It’s an unfortunate fact that .com domains are running out. Whether your company shares a name with other companies or some squatter bought up your domain and now wants to hold you up for way too much money to get hold of it, you may not be able to get YourCompany.com.
I recently read a suggestion that the solution to this is to buy the domain elsewhere. You might not be able to get YourCompany.com, they say, but you might be able to get YourCompany.co.uk or YourCompany.com.au.
This is a horrible suggestion. It’s such a bad suggestion that there’s no reason to pussyfoot around with it. Here’s who should get a .co.uk domain:
- Companies in the UK
- Nope, no more alternatives. That’s it.
I work for quite a lot of British companies, and many of them have .com domains because .com is the default option for internet users all over the world. If you’re looking for a business and making a guess at the URL, you’re most likely to guess .com. Search engines that seek YourCompany.com and fail to find it will not roll that over to YourCompany.co.uk. In fact, if you are considering buying foreign domains because your .com is gone, search engines will simply deliver your would-be customers right to the site of the competitor who got that domain name first.
Leaving aside the amount of search traffic you’ll lose, there are also problems with using a foreign domain if you’re a US company. While companies elsewhere in the world often use .com domains, American companies don’t normally use foreign domains. Doing so will lose you trust. The mismatch between your company address in Baltimore and the .de domain will make visitors wonder whether you are lying about your address.
In fact, however unfair it may be, some nations’ domains are so strongly associated with spam in the minds of American consumers that I wouldn’t even use those domains if I lived and did business in those countries.
If that’s not a solution, what is the best option?
- If your company’s name isn’t strongly established yet (and this is possible, if you’re just now getting a domain name), change your company name to something that’s available as a .com. This may sound extreme, but it’s often the easiest option. When we changed the name of our company at the beginning of 2011 to reflect the shift from a freelance individual at RebeccaHaden.com to our current team, we simply looked at the .com options available.
- Go with a web 2.0 variant. This is what we did with FreshPlans. FreshPlans.com wasn’t available, so we looked into alternatives with Dot-o-Mator. Search for “domain suggestion tool” at your favorite search engine to find lots more tools. We ended up with www.myfreshplans.com, and we could have done worse.
- Use .biz or .us — this isn’t a great plan, but it’s better than using a .ru domain for a US company. Psychic Whois is my favorite tool for finding out how close you can get with all US domain options.
- Include your town if you have a brick and mortar business. You may not be able to get GuitarCenter.com but perhaps you can have AtlantaGuitarCenter.com.Your customers may not guess it, but they can probably remember it.
- Include keywords. Try to make it memorable. I might remember AtlantaGuitarRepair.com if I’m thinking about getting repairs at the Guitar Center in Atlanta. I used to work with a place called the Education Station. No one remembered that our URL was www.educationstationteachers.com. Not even us. Sometimes people choose something like GuitarRepair.com in hopes of getting high enough rankings in search to make up for the fact that their customers can’t remember their names. Sometimes that works; not always.