For as long as most marketers can remember, getting a good domain name was a prerequisite to anything you were going to do on the web. Without a good domain name, no one would be able to find your site, or recall your campaign to get them to visit your page. Domain names were worth paying thousands of dollars for, or even potentially changing the name of your business to something that you could actually get the domain name for.
To a degree, this is still true. As a marketer, I certainly still preach the importance of a good domain name and counsel my clients to make sure they can get one. Still, it is not the necessity that it once was. In fact, there are plenty of times now when you can succeed without having the best domain name. There are several factors pointing this decreasing importance that you should consider before launching a mega-search for the ideal domain name:
- Link Shorteners – Thanks mostly to Twitter, but also social media sites as well, link shorteners like Bit.ly or TinyURL.com are making actual URLs almost irrelevant because they mask actual URLs and convert them into short versions that are much better when sharing a link in a place with a 140 character limit.
- Social Media Homepages – More and more frequently we are starting to see brand direct people to their social networking profile on a site like Facebook as a destination rather than a brand homepage. When people visit a social networking site directly, their first impression doesn't involve your website (or its URL), and this is increasingly common.
- Creative spelling – You could fill a book with how many new popular sites there are which feature what might kindly be called "creative spelling" of common words or even made up words. Flickr, Dopplr, and Bing are just a few examples. Either way, there is a much broader creative license to choose a unique name that works than there ever was in the past.
- Growing consumer sophistication – Another element helping to lessen the importance of getting domain names with certain extensions (such as always getting a .com name) is that consumers are growing increasingly familiar with other versions of domain names. If your primary site is on a .org, .gov, .edu or .net extension – it is much more likely today that consumers will remember and use this instead of just focusing on .com and assuming it is part of your name.
- Power of search – Continual improvements in search algorithms and usage of search engines means that even if consumers remember just a part of your name, they are far more likely to type that into Google along with your location or anything else they remember to find your site. Certainly having a good domain name can help with search, but there are other ways to make sure your site is search optimized and it doesn't all hinge on your domain name.
- Rise of online marketing – As more and more marketing dollars shift online, this also reduces the relative level of importance of your domain name. Having a great easy to remember domain is important if you are putting it on a billboard that people drive by at 65 miles per hour. It is less important if you are using a higher percentage of your promotional budget to drive people to click a link online which will directly take them to a page (usually without ever showing them the URL they are going to until they reach it.
- QR Codes & Visual URLs – The symbol of the growing popularity of "visual URLs" are QR codes. These are two dimensional bar codes that can be scanned in (usually by a mobile phone or other such device) and it allows you to visit a specific site without ever entering a URL. In the near future, we will likely see other ideas like this to help people navigate their way to online destinations without ever having to share an actual URL on a keyboard.