Having a personal domain name can be a great resource. Whether or not you have bought a domain that is your actual name, there are a lot of different reasons to do so.

Even if you have a hard last name to spell (like mine or something like Guillebeau) you can use your personal domain name as a living, breathing business card or host your full-fledged blog and website on it.

For example, Corbett transitioned his pre-TT blog FreePursuits.com to just be at CorbettBarr.com before merging it with this site. And I used to just use CalebWojcik.com as a portfolio of sorts, but then I “unbranded” my own blog and host it there. Many other people I know just own their personal domain name to redirect it, like my wife does with JenWojcik.com to JenWojcikPhotography.com.

After seeing some of the examples below I think you will agree that using your FirstNameLastName.com or a variation to “brand yourself” with an online calling card should definitely be at the top of your to do list.

1. Joshua Fields Millburn

Joshua Fields Milburn

Josh primarily writes on The Minimalists, but he also writes fiction and nonfiction books. He uses his full name domain as a living resumé, to direct people to all the places he can be found online, and to show anyone at a glance some of the press he has gotten. This site was designed by the talented Spyr Media.

2. Tara Gentile

Tara Gentile

Tara uses her full name domain as the complete “home” for all her work online and her home page does a lot of great things in just a small amount of space. Above the fold you see:

  1. A high quality picture of her.
  2. A big call-to-action.
  3. Her “as seen in” sources (like was talked about in yesterday’s PR article)

3. Seth Godin

Seth Godin

Seth has one of the most popular blogs on the internet and it is simply just a Typepad hosted site. But, Seth’s calling card on the internet is SethGodin.com, where you can quickly see at a glance how many books he has published, and “click on his head” to go to the blog.

4. Danielle Laporte

Danielle Laporte

Danielle’s “White Hot Truth” blog is now fully branded around her name. She has injected herself fully into the brand and has everything all in one convenient full name domain.

5. Joel Runyon

Joel Runyon

Joel has so many projects going on that this is the perfect example as to why it is good to have a single place to showcase everything you have your hands in. His primary blog, The Blog of Impossible Things, is hosted as a subsection of his full name domain. This is another incredible design by the team at Spyr Media.

6. Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau

When Chris started The Art of Non-Conformity he hosted it at his full name domain and he hasn’t turned back since. He hosts his blog there but has the Unconventional Guides store and the Travel Hacking Cartel on separate domains.

7. Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder

Laura has branded her business around her persona, especially through her heavy use of videos (in both her blog and in the courses she offers). The branding of her products are then separate brands in and of themselves (i.e. “Zero to Facebook“).

8. Marie Forleo

Marie Forleo

Last, but certainly not least is Marie Forleo. If I had to recommend just one example of how to inject your personality into your brand, Marie would be it.

Everything she does on her site and in her business includes high quality media of herself (from the videos she creates to the rotating header images).


What if My Name is Already Taken?

If you have a fairly common name, your full name might not be available as a .com domain name. What should you do if yours is taken?

Here are some alternatives.

  • Use a different domain extension. Instead of .com, go for .net, .us, .info or whatever else is available and makes sense.
  • Add a middle initial. If JohnSmith.com isn’t free, maybe JohnZSmith.com is.
  • Get creative. Matt Mullenweg uses the domain ma.tt for example.

 

IN THE LAST three years, almost 1,000 new generic Top Level Domains, also called new gTLDs, have become available for registration. This exponential increase from the previous 22 options like .com, .net, and .org. has created a historic change in the way people navigate the web. Companies looking to provide the next big domain extension have sparked a flurry of activity, along with investors looking to cash in on the next domain craze. Before diving into the countless new domain extensions that could make or break your business, Jeannie McPherson, domain evangelist and marketing expert at Verisign, answers some key questions about the new landscape and the implications for businesses and individuals.

Okay, so what’s in a name?

When it comes to domain name extensions, everything. Thanks to nearly 30 years of top-tier news, entertainment and commerce being associated with the .com suffix, users have grown exceptionally comfortable with typing in .com as the default domain extension. Alternatives have sprouted up over the years, but .com remains the most versatile, trusted and recognizable domain extension around the world.

That’s not to say people should ignore all new gTLDs. Some of the new options will undoubtedly prove to be trustworthy and reliable fixtures on the internet. However, users need to make sure they are not investing time and money for naught, and possibly putting their brands at risk. Asking the right questions to ensure you’re getting the facts is key to making the right domain name choice.

Wouldn’t something new and different help me stand out?

Possibly, but going against the grain involves many risks, and it’s important to know what they are. It may be tempting to go with novelty to stand out, but three decades of trust and ingrained user behavior around established domain extensions may be a large hurdle to overcome.

Many of the businesses and organizations that have been enticed to try out new domain extensions are experiencing unforeseen issues, such as customer confusion about their web address, and the technical limitations that compound that confusion. Reports of clients’ skepticism and operational problems, like incompatibilities with commonly used email validation systems, browsers, and other websites, has some small business owners urging caution to those interested in adopting new gTLDs.

