Which domain to choose for a startup — a .net or a hyphened .com?

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I found this question the other day on LinkedIn Answers, and I thought it would make a good blog post. My recommendations to all my clients has always been and continues to be for the .com domain. There are several technical and usability reasons for these.

  1. Technical: Some servers, when set up properly, will send a user who forgets to type a domain to the .com domain automatically (on browsers that have this capability).So, for example, if you had mycompany.net, and a user types “mycompany” — some browsers would be sending these users to a potential competitor.
  2. Usability: .Com is the most common and well-known domain. You don’t want to force your customers and users to remember yours because its different.Unless you manage to secure a STELLAR and MEMORABLE domain, going with the .com works best. Its possible to be successful without a .com domain — del.icio.us is one example. But, some of this is subject to luck and other factors.
  3. I would not advice using a dash or hyphen.

Usually, the challenge to choosing a domain only comes when the company name is not available in the .com domain. For these cases, I would suggest going with slogan, or catch phrase, that best brands your company.

For example, a missions nonprofit (I’ve mentioned before) targeting Latin America could not find their domain “www.gcla.com”, so they went with “www.reachinglatinos.com.”

This is the key for domain selection:

  1. Easy to spell.
  2. Easy to understand over the radio (when you don’t know how to spell it). This means no numerals.
  3. Catchy, memorable, or short and easy to remember.
  4. Ads value to the brand.

The corporate initials might be well known internally, but unless you are using it on your marketing collateral, will not ad any value to your brand. Keep it it focused and integrated with larger marketing strategy.

About using a .net, I would say it only makes sense when it ads value to the brand. For example, if your company provides networking services, or something of that sort. Otherwise, you are faced with the same challenge of users possibly forgetting the domain.

Hope this helps in your brainstorming process as you figure out the best domain for your company.

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