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“The best rule of thumb with domain names is to not make potential customers think too hard.”

Lesa Sorrentino is Chief Marketing Officer for MMI Agency, a long-standing, full-service communications firm in Houston, Texas representing local, regional and national brands.

In this role, Lesa serves as the internal voice of the client, providing strategic guidance and marketing expertise to ensure consistent delivery of innovative and results-driven work.

Lesa has more than 25 years of strategic planning, marketing, advertising and public relations experience across industries.

MMI Agency

BusinessInterviews.com:  What advice do you have for businesses looking for a domain name for their business or new products?

Lesa:  The first step is to visit the actual domain you would like to purchase to check its availability. See if another company owns and actively uses it or if it’s for sale by a company like GoDaddy.com.

If it is available, you should easily be able to find the price per year to use that domain name. If it is owned by an individual who is holding it while waiting for a bidder, also known as a cyber squatter, the process will likely be more complicated and involve some negotiations.

The second step is to type the desired domain name into a Google search bar. What comes up first in the search? What else is on the page? These will be your online “neighbors,” and your brand will be associated with them due to proximity.

Also, pay attention to the paid results that come up when you search, since those are the companies who are bidding on the same keywords your potential customers are typing in to find your website.

Based on the results of these two searches, you can better determine if you want to move forward with obtaining that domain name, or if choosing a different name might be a better course of action.

Keep in mind when choosing a domain name, you want to pick something people would logically search for when looking for the product or service you provide.

Domain names (and brand names) work best when they are intuitive to the brand’s purpose. If your brand’s name doesn’t tell consumers what your company does, you will likely need to devote a large amount of marketing dollars to building awareness before the public will know to search for your website.

Monster.com is a good example of a company that had to invest heavily in marketing, because people don’t naturally associate monsters with career opportunities. They advertised during the Super Bowl every year between 1999-2004 and were the official sponsor of the 2002 U.S. Olympic Team.

And the effort has paid off: Most people know that Monster.com is a place to list and search for jobs, and consequently, they are one of the top job search sites on the market.

BusinessInterviews.com:  What trademark considerations should be made when selecting a domain name?

 Lesa:  Trademarks, alone, are probably the most important step of this process.

Check with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for ownership of your brand’s name before you start any marketing or planning for a website. Even if you are able to claim and use the URL you want without any issues, if another company has trademarked the name, they can come back and claim it from you after the fact.

Before filing an application, visit the USPTO website at uspto.gov to do an initial search in their online database for any registered marks that might be in conflict with your brand. After an application has been submitted, the USPTO will thoroughly search its database to ensure that there is no challenge to your trademark from another company.

Due to the complexity of the trademarking process and the many nuances in state and federal laws, you should strongly consider hiring an experienced trademark attorney to walk you through each step.

BusinessInterviews.com:  Can you cite any examples of domain names that were particularly successful or not so successful and the reasons behind that?

Lesa: The best rule of thumb with domain names is to not make potential customers think too hard. In general, the names that are most successful are short, memorable, and telling of the company’s product or service.

Match.com and WebMD.com are good examples of domains that fit all of these criteria.Unsuccessful domain names are those that are hard to spell, like www.CappuccinoBar.com, or that use a non-obvious spelling variation like laffspot.com vs. laughspot.com.

Using hyphens in the domain name can also be problematic, because people will forget to use them unless they are part of the branding, like they are in Chick-fil-A’s name.

Also, it is best to use a company’s “conversational” name as the domain name, instead of the official legal name. Law firms are notorious for including “Inc” or “Llc” as part of their domain name, and most people don’t think to type that in when searching.

Finally, pay attention to the domain name extension you choose. Because most people will go to a “.com” website first, companies need to be careful of using “.net” or “.biz” and thinking it will be a suitable replacement.

If your preferred name URL is taken, you should consider trying to purchase that site from its current owner or going with a completely different domain name that’s available with a “.com” extension.

Find the right Domain Name for your business at Fabulous.com!

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