Even some of the most experienced companies have found that choosing the wrong domain extension can have big consequences. Online retail giant Overstock.com switched to O.co in 2011 and learned this lesson first-hand. Overstock reportedly lost scores of visitors because customers instinctively typed in O.com and were greeted with an “error” message because it was not an active domain name. The customer confusion prompted Overstock to reverse its rebranding in less than a year – millions of marketing dollars lost and customer confidence shaken.

Aren’t shorter names more memorable, though? If the domain is shorter, does the extension really matter?

Length is only part of the equation. More than anything, you’ll want potential visitors to recognize and trust your domain extension so they will visit your website. User trust in the internet is waning with the daily reports of data breaches and identity theft. Businesses already have so many hurdles to overcome in their daily operations. Why add user skepticism of your domain name to the pile? Unusual domains can create a challenging dynamic that can be overcome, but people need to understand that they are basically signing up for a handicap, and that’s the last thing most businesses owners are looking to do.

My advice is to follow the leaders. Every Fortune 500 company and most of the top startups have .com domain names. Successful companies like Tesla, Facebook, and Apple buy .com domain names on the secondary market, passing up other domain extensions entirely, because they know that it’s a smart and secure investment for their future. Even domain and SEO experts agree that a long .com domain name is better, more memorable, and less confusing to consumers than a short domain name on a lesser-known domain extension.

I’ve heard that using new gTLDs can increase SEO rankings. Is that true?

It’s not quite that easy. Search engines use various methods to determine the relevance and authority of web content, and how to rank it for their users. While there are many variables that go into determining search rankings – including content quality, inbound links, website structure, and download speed – one of the most important factors is site traffic. The more people visit and engage with your website, the more relevant it becomes to search engines. So, a big marketing campaign focused on driving traffic to your website can help increase its search rankings, but it doesn’t mean all domains that share your extension will see the same benefits.

Also, new concerns have been raised about vulnerabilities resulting from the availability of new gTLDs, and scammers are taking advantage of consumer confusion by using some to launch phishing attacks and other malicious cyber activities. Cybersecurity organizations monitoring this trend have recommended that people block the most abused TLDs from their networks, and individuals are already reporting doing so due to high levels of spam. At this time, it is unknown how many businesses and individuals have blocked new gTLDs from their networks for this or other reasons, or what the SEO affects are.

Locating your website on a new domain name extension may seem like a novel idea, but if it’s on an extension that is a known security concern, that alone could decrease your website’s authority. Or worse, if it’s on an extension that has been blocked, it could potentially make you invisible to search engines. That’s why it’s so important that people get all the facts about domain extensions before investing.

Couldn’t registering a bunch of domain extensions lead to more visits?

It’s more about how you use the domain names. It’s not uncommon for a business or individual to register several domain names for a variety of reasons. Many businesses target specific buyers or interests, so it makes sense for them to register multiple domain names to reflect that targeting. While .com is the preferred domain extension for many businesses, adding other extensions could be a smart play depending on your digital strategy. The key is having a strategy.

Businesses and individuals need to think about how they plan to use the domain names they register and what message they want to send to potential customers. Whether it is a .tv to drive visitors to a video hub, or a .brand for brand protection, a domain portfolio should complement your primary domain name and help advance your digital strategy.

Okay, I’m ready to choose. What’s the next step?

Consider all of the points raised here to help you come up with the best strategy for your online presence. Don’t just jump in blind and possibly waste time and money – or worse – set yourself up for failure. Think of your domain name as a billboard for your brand. Don’t you want it to be well-lit, credible, and instantly recognizable?

A higher quality domain name speaks to a higher quality brand. It’s how people talk about your business, how they find you on the internet, and how they will remember you. More than anything, you want your domain name to tell the story of your business – one of trust, reliability and longevity.

Visit Verisign.com today to discover the next chapter in your online story.

Marketing is all about communication, and when it comes to naming your brand, the challenge is fitting all that you want to say about your business into just a handful of letters. In order to get the most out this opportunity to communicate your brand identity to potential clients, knowing how to use your character limit is key.

One rule that Novanym recommend is steering clear of the three letter business names. Whether takes form as an abbreviation, acronym or initialism, the message your hoping to convey is likely to be lost entirely.

Every one of our cool business name ideas have been crafted to communicate and engage in a single word .com domain. We work to help firms begin their journey with a name that delivers three crucial branding essentials: visibility, differentiation and relevance. This takes more than 3 letters.

Trying to decode a three letter business name

Changing to initials can be a useful tactic for well established businesses who’ve carved out a high profile for themselves in the market (think IBM or BBC). But it’s only a feasible solution for those who have laid the groundwork.

Let’s take an example. Say three junior partners in a leading law firm set out to go it alone in the biz: Cooke, Patel and O’Connor. As talented as this team might be in the field of corporate law, say, they’re no branding experts. So they gravitate towards the standard formula and makes the mistake of becoming CPO.

