Now that you have decided to build your personal brand, the first thing you need is to secure a domain name. This will be your digital address.
The domain name will be the cornerstone of your brand, so it’s essential to avoid mistakes. Changing domain names later on is an extremely difficult and painful task, so read carefully to get it right the first time.
Do I really need a domain name?
I cannot stress this enough: you need to own at least one domain name. I believe everyone should get a name and a domain name at birth. If you weren't that lucky, you have to buy it ASAP.
Allow me to explain why:
To build your website
Your website will be your digital home, and it needs an address. And yes, you absolutely need a website at the center of your personal branding strategy.
Maybe you already have personal and professional profiles in all social networks and even a blog on Tumblr/Blogger/Wordpress.com , so why do you need yet another property in the digital space?
Because none of those are truly yours. Trust me on this one: buy your own domain. You wouldn’t build the house of your dreams on top of someone else’s land, would you? This is known as digital sharecropping and it’s a big mistake.
All the free services can change the rules at their own discretion, decide your content is no longer appropriate, begin to charge you, go out of fashion or simply shut down.
I know they may seem rock solid, but imagine this scenario: a few years ago your website was hosted on Geocities, you had a big social following on Orkut and relied on Google Reader for blog traffic. Life was great then, but, by now, you would be out of business, because all those free services, once hugely popular, are now defunct.
To create a mailbox
I’m sure you already have at least one email account. When you buy a domain name, you can create as many mailboxes as you wish.
A mailbox under your domain looks more professional than running a business with a Gmail or Hotmail account.
Some examples that you can use:
You get the idea.
To rank on Google
When someone googles your name, you want to dominate the first page of results. Having your own domain and website will help you get found and make sure you're providing the relevant information for people that click through.
Now that you know why it's so important to register a domain name, let's discuss the mistakes you want to avoid:
Mistake #1 - Not buying a domain name
I've made my case for owning a domain name, but you might still have doubts. Trying to build an online brand without one would be the biggest mistake of all.
Buying a domain is cheap and quite simple. The price depends on the extension and registrar you chose, but it’s a small investment with potentially huge benefits.
Let me stress one last time: using somefreeservice.com/yourname is not an option!
Mistake #2 - Choosing the wrong name
Finding the right domain name in 2015 can seem like an impossible mission - all the good ones are already taken, right?
Yes, most of them are if you're looking for a .com . Yet, I still managed to grab marketingdroid.com a few weeks ago, and I really like it.
So, don't give up so easily. Here's what you need to look for:
Use your own name
The combination of your first and last name is a great domain to catch. If it’s available, buy it! Even if you’re not sure what to do with it yet, secure it now.
If your name is already taken (like mine was), you’ll have to be a little more creative.
Don't use hyphens
The easiest way to find a free domain is to combine two or more words. But even then, it will be hard to find a good combination that's available. A possible solution would be to separate these words with hyphens - avoid this at all costs. It looks unprofessional, sounds awkward when you say it out loud, and makes it easy for mistakes to happen. Save yourself the embarrassment.
Make it memorable
You want your domain name to be easily remembered. Imagine this: you’re on a moving car and you have to shout your domain name to a person on the car next to you. Would he be able to type it correctly when he got home? To pass this test, the name should be short, catchy, and easy to spell.
Don't overuse Keywords
Having keywords that relate to your business as part of the domain may be useful, like having the word "marketing" in my domain. But don't even think about keyword stuffing your domain, the way spammers used to do to beat Google's algorithm. It looks awful, doesn't work for branding, and it's not advantageous for SEO anymore. You'll just look like a fool, and the owner of a terrible domain name.
Mistake #3 - Choosing the wrong extension
The name is only the first part of your domain. After the dot, comes the extension - typically dot com.
When you look for an available domain name, your search is always related to one or more extensions. So, yourgreatdomain.com may be taken, while yourgreatdomain.net and yourgreatdomain.info are available. But be warned, all extensions are not created equal.
These are the ones that you should be looking at:
Dot com is, by far, the most popular extension for brands. You should look for a nice .com domain name first.
If you’re having too much trouble finding a free .com domain, you may start looking into other less crowded extensions. While some may offer a great alternative, others do not.
You country's TLD
Opting for using your country's top level domain can be as good, or even better than a .com, if you want to market a local brand. In Portugal, a .pt is still seen as a higher value property, because the registration was limited to trademarks for a long time.
However, if you want to reach a global audience, the local extension will not suit you well.
If a local extension is not an option and the .com is taken, you may find that a .net is a fairly decent alternative.
Building a brand on a .net when someone else controls the .com is a risky thing to do. If your brand becomes really valuable, the owner of the .com domain may profit from your hard work and your followers may find it difficult to understand which is the legitimate website.
The last viable option is .org, an extension typically connoted with non profit organizations. I assume you want to eventually make money with your personal brand. In that case a .org is not a good fit.
There's a lot more extensions out there, but unless you have a really strong motive and you know what you're doing, don't use any of them. Stick to the ones I mentioned above and you'll be fine.
I know, I'm not making it easy for you. Because finding a good domain name in 2015 is not easy. It may take you a couple of days and a lot of brainstorming, but it will be worth it in the long run. Don’t settle for a sub-standard name, keep looking.
Mistake #4 - Forgetting to renew it
The last mistake is not something you have to worry about right now. However, it's the most devastating mistake you could make. Each year you must renew your domain or it will drop and become free for anyone to pick it up.
If it has some value and you forget to renew, I guarantee someone will take it from you.
You can register the domain for more than one year, or better, set it to auto-renew. Even this can fail, if your designated payment method expires, so be vigilant.
Keep you contact information updated and don't dismiss the renewal warnings. You may even set a reminder right now. Better safe than sorry.
Do you know any more important tips to find great domain names or mistakes to avoid? Please share with the rest of us, in the comments bellow.