Branding vs. domain name availability... and the consequences to creative solutions?


With the introduction of more versatile domain names, people have been utilizing subdomains and clever suffixes to create more unique domains (ie.

I've also come across others that use phrases for the domain instead of the company name (ie.,

Are there any studies that show the effectiveness/pit-falls of this strategy? For example, if I'm building an application--is it worth it to find a domain name that's available, and brand that way... or stick to my idea, and find a clever domain work around?

eg. Let's say my app was named "rollo" and that was not
available. would it be better to
register something like
"" or re-vision the
name/brand to something like
"" (because the domain
was available.)

Branding Naming Domain

asked Mar 27 '11 at 10:40
Julian Lloyd
126 points

5 Answers


Given that in most markets / spaces 100% of the relevant domains appear to be already taken (and mostly by domainers), I think you have to get more creative.

Now that could be something apparently random like 37signals, word combos like etc, or appname with some random noun / verb added - most look awful, but some seem ok.

Who'd expect a to do list site to be called remember the milk ? But that probably catches and keeps more than say when the domain visitor forgets the clever domain hack and types and signs up for your #1 competitor.

Now I would far rather be able to find a simple, single word available on a .com, but it isn't viable any more.

I think any of the alternatives are second best until you break critical mass - for instance if I was creating flickr on a shoestring I'd also want flicker to catch type-ins for those that don't "get it".

Simple test - give your domain name to a few friends over the phone - the amount of spelling out and explanation required should give you a good feeling for how much traffic you're losing due to being "clever".

I feel for you - I've spent most my spare time this week trying to find a workable, catchy, memorable domain for our latest product.

answered Mar 27 '11 at 22:53
2,552 points


Domain name creativity has become a core part of architecting and launching your startup. All the easy one are already taken, so there is a requirement to come up with something simple and unique.

It's hard to say what is the best approach, though personally I try not to stray from .com, some of the recent concerns around the .ly TLD are an example of why you might want to consider this.

Another alternative that you didn't mention directly is to go with something like, and then purchase from the squatter once you have enough traction to make it potentially worthwhile. Though my favorite is probably just picking a pronounceable word or wordpair and using that. eBay, google, yelp, craigslist, twitter are all good examples of sites that created a new meaning, or in ebays case even a new word.

answered Mar 27 '11 at 23:02
Brian Karas
3,407 points


Agree with other answers.
I would just add one pointer to an article I found very good about the subject: (from Jason Calacanis)

Nice tip there on the reverse dictionary. I let you discover the link.

answered Apr 2 '11 at 03:45
714 points


You should keep your domain name on point, but very general too. Your business may have to shift and pivot, and you definitely do not want to have to get stuck with a domain that looks strange.

Here is a real world example I experienced: I had a site - it was way too specific with the hiking and the san francisco thing.

So I changed my domain to the current site which is - seems less specific, right?

Wrong :) - people always ask me now whether I can expand into other outdoor areas and would be tough for me to pull of kayaking or skiing. ;)

On the other hand, the domain is awesome for a global hiking site. In general, look for these values in a domain:

- catchy

- short
- impossible to miss-spell
- easy to remember
- fun and positive
So hopefully my experience will help shed some light on the domain name branding :)
answered Mar 27 '11 at 15:24
1,821 points
  • Part of my issue is that the original application name I had are those things... catchy, short, fun, impossible to misspell or forget. Naturally, the domain name is taken... I'm not just naming my site, but also the application. – Julian Lloyd 13 years ago
  • @Shango What is the application's name? We can do a nice quick brainstorm :) – Genadinik 13 years ago


I think that it is vital to recognize that the domain of your site is part of the overall branding of your company. Proper branding is not just an art - there is a lot of science that goes with it as well. Brand management is a professional discipline. I am not a programmer --so I try to limit the programming I do on my site.

Effective branding includes market research, target market analysis, and direct targeted customer/client feedback. The direct impact of poor branding may not be as immediately obvious as say poor UI, design, or target market research.

Your brand is the collection of experiences and associations connected with your service, product and company. It is imperative that those experiences are positive and memorable. You often only have one chance to make a lasting impression on a prospective customer. Your URL will be part of that experience. It needs to work with the name, colors, the logo, the design elements -- all in the context of your targeted market.

I am cheap. I like doing things on the cheap. I know the temptation to focus on the critical path and postpone issues -- like the brand -- until there is revenue. In today's market-- with the extraordinary premium on marketing -- it is important to invest the appropriate time and resources in the development of the brand.

answered Mar 29 '11 at 08:42
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points

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