A Domain Name Doesn’t Matter

If you have a unique business plan or web development idea that can’t easily or quickly be replicated, the domain name you choose for your website hardly matters. You can be   CrazyCrazyCrazy.us or some other funky domain name, and you will still have success if there’s a strong market for your product or service. The domain name matters much less than the idea and execution.

If your idea isn’t completely unique or you are entering a market where there is considerable competition, the domain name can be critical to your company’s success or failure.

In just about every market, a new industry leader can emerge (or   a new company can instantly be competitive) if he has the category killer domain name for the industry, as long as his product is at least competitive with the industry leaders. The company doesn’t necessarily need to be innovative to gain market share – just competitive.

New companies need to be innovative to take market share away from the leaders, or they need to spend considerable sums of money on marketing to get consumers to think its products are better or to give them a reason to buy them over its competitors products. A domain name doesn’t necessarily do all of this, but the category killer domain name does convey trust and is instantly recognizable.

Torah.com may not be the best looking website yet, as it’s a work in progress. However, I receive many Jewish-related questions every week from people who think Torah.com is the expert. I may not be from Lowell or have the most comprehensive site about Lowell (it’s debatable), but hundreds of people still visit Lowell.com each day, and many people book their hotel reservations right on the site.

A new company can spend a lot of money on marketing to convey trust. A category defining domain name can be expensive, but it can give instant credibility to a new or rebranded company.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Your article seems to start and end with opposing views.

    You start with this (I disagree), “If you have a unique business plan or web development idea that can’t easily or quickly be replicated, the domain name you choose for your website hardly matters.”

    And end with this (I agree): ” A category defining domain name can be expensive, but it can give instant credibility to a new or rebranded company.”

    I disagree with your first sentence because branding from a dead stop is always harder than piggybacking on to an established word or phrase regardless of how innovative the business model is. For example, Apple.com was 1000X easier to brand into people’s heads than if they had chosen SteveJobsNewComputers.com

  2. @ David

    I guess it’s not clear what I wrote… let me boil it down to hopefully clarify.

    If a great start-up with a unique name comes along, customers will find them online because they’ve heard about the brand. Flickr is an example, and although they inevitably lose visitors to Flicker.com, they are still a growing company.

    If I come along and offer the same exact product/service as Flickr with the same customer experience, and I choose a an equally questionable domain name, I will have to spend a ton of money branding it to get similar recognition in the marketplace.

    However, if I come along as Photos.com and provide the same service as Flickr, I will have an easier time building awareness because everyone recognizes a name like Photos.com.

    Boiled down further, it doesn’t matter what you call your brand if you have an innovative product because people will find you when others hear about the new brand. If you hope to compete in a saturated market and don’t want to spend millions branding your new company, a category killer domain name can save money over time.

  3. I don’t agree that all great ideas eventually see the light of day. In fact, I believe that most don’t because of poor marketing.

    Flickr.com is a not a good example because it did not magically become popular due to its great business model. One year after launch (in Canada) Yahoo acquired it and brought it to where it is today. That’s like saying I designed a car and Ford promoted it.

  4. I don’t think Twitter or Google spent a lot of money on marketing at first, but they became popular due to their unique offerings.

  5. Of course, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. There were plenty of great domains who tanked in 1999-2000 because the business model behind them was mediocre. But, in the end, you want as much ammunition in your corner as possible. In other words, if I was an angel investor in a start-up I’d want a category killer domain in the mix. And it wouldn’t matter how many Google or Twitter stories they told me.

  6. A better domain means more people will come to your site per marketing dollar spent, more people will remember the name through word of mouth, and more repeat visitors.

    All three reasons above really start shining if people can remember your domain without writing it down or bookmarking it.

    Better word of mouth and more repeat visitors means more sales for any company, even start-ups with unique offerings that don’t do any marketing.

    And even businesses with very unique offerings normally start spending considerable amounts on marketing after a while.

  7. A great name will not guarantee success, but for the vast majority of development projects I certainly believe it gives you a much greater chance and opens more doors that will lead to achieving financial success for the project.

    For us, having the exact city name and a decent promotional plan, has allowed us to achieve traffic numbers for our local news site in six weeks, that took our branded competition years and huge $$$ to get to.

    Having the “category killer” domain is key for us and we would not even have attempted the project without it.

  8. I believe it is all about credibility. The right idea/product with the right domain name is a winner, We know this because our city.com sites are far more visited than http://www.bobandbettyfairwayhomesforsale.com when people search for Scottsdale real estate, for example. I believe the right product MAY succeed in spite of its domain name, and there lies some of the mystery we all try to get our arms around on the subject of creative marketing. But the right dot.com domain name means so much….all of us form an immediate opinion of a site/domain name/product even before the site appears on our screens….and I would say most of the time it is a negative opinion….for most names that we click on…

  9. how much i love generic terms, long tail domain words and .com, .us, .tv this is interesting discussion. seems we always go back and forth on this topic generic, vs not generic or have no meaning. my co worker feels generic category names are a waste of money and would rather get search engine traffic on joomla platform. had many heated and interesting debates on this topic and here is a guy that has watched videos, read books the past 6 months and he is getting great traffic on one of his sites, long tail .net and i didnt even like the name lol.

    so many examples of the powers of branding and you dont need a generic .com name to be a powerhouse.. look at godaddy.com and why dont they buy domains.com? they dont need to, how come google didnt buy search.com or bing using search.com

    content, having a great site will continue to do well even if you cant afford a 100k .com name imo or 50k..

    just my 2 cents

  10. @MichaelCarter:
    Domain name is definitely now a top priority (of course, #1, 2, & 3 is “What’s the business model and who’s running it?”).