Unfortunately for CPO, the name is virtually meaningless to anyone outside of their company. A client approaching it for the first time not only has no idea what type of law the business practices, but no way of knowing that CPO are partners in law at all. All this is assuming that they got the name right in the first place, when spoken aloud it can may be hard to distinguish P’s from B’s and C’s from T’s. With profit margins on the line, it’s an expensive risk to take.

Short business names need to be memorable

By the time you’ve reached the end of this post, you’d be forgiven for having forgotten what CPO stands for, even for forgetting the acronym itself. This is the case for the vast majority of three letter business names.

Being able to attribute meaning to a name or concept is key to improving our chances of remembering it. So while you could argue that a three letter company name is short, and therefore easy to recall, without a discernible meaning the opposite may be true. Some of our best names are just five letters in length, but it’s enough to conjure an impression of the business services, industry and brand voice.

An additional risk very short business names introduce is being confused with competitors, or even with businesses operating far outside your own industry. This issue has become intensified as businesses seek catchy domain names to enhance their online presence.

It’s not just business competition to keep an eye out for. If we revisit CPO, this is also a term commonly used to refer to a ‘compulsory purchase order’. If you’re trying to launch a new business, that’s not the greatest thing to be mistaken for.

OLT, or one last thing: there are currently more acronyms in our language than ever before. The three letter pool is saturated by the stock exchange, international airport codes, and text message terminology.

So, with our vocabularies saturated with meaningless monikers already, it’s probably best to stay clear. A company name that can be spoken over the phone, accurately spelled and then remembered days later is much more likely to help your brand succeed.

One of the challenges faced by ‘brandable domain’ and ‘brandable business name’ specialists like Novanym is that most people don’t know what the heck brandable means.

So here’s our go at a definition…

Brandable‘ is used to describe a domain name that’s been created and registered, but is not yet used to name and brand a company. In other words, they’re business names waiting to be adopted by a business. (As far as we can tell, the word brandable came about because nobody knew what else to call them.)

They turn the branding process around 180º by starting with the domain and working back, and they offer the potential of an affordable shortcut to finding that elusive great new name. But, as with any marketplace, there are good (sometimes great) brandable domains, and also plenty of not-so-good ones. Authorative and businesslike? Techie and futuristic? Gimmicky and funky? …you need to find a provider that sells the types of names you feel comfortable with.

Brandable domains deliver brand authority

It’s useful to understand the difference between ‘keyword domains’ names (like SuperCheapWidgets.com) and brandable domains. And the difference is pretty stark: you can’t build a brand out of a keyword domain; all you can do is get some clicks to a website, assuming you can outwit Google of course.

New domain extensions have accumulated some pretty big numbers over the last couple of years. Collective registrations for the new GTLDs (generic top-level domains) have now surpassed 13 million, according to NTLD stats. This number is not small by any means. Comparably speaking, this represents just over 10 percent of total .com registrations, more than 50 percent of the total .net registrations and 30 percent more than total .org registrations.

While these numbers may not be a surprise to some, they certainly prove the Not-Com revolution (a term coined by Jeff Davidoff, CMO of Donuts, and the largest applicant for new domain-name extensions) is certainly making waves.

From Lady Gaga (bornthisway.foundation) to Oprah (wherearetheynow.buzz) to Slack (slack.help), thousands of companies have adopted the new domains. Some use one as a primary domain, others for email; others are embracing the very tangible, visual marketing advantage of these.

Companies spend billions annually on brand building, yet one of the most visible elements that brands have often been forced to use in social media are URL shorteners, owned by another brand. For example, take a look at one of Deadpool’s recent tweets:

Deadpool uses a URL shortener from bit.ly to promote an external link. In theory this works, because Bitly is a well-trusted brand. However, Deadpool is missing out on a very real opportunity for consistent brand experience by using a custom URL shortener — maybe deadpool.link, dp.link or something that’s more the Deadpool brand than someone else’s.

Bitly has even started embracing the adoption of Branded Short Domains under their Bitly Enterprise product offering. For example, ATTN.com is a highly popular news site with more than 1.6 million Facebook likes. However, if you look at ATTN’s Twitter feed, you’ll see they use attn.link as a URL shortener.

Now, visit ATTN.link and you’ll clearly see that the domain name is part of Bitly’s Branded URL enterprise solution product, where Bitly claims users can experience up to a 34 percent CTR increase simply by changing the name of their URL shortener (read Bitly’s case study).

For brand builders, these custom URL shorteners provide an extremely low-cost solution for maintaining brand consistency. You may have to sacrifice a character or two, but Twitter has discussed expanding the number of characters in future tweets.

From generic extensions like .help and .link to targeted extensions like .movie and .style, brands may do well to remember they often have the power to control anything left of the dot.

For those who doubted new domain name extensions, it may be time to widen your perspective and possibly even your ROI — which is, after all, every company’s dream.