Branding With Available Domain Names – A Case Study

Photo by Michal Osmenda

When you have a ‘great’ idea, one of the first-actions you can take is to register the best domains you can find to brand the idea.

Even if you don’t execute, the perfect domain name may turn out to have some value later when someone else discovers the idea and decides they want to build a business around it.

Domainers have a phrase, ‘category killer’, they use to describe a top tier name that exact matches a search term, especially when it’s higher up on the search chain–like Shoes.com. The ‘long tail’ version would be domains like RedSpikedHeels.com.
Category killer generic domains are long gone. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so attracted to new idea websites. If the idea is fresh enough, you can create the category killer name for it.

It gets a little subjective at this point, but what I look for first of all is a domain name that is easy to remember but that also conveys the purpose of the site. Ask.com, eHow,com, Savings.com are good examples of almost perfect domain names.

While the internet may be young in many respects, with over 113M active domains currently registered, I can assure you that domain names have been pretty much picked clean.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to find a decent domain name available for registration prices. I am saying you’re going to have to work very hard to find one (or hire me to do the looking for you). Most likely you’re going to be better off having a budget set aside to buy a decent domain name. While a ‘category killer’ might cost you hundreds of thousands or more, for $2-5k you can often find a great domain.

The rest of this article is going to show you how I went about branding an idea for a new site. The idea is for an online tip jar service. Authors would create an account, paste a little code into their site, and users would donate with a single click. Pretty obvious idea right? I don’t understand why it hasn’t been implemented at the web 2.0 level. Let’s get started.

[Update July 8, 2010: Flattr is doing just this – an all-internet tip jar. Wishing them the best of luck with it.]

TipJar.com Originally registered in 1996 as a place for members of a small organization to pay dues. It’s the category killer domain name for this idea. At least it hasn’t been developed, although the owner appears to have ideas for it. This domain might be available for the right price.

iTip.com Doesn’t resolve. Whois shows a 2000 registration. iMac was introduced in 1998 so it’s likely that by 2000 people were starting to buy up every iDomain that was available. This is another domain I’d make an offer on if I were a startup with some funding.

eTip.com Doesn’t resolve either. Whois shows a 1997 registrations. Another candidate for a purchase offer.

And here’s a list of other unavailable domains, going farther and farther away from the perfect domain as we go down the list.

TIPPER.COM
TIPPED.COM
2CENTS.COM
ITIPPED.COM
TIPR.COM
HATTIP.COM
TIPWIDGET.COM
ISPONSOR.COM
ISUPPORT.COM
TIPTO.COM
TIP2.COM
TIPOUT.COM
TINYTIP.COM
TIPTIP.COM
TIP.ME
CHIP.IN
OPENWALLET.COM
TIPD.COM
HATTIPS.COM

If you want to see the entire list (if only to know what kind of crap is already registered) have a look here.

So what did I find available that wasn’t horrible?
HATPASS.COM
PASSTHEHATAROUND.COM
TIPAPPS.COM
TIPGADGET.COM
TIPGADGETS.COM
OPENTIPJAR.COM
EKICKIN.COM
IKICKIN.COM
ICHIPPEDIN.COM
ICHIPPED.IN

Did I actually buy any of them? Yes, and why.
HATPASS.COM  As in, Pass the hat. Sounds good out loud. Also I like the word ‘pass’ as in ‘season’s pass’. Try this on for a tag line, “Get a HatPass”. It’s short, associates well with the idea and is somewhat memorable. TipJar it’s not. But it’s okay.

So, for reals?
I would be building, testing, and talking about HatPass.com. It would be my working title. But if/when/as attention built, I would be looking for a little Angel money to go shopping. And when I actually launched I’d have one of these: TipJar, iTip, or eTip. Something like…

TipJar.com
Saving the internet. One ad at a time.

A Great Domain Name Is a “Signal of Quality”

Again from ThisWeekInStartups.com, the Jason Calacanis ustream.tv show. It’s a great show, and the experience of watching it live has turned out to be a little bit addictive. Check out #TWIST on Twitter. Jason is simply Twitter.com/Jason.

In this audio clip from ‘Jason’s Shark Tank’, Jason tells caller/developer Kevin, of pikk.com what he likes about what Kevin’s created so far.

