The biggest mistake I ever made in buying a domain name 16 years ago was listening to a guy who thought our company name was too long for people to remember. He thought we should shorten and abbreviate it. For more than 12 years, the company was saddled with one of the stupidest domain names I could have ever gotten, and I spent those 12 years explaining what it meant and how I had missed getting the actual company name a year later.
When you’re looking to buy your domain name to build your personal brand, there are several things it needs to be:
- Easy to remember. When people think of you, they should think of your domain, and vice versa.
- Self-explanatory. They should know what your domain is all about before they ever get to your website
- Evergreen. Your need for the domain shouldn’t change, and the keywords you use shouldn’t go out of date.
Given all that, the best domain name you could get is your own name. The worst one you could get is one that has nothing to do with what you do, either because it’s based on a current event, it’s based on an interest you have now, or the job you want.
For me, ErikDeckers.com was the ideal name I could get, but “agricultural-marketing-director.com” would have been an bad one to get, since I’m no longer in agriculture and haven’t been a marketing director for a couple years.
But having your own name as the domain name makes it easy to remember, it’s self-explanatory, and unless you enter the witness protection program, you’re always going to have it. Here are five tips for buying your name as your domain name.
- Get a domain that’s easy to say and spell. You’re going to spend a lot of time telling people what your domain name is, so make sure you it’s just your name, and not a word that may be difficult to spell. However, if your name is frequently misspelled, consider getting the most common misspelling and forwarding it to your website.
- Avoid punctuation if at all possible. ErikDeckers.com is so much easier to say than Erik-Deckers.com — ErikDashDeckers — because someone will invariably ask “do you mean hyphen?” Also, people are less likely to remember the dashes and will enter the name without it.
- Use your middle name. Unless you’ve got such an unusual name that only a couple other people share it, you’ll need to use your middle name to set yourself apart from other people. The odds of someone having all three names are significantly less than sharing just two of the names.
- Use the name you want to use professionally. Pick the name you would put on your resume, rather than your nickname or shortened name. Use William instead of Billy, Suzanne instead of Suzi. You can always use your nickname at work.
- Don’t use the job you want or your industry, because you won’t always be in it. For a short term strategy, it’s not a bad idea. Things like “HireErikDeckers.com” can help me get hired, but it’s not the domain I want to use once I’m hired. If I’m trying to grow my professional brand, get speaking engagements, or gain readers, it’s not the domain I want to use, because then it always looks like I’m looking for a job (something that won’t give a new employer a good feeling about me).
The most important thing to remember when choosing a domain is to make sure you pick one that is going to be reflective of you for the next several years. You’re not going to change your name, but you will change interests, jobs, and even your industry. Get a domain that will transcend all of those things and can last you for years to come.
Erik Deckers is the co-owner and VP of Creative Services for Professional Blog Service in Indianapolis. He has been blogging since 1997, has been a published writer for more than 24 years, and a newspaper humor columnist for 17 years. Erik co-authored Branding Yourself: Using Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (Pearson, 2010) and also helped write Twitter Marketing for Dummies.