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Choosing a Domain Name: Effective Branding to Boost Your Presence Online

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Helen CartwrightBy: Helen Cartwright, online marketing strategist and writer

A domain name is your address on the internet, and every company, organization, or professional freelancer needs one to improve branding and marketability. Before you buy or register the website address, you need to learn how to choose the best domain name for your purposes. Trends and search engine optimization guidelines change, and you do not want your organization to be left behind.

Why Buy a Proper Website Address or URL?

To put it in the simplest terms, registering a proper domain name (e.g., .COM, .ORG, .CA) gives you and your nonprofit a major boost of professionalism and trustworthiness. There are free hosting services out there that give you a free sub-domain (e.g., www.wordpress.com/YourNonprofit, but these look inauthentic and do not represent the type of organization that a donor or volunteers may want to trust. Unbranded sub-domains are also frequently used by scammers as well.

According to Business.com, the right name can help you build expertise and authority. With the huge percentage of consumers that conduct business online these days, the name you use for your online presence is the one they will remember. It is essential for proper brand recognition, reputation management, and professional relationship building.

What is Branding and Why Does it Matter?

For organizations, your brand is your identity. The name you give your nonprofit and your URL is what people will remember and come to trust if you conduct your business well. In the Forbes article, it states that "People don't have relationships with products, they are loyal to brands." Every aspect of business and marketing, including domain name choice, must serve the brand.

The majority of marketing efforts focus on brand building. Of course, advertisements for sales and special offers pinpoint sales as a direct goal. The consumers who read or watch the ads learn something about the brand and make decisions based on that information. When a direct mail piece or an online video points someone to a memorable and professional website address, the trust quotient rises a bit more.

3 Website Address Tips for the Best Results

As demonstrated above, choosing and buying a domain is not something to be taken lightly. This short and catchy website address will represent your nonprofit for, hopefully, many years to come and, if you conduct business effectively and market enough, could become a household name. Consider these three tips before you buy a domain name. Entrepreneur's infographic may help as well.

  1. Keep it short, simple, and relevant.
    If people do not remember or cannot spell your domain, they will not bother trying to figure it out unless you provide such an amazing experience that they cannot find it anywhere else. Use your organization’s name, something closely aligned with your mission (e.g. Centre for Social Innovation is shortened to SocialInnovation.org ).

  2. Focus on .CA, but do not forget other top-level domains (TLDs).
    The .CA TLD is best for Canadian organizations focused on improving Canadian communities. International organizations should consider .ORG or the new .NGO/.ONG TLD. However, in order to avoid domain squatters (e.g., people who register a domain name under several TLDs with the sole intent of selling it to the original owner). who may negatively affect your  nonprofit, consider buying the other main TLDs for the same second-level domain from the start. Set them to redirect to your main website (e.g. TechSoup.ca redirects to TechSoupCanada.ca).

  3. Keep it honest and supporter-centric.
    Never attempt to boost your brand by piggy-backing on another organization’s success. Not only can this confuse supporters, but it can also get you in legal trouble if you infringe upon a trademarked name or phrase. Not only should you avoid sounding too close to an existing organization’s name, you should also focus on your supporter’s experience.

After all, the number one thing that will build your brand and make your URL a respected name in the nonprofit sector is how well you treat supporters and clients. In years past, website addresses focused on search engines with strings of keywords separated by hyphens. These days, catering to the people who will propel your organization toward success makes more sense.

Nonprofit success today depends on creating a strong online presence. Not only does it attract more supporters to your cause, it helps build brand recognition and reputation to catapult you to even greater levels of success. From search engines to extensive marketing campaigns, everything you do for your organization begins with the domain name you buy and the brand you build around it.


About the Author

Helen Cartwright is a passionate blogger, who excels in the Digital Marketing and Technology niche. When not wired in marketing strategies she ghost-write for a variety of authors who have their work published on leading online media channels such as The Huffington Post and Entrepreneur.com.