Naming a business is no small feat. Ultimately, you want to choose a name that not only embodies your brand, but also has a lasting impression on potential customers. Plus, it certainly won’t hurt business if that name conveys credibility, longevity, and individuality — in other words, enough oomph to stand out in an ever-changing marketplace.
The same rules apply to domain names.
When we decided to get a new domain, we knew it needed to be memorable, build traffic with SEO, and align with the name of our business, which can be difficult.
Most of the short, keyword-rich domains have already been gobbled up, so we were lucky to find that rebel.com, rebel.deals, and rebel.vision were all available so we could showcase our brand in different ways.
If you have a regrettable domain name, but are worried about what a complete rebrand could do to your business, you have one great strategy on your side: adding more domains.
Adopting a multiple domain name strategy
Whether you use a new domain as an additional website or to forward your domain name to another URL, a multidomain strategy can resolve almost any issue you have with your current domain, from SEO to problems with name length.
There’s a reason why Barnes & Noble snatched up books.com, bn.com, and barnesandnoble.com. Customers can reach its site in a multitude of ways, all without a rebrand.
Changing your online strategy or adopting multiple domains can be daunting, but the biggest obstacle is fear. If you find yourself with a less than ideal domain name and need to add to it, your main hurdles to clear are the three C’s: cost, customers, and changeover. Fortunately, none of these hurdles are insurmountable.
Consider domain name costs
A domain name is a pretty affordable marketing asset. Buying one costs about the same as a couple of beers — unless, of course, your heart is set on an owned or premium name. Then, you could be looking at hundreds or thousands of dollars to secure a certain .com, so be willing to look at non-traditional top-level domains and the prices for each.
Don’t confuse customers.
Once you’ve secured the new domain, turn your attention to your customers. Give them plenty of warning about the change and a clear explanation of the changes. Like cost, this hurdle shouldn’t be too problematic as long as the messaging is well-thought-out. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done.
Online retailer Overstock.com rebranded itself as O.co in 2011. The name change was an attempt to expand its business beyond the excess inventory the company traditionally sells. But the shortened moniker didn’t work. Consumers typed in O.com instead, ending up at a site Overstock didn’t own. A few months later, the company switched back to its original name but kept the O.co domain.
Think through tech aspects.
The technical burden of switching domains is small, but many companies turn off their old domains as soon as the new ones go live. For the smoothest transition, keep both domains operational. You’ll need previous domains to resolve and forward to the new one, ensuring bookmarks, email address books, and all those inbound links you’ve worked so hard to create still work. It’s less about making a transition and more about building an infrastructure.
Launching a new domain name
So how exactly do you go about launching a new domain name for your business?
Assess your domain footprint.
Take full inventory of all the physical and digital assets that point to your current domain. Ask yourself what needs to be changed and when it’s feasible to change them. Should you wait until you run out of business cards, or should you print new ones immediately?
Consider the costs of marketing updates.
Consider the cost of updating all of your marketing collateral, such as creative units for online advertisements, publications, sales materials, signage, gift certificates, etc.
Develop a communications strategy.
You need to inform customers of what’s shifting and what’s not. Make it clear and concise, providing all the necessary details about the switch. But don’t just focus on what’s changing — reassure your customers that they’ll still enjoy the same great products and services they’ve come to trust from your brand. Of course, you’ll also need to consider other stakeholders. Will vendors need to update any information on invoices or other administrative items? Will they need to pass on your notice to their own customers?
Set up your infrastructure.
If you decide to completely change one of your domains, don’t shut it off. You need it up and active to ensure a smooth transition. Plan to keep the old one running, and use the multidomain strategy indefinitely if you can do so. Configure all domains to forward to the new one. This can be easy or complicated depending on your inbound links.
You will want to keep your SEO rankings in tact, so submit your new (or additional) domain to search engines to make this possible. And don’t stop at Google — Bing, Yahoo, and even AOL still have millions of users. Getting indexed by these sites can sometimes take more than a month, so try submitting it again if you still don’t see it after a few weeks.
Choosing a new domain shouldn’t be about a total rebrand. Instead, it should be about enhancing your digital footprint. Many companies use a multidomain approach as a way to leverage more keywords, direct new traffic to their sites, and strengthen their online presence.
Even if you hate that old domain, keep it and redirect consumers to your new one. It could just give you a competitive advantage.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Rob Villeneuve is the CEO of Rebel.com, a registrar that offers simple, useful tools to empower participation in the world’s bravest communication space: the internet. With hundreds of domain endings, custom email addresses, hosting packages, and web security services available, Rob and Rebel.com are experts in crafting the right identity and making the most of how we identify online. Connect with @rebeldotcom on Twitter.