Signals of Quality

Jason Calacanis: Everyone should follow you on Twitter obviously, Pikk. You have that up and running, and you have a four letter domain name. These are, again, signals of quality for me. You have a decent domain name decent web design. I’m  not crazy about your web design, to be totally honest with you I think it’s a 7 or 8 out of 10 but, listen, Mahalo was a 6 out of 10 at one point, now it’s a 10 out of 10, so, it’s progress you know, and I can appreciate that. Smart enough to pick a four letter domain, great – how did you get the domain was that available or you bought it.
Kevin: I bought it.
Jason: Yeah, how much did that cost you?
Kevin: Ah, I’ve been told I got the bargain of the century, this cost me about twenty-five hundred dollars.
Jason: That’s a great deal.
Kamran Pourzanjani: Yeah.
Jason: For a four letter domain…

You’re Going To Wind Up With A Dot Com

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s another Jason Calacanis audio clip from This Week In Startups, episode 29.

Jason on ‘Dot Com’

The context is a domain/brand a caller mentioned in a previous ‘Ask Jason’ segment.

Jason Calacanis: Isn’t it amazing though Tyler? The people with the naming.
Tyler Crowley: I just found out… I think lean.ly is available. With the dot L-Y which seems to be the hot new…
Jim Lanzone: Hmm!
Jason: Oh…
Tyler: Don’t get you started with that?
Jason: gov.ly? (refers to earlier in the conversation)
Tyler: gov.ly?
Jason: gov.ly
Tyler: lov.ly gov.ly
Jason: lov.ly gov.ly… I hate that nonsense.
Tyler: Yeah.. L-Y’s catchin’ on, so is dot F-M
Jason: (Sighs)
Tyler: But it gives people more of an option to come up with names… You use Bit.ly all day long!
Jason: You know what, De.licio.us did this as well, and then when they were successful they wound up buying Delicious dot com.
You’re going to wind up with a dot com anyway, You might as well make the effort and spend the money to get it early. So you don’t have to re-brand it!

Domains Are Brands – Square Squareup.com Fever Feedafever.com

I wasn’t the only one scratching his head when I read the TechCrunch story announcing Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s new, very cool, credit card reading startup. It’s called ‘Square’. But the domain is squareup.com. Here’s Elliot Silver’s take (links to full post)

TechCrunch reported today that Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, has launched a mobile payment service called Square. While the actual product/service looks pretty cool, I am surprised that someone with the capital resources such as Dorsey would launch a new brand on a domain name that is different from the actual brand.The big problem for Square is that they are using the domain name SquareUp.com for their website. This really defies logic to me for a couple of big reasons…

Exactly! Can’t afford it? Not worth it? It’s just a domain name? But it is difficult to supply the facts that support our side of the argument. The best evidence I’ve come across that supports, with data, the efficacy of a great (generic) domain name comes from Edwin Hayward at MemorableDomains.co.uk with a report entitled Improving PPC Search Engine Campaign Results Using Generic Domain Names (check out Ed Keay-Smith’s OzDomainer podcast interview with Edwin where he explains the report!) Still, that makes sense for PPC and generic domain names. But is branding any different? How? I’ll leave that for the comments and for another post. In the meantime I’d like to focus on this aspect alone: Why call your company one thing, Square, but have a different URL? If you can’t afford the domain name, at least call the company after the domain you do own!

Here’s another case. I may come back to this over time. When I first heard about ‘Fever’ it sounded interesting (I’m into feeds and feed readers). But I couldn’t find it! I’d heard about it on a podcast. It literally took minutes to find. Fever.com is a parked page with illness related ads popping up. Hmm, just curious, how expensive would Fever.com be? But maybe a lot. Because a domainer could be holding out for a play from a big pharmaceutical. So ‘Fever’ uses the domain feedafever.com. Not bad. Reasonably memorable. So why not call the product that? As/if Fever continues to gain momentum, I’ll update the Compete pics. but check it out. Don’t the numbers seem to be indicating, that as momentum for Fever grows, more traffic is being sent to the parked Fever.com page?

November 2, 2009

A month later.

Doesn’t it look like for whatever reason, Fever.com is getting more traffic?
What do you think? Is that extra traffic likely to be people looking for ‘Fever’?
What makes me nervous about all this is thinking about what will happen to the price of the domain over time if/when Fever becomes very popular.
Like I mention in a previous post, $75,000 for Poken.com?!!!
Acquire your startup domain names early!
If you’re starting a company I’m happy to help brainstorm an available domain name or help you connect with a great domain at a fair price.