January 05, 2013
I learned the answer to that question the hard way. When I initially started my business Avalon Rose Design several years ago, I was primarily selling on eBay. I'd established a storefront there, and it was doing quite well selling graphics and templates.
I hadn't planned well, or thought far enough ahead, however. By the time I had decided to venture off into website design and establish an online presence separately from eBay, someone else had already purchased the avalonrosedesign.com domain name that I wanted. There wasn't an actual website there, just one of those parked ad sites....
It's not pretty, is it? Trying to purchase it from the owner sounded like a simple enough job, but it proved more difficult than I thought. No matter how many times I emailed, or tried to negotiate through my registrar I never got a single response.
There were then two choices, change the name of my business that was already familiar to many of my clients, or just go ahead and get the avalonrosedesign.net. I went with the .net. That was okay, but I would get the occasional email from someone saying that they tried to visit my website, but it was down. The site wasn't down, the problem was that they had gone to the .com, and therefore the ad site instead of the .net. Not their fault, people are just more used to a .com. There are even buttons now on many mobile devices that say ".com" to make it easier to get to a specific website.
Thinking that I'd better have a .com of some sort, I went with a hyphenated version, avalon-rose-design.com. See a problem with that? I didn't at first. There is a lot of debate out there about whether hyphenated domain names are good or bad for SEO, and I'm not going to get into that. What I will say though is that it's difficult to explain your domain name when you're speaking to someone at an event or over the phone. Instead of "blahblahblah.com" I'd have to say "avalon hyphen rose hyphen design.com". People would get confused, and that's a bad thing. In many cases a hyphen is almost necessary in a domain name when it can be confusing to read without one, but more than one? It just caused too many problems.
Eventually I went with something simpler, a .com without hyphens, theavalonrose.com. I've had it now for years, and it's worked out alright. Except I still get the "your site is down" emails from time to time. It's a common assumption that a business name plus a .com is how to get to a website. So while some people can find my website by using a Google search for "Avalon Rose Design", or clicking on a link from another site, just typing in avalonrosedesign.com will take you nowhere.
There's also the problem that someone else owns that particular domain, and can do whatever they want with it. What if they put up a site with offensive content at that domain? It would most certainly be bad for business.
I recently decided to just search Godaddy for that domain again, and what do you know? It was up for auction. The minimum bid was MUCH higher than I wanted to spend, but for the sake of my business and my brand I had to pay the piper. My bid was eventually accepted after a few back and forths, but it's mine now (even though the transfer hasn't been completed, it soon will be).
So, what's in a domain name? Your business, that's what. The moral of the story is if you are running a business, even if you're just selling part-time on Etsy, eBay or you only have a brick and mortar, obtain the domain name as soon as possible. It'll save you a lot of worry and hassle down the road. Who knows what the future will bring?
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