Do you recommend a short, easy-to-remember name OR a name that maintains consistency with the branding?
I don’t think there is a “one-size-fits-all” answer to this question. Some factors to consider:
- How do you expect people to reach the site most often? If by clicking a link, the memorability of the Web address isn’t relevant. If by searching, consider the terms your prospect would search: A domain name should be selected that is likely to improve search results. If by hearing about the product or business, the domain name should be related to the name people would most likely hear. If by hearing about the Web site itself, the domain name should be memorable.
- How important is the branding, and how important is the Web address in that branding? For Whole Foods, it would be a bad thing if the company didn’t have wholefoods.com as its Web address. For Church & Dwight Co., maker of Pepsodent toothpaste, it doesn’t matter much that the company doesn’t use churchanddwight.com because nobody knows the company name. (I had to look on a toothpaste tube.) However, it is unfortunate that Pepsodent licensee Unilever-Indonesia owns pepsodent.com; one would think the U.S. market is more important for that brand.) If the Web site *is* the service (timeanddate.com), or the service is only online (paypal.com), then the domain name is crucial to branding. Keep in mind that once someone is on your Web site, the domain name isn’t very noticeable unless you draw attention to it (e.g., by displaying it in a logo or text on the page): It appears in the Web-address bar of the browser, which doesn’t stand out much visually, and perhaps in the window title or tab, which also is “outside the margins” of the browser window and therefore not very noticed.
- How unique is the product, service, or company, and how unique are the terms people would use to search for it? If it’s relatively unique, you have a pretty good opportunity to show up near the top of search results regardless of the domain name. A search for Dental Chair Manufacturer produces several results that didn’t include the phrase “dentalchair(s)” in their Web addresses. (One that did, sort of — www.midmark.com/products/dental/chairs — came up only fourth in the results.)
All of that said, it’s best to avoid confusing users by having a logo or business name that would make them think the Web address is different from what it is. In the aforementioned dental-chair category, take a look at http://www.summitdental.com/. The company emphasizes “SDS” in its logo. But sds.com takes you to a different company. I would recommend changing the logo to emphasize Summit Dental, the words in the domain name; or buying the sds.com domain if the owner would sell it reasonably, then making sds.com an alternate address for the site. (At least sds.com isn’t one of Summit’s competitors.)
I hope these thoughts are useful.
— Steve Freedkin