Ideally, it should. At the core of your brand is your business name, and a website domain that does not match your business name sounds suspicious, to say the least.
Now, I am not saying that your domain must be an exact match with your legal business name. After all, business names are long. However, the brand itself must be a match—or close enough.
In this article, I will walk you through some important reasons why your business name must match your domain name.
What is the Difference Between a Domain Name and a Business Name?
Can a domain name be different from your legal business name?
The main difference is that a business name is the legal identity of your business. A domain name, however, is related to your brand. In fact, you can use a different domain name from your business name if you want.
However, this is going to confuse your customers. If your legal name is John’s Aquarium Shop, but your domain name is Fish Pet Store.Com, consumers may not like it because it seems suspicious. The ideal situation is that your business name and domain name somehow match.
As far as the government is concerned, they are primarily more interested in your legal name. This is how they are going to find you, and this is the name they will use for your taxes.
In many states and countries, the government will also ask you for your domain name, just to ensure that the two things belong to the same company.
Now, your legal business name may be different from your brand name, and there is no issue. This is called “doing business as.” Your brand is what customers call you. A brand name has to be patented, along with its logos and colors, but that is another subject that needs another discussion.
So, always remember: a business name is your legal entity while a domain name is the URL address of your website, which is, most of the time, similar to your brand name.
What Comes First: Business Name or Domain Name?
Do not treat this as a chicken and egg question. What really matters is your brand name, not the business name. And this is especially so if you are a corporation.
One example I know of is fast-food chains. Let us take McDonald’s, for example. The domain name of this company is McDonald’s, and it is also its brand name. But did you know that many franchise groups of the same company do not use the same business name?
For example, some of McDonald’s corporations are legally called Golden Arches, Inc. But no consumer knows that. What matters is that the brand and domain are the same.
So, what should come first?
My take is that you should think of a business name and a domain name at the same time. Since the internet is accessible, you can formulate business names and then simultaneously check if the domain name is available.
What I recommend is that you also use both a business name generator and a domain name generator. Both of these tools are available online, and they are free to use.
Now, some of you may have a problem, which is the legal availability of your desired name. First of all, I strongly discourage you from using any name that is already used in the market—for example, Amazon. Even if you append any word with the name Amazon, you may still get in trouble.
Now, for country-specific legal issues, you may still come across some problems. For example, the name that you are thinking of may have already been registered. So, even if the domain name is available, you cannot legally use that name.
Here are the steps that I recommend:
- Have a brainstorming session
- List at least ten business names that you want
- Check from a domain registrar if the domains of these ten are available
- If they are, keep them on the list
- If not, scratch them and think of something else
Once done, what I want you to do is to list them in the order that you want them, with your most favorite on top and the least at the bottom.
Now, register with your government to see if the name is available. Once done, buy the domain name, and then start working on your brand assets.
As you can see, what we did here is to prepare several business names. My recommendation is that you keep your brand name in all of these.
For example, let us say that you want to have an online store for cat accessories, and the brand you want is Kitty Kat. What you can do is to list several business names that have this brand, like the ones shown below:
- Kitty Kat Cat Accessories Inc.
- Kitty Kat Cat Toys and Accessories
- Kitty Kat Cat Stuff Incorporated
No matter what business name is approved legally, you still maintain the Kitty Kat name. Since you want that brand, you might as well as check if the domain is available before you register your name to the government.
As I mentioned earlier, if the domain is no longer available, scratch it from your list.
How Important is Matching a Company’s Name to Its Domain Name?
Very important. Think about this: let us say that your legal business name is Epik Games Holdings. Let us also say that your brand name is Epik Games.
Now, if your domain name is https://gamesandbeyond.com, you may have problems later on. There are two main reasons why matching a domain and a business name is important. These reasons are SEO and Branding.
- The SEO Problem
Most of the time, you will use your brand name in all the things that you do online. In our example, your name, Epik Games, is what consumers will know. This is the name that is associated with your products, not Games and Beyond.
Search engines today are smart. They know if the domain name is related to what a user is searching for, and the engines also have a massive database of information, which the algorithms match. If you use Games and Beyond, no one will find your website because people are searching for Epik Games.
Now, if you use Epik Games as your domain name, and somebody types the keyword Epik Games, search engines like Google are likely to show your website, not other websites that have no relevance to your business.
The second important reason is branding. There is a reason why the brand Nike also uses the same name on its website—to maintain the brand. The same thing goes for Disney, Apple, Microsoft, and so much more.
If you use a URL or domain name that is different from your brand, your customers will get confused. And if they are confused, they are not likely to trust you—and you will lose customers. Nobody will really do research—they will just move on.
How to Choose the Right Domain and Brand Name
Now, let us talk about how you can choose a good brand name, which you must also use for your domain name. Again, I want to emphasize that your business name does not really matter—it is merely a way to legally identify yourself as far as the government is concerned.
1. Make it short
Short domain names are easier to remember. This is why the one-word brand and domain names are expensive.
