When people think of corporate website domains, they first think of “dot-com” domains like ebay.com, amazon.com, and apple.com.
However, there are hundreds of possible “Top Level Domains“ such as .net, .biz, and .co which are all viable options, and come at a steep discount compared to the equivalent .com. A dictionary word .com domain can cost thousands of dollars. How should you decide whether you need the .com version of your domain?
Firstly, for non-profits, .org is a necessity. Get the nicest, shortest .org you can and don’t bother to read the rest of this article.
Our domain, cantilever.co, has served us well. Occasionally, people will assume it’s a typo and then email the “.com” version of our emails and wonder why we didn’t get them. We only know of a few occasions when that happened, but what’s scary are that we might not know of other times… because we never got the emails!
In today’s internet environment, we don’t believe the “.com” has a huge amount of business value, but it definitely has some. If you use an alternative we would recommend one other than “.co”, because of the confusion we have experienced. “.net” is typically fine.
If you can get the ideal .com domain for under $1,000, that’s almost always a good decision. If it’s above $1,000, you need to consider the potential value and weight it against the cost.
Buying the .com is often best done early in your brand’s lifetime. If your brand is successful, the current owners will ask for a higher fee. On the other hand, cash is at a premium in the early stages of a company, and every dollar has to have really high leverage. A domain is more of a defensive purchase than an offensive one.
We saw Cantilever.com listed for $5k in the early days and passed (it was not realistic for us to pay that kind of fee at the time). A few years ago we thought of it again and decided we’d be happy to pay that. By then it had been purchased by someone else who did not want to sell.
If you have other-high leverage areas of investment to put cash into, we generally recommend doing that rather than buying the “perfect” domain.
If you decide to buy, we recommend using a broker instead of doing it yourself. If the seller can trace you to what you might be doing they may jack up the price. Brokers buy and sell domain names for all sorts of reasons and can mask your identity in the transaction. If you need a recommendation, we know a good broker who we have used for multiple client domain purchases. Please reach out to us!
Some startups may want to apply for trademarks and incorporate, which also put the name in the public space. If you feel confident you want the domain no matter what, buy it before you do that stuff.
Cantilever’s Recommended Order of Operations
- Decide if having your brand name’s .com domain is a “must,” ”maybe”, or “someday” thing
- If it’s a “must,” buy immediately through a broker.
- If it’s a “maybe,” proceed with your company growth, and see how you are on cash at a later point prior to a major public launch.
- If it’s a “someday,” you can always buy it, just be mindful that the price will just go up the more successful you are.