    Nearly all of the six figure+ inquiries we get for our generics come from people telling us their investors want an instantly identifiable domain because they are not too keen about putting their money on something like CmptrTechzies.com. I just spoke with Sedo about this on Monday. Dead giveway? They never ask about traffic.

  11. @Jeff:
    Nothing is absolute, but when people start tellimg me a domain name doesn’t matter because they can SEO, build content, etc they are missing the bigger picture. The people who say this are living 24/7 on the Internet and there’s a much bigger world out there.

    Case in point, I was in Manhattan all last week (was going to call you Elliot, but I was sick as a dog). Have you ever seen that TV adv with that stonefaced red headed guy who tells you he can save you tax money, IRS money, etc? His company is called Tax Masters (I know because I’ve seen his commercial everywhere and it cracks me up everytime). This guy is spending a fortune on TV ads. And thank goodness he is because there is no other way you would ever remember the name of his company.

    I happened to catch his adv in NYC and I was with Natalie Lambert. She also found it hilarious and at the end they quickly showed his domain name and toll free number. I asked Natalie if she could remember his toll free number and she looked at me like I was nuts. I then said, “Nevermind, what’s his web site address?” and she couldn’t recall it either.

    And this is my point – this guy is spending millions on TV ads and no one can remember his company’s name unless they see it countless times. His company is called Tax Masters. I have no idea what his domain name is, but if it was something like Taxes.com everyone would remember it in two seconds and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the massive $$$ return on that.

  12. I get lots of Qs about jade plants because the site I created growingjadeplant.com- has lots of info and best of all, all the plants are mine.
    Write what you know , be passion about it and show pictures.
    It adds credibility. I even get to broker a couple of $10K deals on old jade plants, just like bonsai.

    Do you know your piranha, torad or birds?

  13. @david,

    first off i respect you very much and im all about generic names for the record and thats the first option…

    however david- a good portion of us is not frank, you, rick for that matter and didnt grab all these gem names you did back in the day and now your making a bundle of money, have many great websites.

    i am agreeing with you for the most part and again im about generic names for sure..

    not everything has to be generic .com and a name worth 100k to make a website.

    i know a lot of generic .com domain owners are very well off and you as well.

    you are an exception david and keep building out your network and congrats!

    just my 2 cents david-take it for its worth i guess

  14. @Jeff:
    The last thing I (or my brother) would ever want to do is brag about our portfolio to other domainers (non-domainers, yes 🙂 .

    The reason I fiercely defend the value of our generics is for two reasons: 1) I know firsthand their massive branding and revenue generating power and 2) What’s good for me and my brother is good for ALL domainers – regardless of the length, number of words or TLD of the domains in their portfolios.

    There are plenty of people out there who have a vested in interest in trying to neutralize the value and power of domain names. We’re gradually winning the fight, but we still have a long way to go.

  15. Yahoo, Google, Twitter and even Bing. All brandable, non-category leaders and even nonsense names. But, catchy, catchy, interesting, fun phrases that are memorable to the public. Remember, Google and Twitter didn’t have marketing dollars to launch.

    The internet in indeed the wild west and completely unchartered territory.

    Elliot and David are both correct and incorrect. Correct because they have both had success with a few (or more than a few) launches. Incorrect because there are really no rules here.

    Bottom line, have fun and follow your gut!

  16. The mathematical subtlety here is that twitter and google are the sweetest businesses ever..what about a pretty good new service with little competition that is hard to replicate but not google or twitter on the sweetness scale..the category killer name will help that launch immensely if it defines the business..

    Siding with Mr. Castello on the super sweet value of names even beyond Mr. Silver’s optimism for general domain value..

  17. Jeff,
    If you do not own and can not acquire prime real estate to build a large five star luxury hotel, then it may be best to not get into large five star luxury hotel business.
    If you have land on the outskirts of town, you can still build a $39/night motel and make it work, nothing wrong with that at all.

  18. I like Jon’s idea. There is something to be said for owning several $39.00 night motels verses one good domain. I like diversity. On any given day one minisite can do well while the other is not. Having said this, I would be happy… ecstatic to own a great generic as well. Just not in the cards yet.

  19. @Jon/Steve

    Not if you are going to spend a lot more time and effort managing all of your little $39/night hotels. Realistically, hotel and website management are far different.

    In the domain biz, you can buy a few cheap mini sites and have fun while making a few dollars. I don’t think you can make anywhere near enough to actually make a living if you go this route.

    I can and probably will convert my geodomain names into fully operational, independent businesses.

  20. By all means, creativity of choosing a business domain name is very essential. It is suggested that domain name should matched a brand name. Use any site that you like to come up with domain name ideas. But, when you’re ready to buy, choose the registrar that offers the best domain name package and price, not the registrar that has the best domain name suggestions.


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