Studies have shown that shorter domain names are more effective because they resonate with audiences. If the name is too long, people somehow feel alienated about it. If you cannot find it short, make sure that it is easy to remember.
In our example earlier, the name Games and Beyond is long, but it is easily understood and remembered. Many experts suggest that your domain name must be between 6 and 14 characters only. Anything longer than that is a branding nightmare.
2. Easy to pronounce
Sure, you have seen brand names like Google and Flickr. These names meet our condition, but they are also easy to pronounce. Brand names must sound natural. You have the liberty to create new words if you want, but do not make it complicated.
One test you can do is to ask at least ten people to read and pronounce your desired name. If they cannot pronounce it, scratch it off your list.
Why is this important?
You want your domain name to be passed on to other people. There really is nothing better than word of mouth. If people can also easily spell it, it is easier for them to share your brand name online.
3. Avoid numbers and hyphens
This is not a golden rule but try to avoid numbers and hyphens. These are difficult to remember and type. While some companies can get away with it, it is not likely that you would.
Just think if Instagram has a hyphen. It would look like this: Insta-gram. This looks weird. Apart from being difficult to type in a browser or in search, it is not so brandable. The trick in selecting a domain and brand name is that it has to be punchy.
It has to stick. And usually, good brand names are made of one word only. Numbers are great for products, like movie titles and such, but they are not good for business names.
4. Use keywords
Single-word domain names and brands are expensive. Today, you do not have a lot of options but to use two to three words. If you don’t, you will either have to be really creative, or you have to have a lot of money to buy your brand and domain name.
Since you are likely to use several words, make it a point to use keywords that help your audience understand what your business is about.
For example, a website I know is called Backlink Society. From that name alone, I can say that it is about backlinks. Another example is SEO Journal. The name itself tells me that the website is about SEO.
Keywords do not only make sense to your audience—they also make sense to search engines. If your website is about cats, then you have to use keywords related to your business. If you can afford to pay for a brand and one-word domain, then yes, you can use the word Meow.
But this is not often the case. Most of the time, you have to resort to three words. Make sure that these three words count. Use keywords to help search engines know what your site is about, and to let people know what your business offers.
5. Make sure it is not trademarked
Each country has a trademark database. In the US, you can check the USPTO website. This is where you can search the government’s database to check if the domain and brand name you want is already trademarked.
One thing that I encourage you to do is to do a Google search about your chosen brand name. If you see any website that already uses that name, scratch it from your list.
Why is this important?
Trademark is a legal issue. If you infringe someone’s copyrights and trademark, you are in violation of the law. The last thing you really want is to find yourself in the middle of a legal battle.
6. Make it unique
In some situations, you may have an idea for a name that is not trademarked yet. If the same name meets other conditions that I mentioned (except using keywords), then use that name.
There are many companies that simply put together two words to make one. A good example is Facebook. Instagram and Snapchat are also great examples.
If you have something that sounds cool, you can also use that name. A good example is TikTok. Google is another—the name Google was inspired by the word googol, which refers to 10 raised to the power of ten.
As always, make sure that it is not trademarked, and that it somehow represents the “soul” of your company.
Check for Major TLDs
TLD stands for top-level domain. These are .com, .org, and .net. The reason this is important is that top-level domain names are a lot more credible.
There was a time when these were the only domains you could buy. As time passed on, millions of websites were put up, thus reducing the possible names you can buy with top-level domains. Today, you can buy so many domains like .accountant, .blog, .io, etc.
While these domains work, they are not as credible as the TLDs. If anything, they sound really suspicious. People who use the internet are a lot more comfortable in top-level domains.
As far as SEO is concerned, there is a debate as to whether TLDs perform better than the others. If you look at the data, the obvious answer is yes.
However, this is not because search engines have preference over them—it’s just that when people type URLs on their browser, TLDs are the default mode in their minds.
And since they type TLDs like .com, the domain associated with that will get traffic. In my personal experience., a .com site is the best choice you can ever make. It is credible, and you are more likely to get more traffic than if you use other domains.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we close, let us take a look at three of the most frequently asked questions about domains and brand names.
- Do companies with different domain names succeed?
Yes, it is possible. As I mentioned earlier, there are companies that have a different brand name and domain name from their business name. And these businesses succeed because they built their reputation on their brand, not their legal business name.
- Can domain name and website name be different?
No, this is not possible. Your domain name is your website name. A domain is merely the URL that tells computers how to access your web content.
- Does your logo have to match your business name?
Not really. In the case of McDonald’s, its logo is about MacDonald’s, but its legal entity does not use that name. A logo is a representation of your brand. It has to match your domain, but not necessarily your legal business name.
Do not get confused between domains and legal names. Below is a simple reminder:
- Domain – the URL of your website; must match your brand name
- Brand – the name by which people will know you
- Business name – the name that is officially registered for taxes; this is the entity that the government recognizes.
Domains and brands must match if possible. Choose the right domain name that is brandable. If you are just starting out, make a list of different brand names, and check if the domains are available for them.
Do not worry too much about your legal business name—it can be anything, and your customer will not even know the difference.
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