategies, to strengthen your SEO position on your
- Remember, a good domain name strategy STRENGTHENS your brand. (Pre-internet,
a good brand was meant to mind-map customers to your brand in your sector.
Post-internet, meaningful keyword domain names harness natural thought patterns,
and lead customers to your door the easy way.) If that advantage is hard to get
your head around, step back for a minute, and envision your company’s prognosis
and uphill battle if your key competitor had done all this first, and had all
the good domain names landing on THEIR brand. Which brand will be perceived as
the strongest brand BY YOUR CUSTOMER? (See number 1.)
- Remember, a poor domain name strategy makes brand management an uphill
battle, and leaves your customer without multiple natural pathways to your front
door, and to your brand. Nobody else is leveraging a multiple domain name
strategy in your industry? All the better. Be the first and blow your
competitors out of the tub — straight to your brand! You’ll never be sorry.
- In addition to a good brand manager and media manager, hire a domain name strategist and/or domain name manager if
you don’t understand domain names, to work with your team and to design and
orchestrate your domain strategy, including to purchase your domain names for
you in stealth mode.
Of course, it bears repeating that you should use your domain name in all
your interactions with customers, including emails, packaging, advertising,
promotions, billboards, t-shirts, etc. Use it without the prefix stuff (http://www.); that just clutters up your url (and your
ad), and besides, you don’t need it. (See number 10, above.)
Good domain names are some of the most important investments you will make to
contribute to the success of your brand, and to your company. Make your
shareholders happy; do things the right way: Make it easy for your customers to
find you. Easy pathways to you creates happy customers and more customers, with
no confusion, and a clearly dominant and powerful brand.