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One of the hardest financial decisions you'll face when naming or renaming a company or product is whether you should splurge for the exact .com domain name—and, if not, how you should adapt the URL so that it fits with your brand and allows consumers to easily find your site.

On the one hand, buying an exact .com domain makes finding your website much easier for customers and lends invaluable prestige to your company. On the other hand, purchasing an exact .com domain can be very expensive, especially if you are looking for a real English word.

Furthermore, limiting yourself to just exact .com domains will likely exclude names that otherwise would work well for your brand but are simply unavailable for purchase as a domain.

Here is my advice for anyone struggling with such a decision.

Buying the Exact .com Domain

You should probably pursue the exact .com domain in the following three situations:

  1. If your company is involved in online commerce, or consumers make transactions through your website, then invest in the exact URL. Retailers benefit from the cachet of an exact domain. Also, you don't want customers to have difficulty finding you; if they have to google you, they can be potentially siphoned away by ads or other search results.
  2. If you are renaming an established company that previously had an exact .com, you should procure the exact .com for your new name as well. Opting for a modified URL in that situation would be a step toward lower prestige and could exacerbate a (fairly unavoidable) period of confusion after the renaming.
  3. If you are the sole heir to the fortune of Mrs. Moneybags—or you're VC-backed—and you have ample funds at the ready, then go for it! You might as well give your company as much of an advantage as possible.

The reality is, however, that most startups or SMBs don't have the money to pay for a premium domain—and that's OK. They still have some common options for finding an available, affordable Web address:

  • Modifying a .com domain
  • Using a country code top-level domain (ccTLD)
  • Using a global top-level domain (gTLD)

Modifying a .com Domain

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image of Mark Skoultchi

Mark Skoultchi is a partner at Catchword, a full-service naming company founded in 1998, with offices in the San Francisco Bay area and New York City. Contact Mark at 212-472-8936.

LinkedIn: Mark Skoultchi