By Will Jamieson
The challenges of coming up with a company name for your startup are well-documented, but there’s a new trend that has popped up that had we known about when we first started Stream, we would have saved a lot of money. That trend is the growing acceptance of new non-.COM domain names by customers, but there are few tricks entrepreneurs should know before fully embracing these domains.
When we started Stream, our team felt really good about the name, but Stream.com was just too expensive, so we enthusiastically embraced what we thought was a clever domain name hack and used a .AM domain: www.stre.am.
Unfortunately for us, Google had little appreciation for our creativity: As cool as we thought our domain was, our website didn’t rank well in organic search and our customers had a challenging time finding us in the app store or even understanding our domain when we said it aloud.
We own the trademark Stream and quickly realized that we needed to own this keyword online. It’s the core of what we do: We allow people to watch, stream, and comment on live video. Many of the Stream-oriented domain names with a .COM, .NET, or .CO were either too expensive, taken, or just didn’t capture the essence of the brand we are trying to build. With 127 million .COM domains in the world today, finding a high-value domain that really resonates with customers can feel impossible.
That’s when we stumbled across the .LIVE domain extension. We embraced Stream.LIVE not only as a domain name, but a brand we could build on. Many companies are starting to employ new domains, whether it’s a .BLOG for their corporate news, .SOCIAL to highlight their social media channels, or .XYZ for just about anything they want. Investors are even scooping up these domains as prime digital real estate. As the .COM gold rush proved, domain investing can be an unexpectedly engaging pursuit (I’ll confess I’ve bought quite a few myself).
If you are considering a new domain name—whether you are a new company, rebranding an existing one, or creating a memorable call to action for a campaign—there are a few things to consider before you take the leap to avoid our .AM mistakes.
- The right domain name is worth the price. Pick a memorable domain name with clear meanings and the right keywords on the left and right side of the dot. If you spend time exploring, you can find a domain with the right name, for the right price and with brandability. There are now over 500 alternative domains in the world. We found our domain on Name.com and paid five figures for the domain name Stream.LIVE. That’s not chump change for a bootstrapped startup, but it’s well worth it if you plan to invest in your brand. We’re not alone in our efforts to own the perfect domain with others paying more, like $183,000 for Video.GAMES or Homes.Forsale at $75,000. However, when you compare the cost of owning a similar .COM, it’s pretty inexpensive. If you really want a specific name, you might have to pay a premium fee like we did, but that’s not always the case. We’re building a brand for the long haul, so having the right domain is everything.
- Google appreciates your domain strategy, so work smarter not harder. While Google doesn’t favor new domains over .COM in organic search, it’s important to note that it does treat them equally. Picking a domain name that’s rich in domain name, you have to get buy in from the SEO team who will need to invest time in making it a smooth transition that won’t negatively impact your website’s accessibility or current SEO standing. Make sure they individually 301 redirect your most important pages from the old domain to the new domain, and reach out to those who frequently backlink your content to let them know of the change. Marketing will need to be prepared to inform your audience of the domain change via a strong PR effort, and make changes to your social media channels and collateral materials accordingly. Changing a domain name doesn’t stop at the website, so operations will need to be brought into the loop to switch everyone’s email address, re-print business cards, and ask employees to update their social media relevant keywords will increase the chances that your domain will rank well, ultimately resulting in dollars saved on paid marketing. So, get a domain that includes strong keywords, especially if your branding efforts include search engine marketing. When we switched to Stream.LIVE, we saw an immediate improvement in our SEO ranking and app downloads.
- Don’t switch domains without a strategy in place. When you rebrand your links and profiles. Also, make sure you are not referencing the old domain name anywhere on your website.
- Invest in the domain as your brand. A short domain with exact-match keywords does an amazing job of telling a story about your company. But if you aren’t actively promoting your domain name, you’re missing out on a world of opportunity. At Stream, we’ve done everything we can to incorporate our domain name in our branding efforts. We have Stream.LIVE t-shirts, use the Stream.LIVE brand at all events, and highlight the domain while sponsoring the local Charleston Battery A-league soccer team. We did several AB testing Google AdWords campaigns and found that the audience was more likely to click on our ad when we showcased the Stream.LIVE campaign vs. Stream as a stand-alone brand. Having a keyword in the domain name is very helpful in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing, on platforms such as Google AdWords, but you also need to make sure that the content on the landing page is well optimized.
I was recently asked if I would take ownership of the domain Stream.com if someone gave us the URL. The short answer is yes—domains are like a real estate investment and Stream.com is worth an estimated $200K. But, when it comes to telling a story, new domains can often explain what you do in a way that a .COM never could. We’re a live streaming company and the .LIVE domain is about as good as it gets. Understanding how to invest in the future of domain names is the next big thing that every entrepreneur should be paying close attention to. I feel a lot better having paid $20k for Stream.live than I would have paying even $100k for Stream.com. The days of pure .COM real estate are far behind us.
Will Jamieson is the CEO at Stream.Live.