Will a slightly different domain name affect SEO or brand identity?

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.

Answered 5 years ago

There are two ways your domain can impact your SEO and search rankings:
a. Branding
b. Keywords
a. Branding domains: Your domain name should be based on your brand. This is how users will find, remember, share, and identify your business online. Typically, you should choose a domain name at the same time you choose your business name. In other words, if you already have a business name, you should use it as your domain name as well. The main key to a SEO-friendly domain name is branding. For example, would Apple register a domain name like No. Apple has an established brand that does not need further keyword-stuffing in its domain name. Google likes brands because users like brands. A strong online brand means users are more likely to click on, read, share, and link to a website. The more people will remember your brand, the more they will revisit you, and thus increasing your website’s credibility and trust value – end result: positive branding that will help your website gain higher Google rankings. Using your brand name as your domain name makes sense if:
i. Your brand name is already established and recognized
ii. You have already started brand promotion and brand awareness
iii. Your brand is your own name (such as
iv. Your brand is incredibly unique
v. You want your website to rank well in search results for your brand name

b. Keyword domains: Alternatively, you can choose a domain name that contains keywords about your business, products, or services, etc. For example, say you are a photographer specializing in pets’ photography. You might get better search ranking results with a domain name like But do keep in mind that Google does not give as much value to keyword domains as it does with brand domains.
Let us image your name is Bob and you have a guitar repair shop in Chicago. You want to start a website and you are looking for a domain name that would help you reach out to your customers and market your business.
Here are some possible domain name options:
1. Branding domains
An example of a branded domain is
SEO benefits: The domain name alone does not give any specific details about your company, or the products/services you offer. The website can be about anything, giving you a blank slate to build your brand and to set the definition of the domain name and website for search engines.
Downfall: Much of your efforts will need to be focused on building and promoting your brand. You need to come up with creative ways for people to draw the association between your brand name and your services so that whenever people hear of “Bob’s” they immediately think “guitar repair.”
2. Local domains
An example of a local domain is
SEO benefits: This type of domain name can help you specifically target customers in Chicago. While your website content would still have to describe the products and services you sell, your domain name gives you a head start by letting customers and search engines know that you are based in Chicago.
Downfall: Say you want to expand your business or want to target search traffic outside your geographical area, it would be a bit more difficult, not simply from a search engine point of view, but also from a branding point of view.
3. Service domains
An example of a service domain is
SEO benefits: This type of domain name helps you market your products and service. By highlighting the service in the domain name, people can easily tell what your website is going to be about, and the type of service they can expect from you. It also takes away the geographical constricts of a Local Domain – all you need to do is define your service locations in the content of his website.
Downfall: If you should decide to offer piano tuning or other services late on, it would not be easy for you to rank for those keywords (or any terms outside of the specific service of Guitar Service).
4. Local + Service domains
An example of a local + service domain is
SEO benefits: This type of domain name allows search engines to define your business and location more precisely.
Downfall: These domain names are very often bought out long time ago. You may need to narrow down your location or business definition. Your other option would be to consider the lesser known domain extensions, such, online, etc.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

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