The domain I want for my business is taken and I don't have the $$$$ to pay the asking price. So it's either I settle for a .co or add "the" or "book" at the front of the name in the domain (ex: thesoulretreats or booksoulretreats) but only use Soul Retreats in branding and marketing campaigns that will embody the brand. Which is better for brand recognition and seo? To just go with .co or add book/the?
Does one (A) Pay more for the ideal domain name or (B) Save money by choosing a somewhat inferior domain name? It's a common question – so common that it probably deserves a name. The Entrepreneur's "Domain Dilemma", let's call it.
Of course, there are cases where the ideal domain really is too expensive. Asking prices can be crazy. And bootstrapping startups may have shoe-string budgets.
On the other hand, fair market prices for good domain names are higher than most people realize. Paying a few thousand dollars is average. And depending on the category of name, certain domains sell predictably within much higher price ranges: 5, 6 or 7 figures.
There is no single answer that will always be right – whether to buy the expensive ideal domain or to save money by going with a cheaper option. After all, this is the real world, which is about tradeoffs, about balancing pros and cons. Quality and Affordability – we sacrifice one for the other, almost inevitably, whenever we face any purchasing decision.
It's worth pointing out a few things. With an expensive domain name, you don't necessarily need to pay 100% of the asking price. I've helped clients negotiate less. And it's possible to arrange financing, leasing, and optioning contracts for premium domain names – with no obligation to continue paying if you decide (for whatever reason) to abandon the project or rebrand.
That can be really important for startups. Instead of starting with a name that LOOKS as cheap as your budget, you can start with the perfect name that reflects your future ambitions.
That better domain – the one you really want, not the knock-off second-rate version of your goal – can help you get eyeballs, look credible, achieve name recognition, and acquire not only clientele but possibly partners and investors. If your project succeeds, you can finish buying that perfect domain. If not, you can let it go after using it for awhile as an experiment and only paying a small fraction of that intimidating asking price. Conclusion: Sticker shock need not be fatal.
Also, keep in mind that – with almost everything in life – cutting corners might save money initially; but over time, such decisions often prove even more expensive. Like driving on worn-out tires. Or going to a job interview in sweat pants rather than buying that "superficial" suit.
People tend to underestimate this effect when it comes to domains because nobody shows up later to charge them an extra domain-related fee as a penalty for choosing a third-rate domain name earlier. Rather, the cost is indirect, hidden, if not invisible. But it's there.
The customers who forget your name (or the web address that is vaguely similar to your brand name) will google a generic description of what you offer. And so they'll run the gauntlet of your competitors, clicking on their sites instead of on yours. Better to get traffic via direct navigation through the browser.
Domains that contain extra words, or which don't exactly match your brand, or which are boobytrapped with non-standard suffixes (.CO instead of .COM, for instance) will lead to mistyped or misremembered attempts to reach you.
Not just in browsers. Emails will go astray and might be read by someone else.
Leakage due to a bad name is hard to detect because the people who WANT to find you ... don't. Ideally, your brand name and web address should be simple enough that one of your clients can refer you to their acquaintances over the phone with NO CHANCE that the other person will misunderstand, misspell, or forget that name / address a week or two later when they actually try to find you. If your brand / domain can't do this 100% of the time, then you are losing word-of-mouth growth. And you won't know it, but you'll have to compensate for it by extra marketing effort or expense somewhere else.
And if you are planning on someday upgrading to the better version of your domain – once you can afford it – that might cause complications. The owner of that domain might see your successful business and add an extra zero or two to the asking price. Or, perhaps even worse, a different startup might buy your ideal domain and use it for their own project. And whether they compete with you for customers or not, they WILL compete with you for rankings in Google, driving up your SEO costs (whether in dollars or time and effort).
The foregoing DOESN'T mean that you need to pay an exorbitant amount for your ideal domain. It only means that you should weigh ALL the pros and cons when making your decision about the tradeoffs.
Talk to me if you want a 2nd opinion from someone who has spent roughly a decade working full time on branding and the domain market. I've been in your shoes as an entrepreneur naming my own projects and buying (or not buying) my first-choice domains, depending on the particular case. And I've advised a lot of clients, helping them save money and end up with a name that provides better bang for their buck. Sometimes what appears to be your ideal domain isn't so ideal. Or else there might be other equally good domains that you haven't thought of, which might save you substantially.